Chiang Mai is a very popular city for digital nomads and travelling families. There is so much to do in Chiang Mai and, despite the smog (caused mainly by rice field burning), we enjoyed our time in this Northern city. When we arrived, Isabella and I made a Powerpoint presentation (I can’t help it) about all the attractions and activities on offer. Each family member got to pick 2 things that we’d add to the itinerary. Initially, I thought that the list was a bit ambitious for our slow travel style but we were going to be in the city for 9 days so we set out to do the following:
- Visit the Chiang Mai Zoo and see a Panda: Julie pick
- Go to the Planetarium: Isabella pick
- Float down a river on a bamboo raft: Isabella pick
- Visit Cocoon farm and see silk being made: Julie pick
- Go the Sunday Night Market: Paige
- Do a cooking class: Paige pick
- Go to a Soccer Game: Mike pick
- Make paper from Elephant poo: Mike pick
Guess how we did? I can tell you we did 7/8. Read on to see which one we missed.
Chiang Mai Zoo: reviewed by Julie (mom transcribed) 10/10
We arrived at the zoo and paid to go into the zoo. It looked like it was a huge zoo and then we walked a little bit and then bought an “All you can ride” tram ticket. We rode around one full loop on the tram and then we looked around. We walked to see the African animals and koalas and then we checked out the pandas. Only Izzie and I went because it was expensive and mom and dad had already seen pandas. I was too small to remember them at the Toronto Zoo. My favourite animals were the pandas. Then we took the tram to go to the orangutans. We stayed there for a while and then we walked past the reptiles and the penguins. Then we caught the bus and stopped where you could feed an elephant. On the way out, Izzie had an accident and scraped her knee and shoulder. She was ok but needed lots of bandages.
Visit the NARIT AstroPark And Planetarium: reviewed by Izzie 9/10
Getting to the planetarium was fairly easy as Grab works fast in Chang Mai (except from Cocoon Farm). We went on a Friday because there was an English movie and we cannot speak Thai. The movie was surprisingly pretty boring as all we did was learn constellations and put mom to sleep. Inside the exhibits, me and dad learned about the human body and a meteorite that crashed in Argentina 🇦🇷 while mom and Julie raced through the exhibits. All in all, I really liked it and it makes me want to learn more and more about space
Float down a river on a bamboo raft: Isabella pick
This sounded like an awesome activity but we could not do it because Isabella had open wounds on her shoulder and knee from the fall at the zoo. We did not think getting wet in a river was a great idea so Isabella got to pick again.
Visit Siam Insect Zoo: Isabella replacement pick: Isabella Review 10/10
This is located a little while past the Poopoo Paper Park and can be combined with a visit there like we did. This is part museum and part zoo where you can find or hold many insects such as scorpions, stick bugs, butterflies and caterpillars. You can also find exotic animals that they let you hold such as bearded dragons, tortoises and iguanas. We could dig in a kiddie pool searching for giant beetle larvae! I loved it so much that I did not want to leave!
Visit Cocoon Farm: reviewed by Julie who made the pick (mom transcribed) 9/10
We waited at our hotel for a grab and then it took about 45 minutes to get to this farm called Cocoon. Finally, we got there and it looked closed but we found someone who could give us a tour around. Our first stop was the silkworms. Surprisingly, they were alive and she let us pick them up and one went pee on me. The adult ones had wings but could not fly. That surprised me! We also saw the cocoons that turn into silk. Next, she took us to spin the silk and weave it. Next, she took us to do natural tie dye and that was pretty fun. It was boring to hold on the fabric in the colours though. Then we saw farm animals like very cool coloured chickens, goats and pink buffalo (who we got to feed). While mom and dad were having a drink, Izzie and I were watching the chickens. Izzie had a snake next to her feet (I do not know how she did not notice) but it was only a “gardener snake”. Lastly, we did some painting and I was so happy because I love painting and had not done it in a while.
It lost 1 mark because it did not have pigs.
Chiang Mai Night Market: reviewed by Paige 9/10
Having been in South East Asia for almost three months, we’ve visited a lot of markets and night markets. Chiang Mai has a night market every night and then a larger one in a different area on Sundays. The “Every Night Market”, which we went to most evenings, is full of stalls selling everything from elephant pants to silk scarves to Buddha statues. There are lots of good food stalls but these have changed a lot since my last trip to Thailand. Rather than selling only Thai food, the stalls are a globalized hodgepodge of options like falafel, gyoza and Texas BBQ. To be honest, this served us quite well as the girls were thrilled to eat a falafel while Mike and I tried a different hot and spicy Thai dish each night. Michael was especially tempted by the fried pork and kept trying different iterations.
The One Night Only Sunday Market was different. It was still packed with tourists but prices were a lot lower and, since the stalls were not permanent, there was more variety. I ate a delicious mango salad and was tempted by a wide array of handicrafts. But my problem persists! We’re still travelling for another 4 months so I have to restrain my handicraft purchases.
Cooking Class: reviewed by Paige 7/10
I might be a tough critic when it comes to cooking classes. The first cooking class I ever went to was actually in Chiang Mai 20 years ago and it was amazing. I learned to make curry paste and was so inspired that I even bought a stone mortar and pestle to bring home, which I still have and use regularly. I think cooking classes teach you a lot about the culture and I have done one in Bali, China, Vietnam and Mexico.
The course that I signed up for in Chiang Mai turned out to be very strange, despite its glowing reviews online. I picked it because it had a market tour and they were going to let the girls cook too. When we arrived, they offered us a menu and let everyone make whatever they wanted with whatever protein they wanted to use. I guess this was a delight to the vegetarians but the nuances of dishes were lost when, for example, everything had chicken breast instead of the traditional chicken leg. The teacher was so busy making sure everyone had everything that they needed that she couldn’t teach us. The course was more designed for people who do not cook a lot, the kind of students who gasped at the smell of fish sauce and smiled with pride at the end over the overcooked noodles (we smiled too as you can see). I guess my expectations were a bit too high! Julie, who wants to be a chef when she grows up, sums it up: “they just did not teach me enough new stuff mom.”
Go to a soccer (football) game: Reviewed by Mike 8/10
After spending $6 on admission tickets, we watched the Chaingmai Football club continue their quest toward promotion to league 2 of the Thai Football league. We made it to half time seeing 3 goals and two aggressive tackles. There were drums, anthems, and many insults hurled at the referee in Thai. At half-time, it was getting close to 9 pm and the girls were fading. Chiangmai FC would go on to win the game 4-2 but unfortunately would lose their next 7 games.
Make Paper from Elephant Poo: Reviewed by Mike 10/10
This sounds worse than it actually is. Elephant feces has lots of roughage in it. At the Elephant Poopoo Paper Park, they dry it, boil it and are left with an odourless, fibrous mass. A few steps later and you’ve got paper. This place is really for the kids and ours ended up decorating some passport holders. More than one immigration officer has commented on the bright pink and purple passports that the kids hand over. Truly a highlight destination!
Where we stayed (5 words or less)
Astra Condo: Building of Airbnbs, good value
By the Numbers:
- Number of shoe stores in a huge mall that carried size 8.5 women: 1 (most went only to size 7)
- Number of times we boarded the Zoo tram: 3 (got full use of our Hop-on Hop-off Pass)
- Number of days Isabella bandaged her injured shoulder: 5
- Number of types of Tarantulas at the Insect Zoo: At least 25
Did the kids love them??? Yes, we were not willing to try the ones with meat…
The youngest enjoyed them, the eldest not so much. The sugary taste in the “bread” threw them for a loop.
Absolutely gutted that I’ve been to Chiang Mai and never made elephant poo paper. I didn’t even know it was on the menu.
Might need to go back.
There are worse things than having to go back to Chiang Mai. Even without the kids, a nerd like me had fun at the paper “factory”.
Don’t Foret to get the kids a cheese toastie at 7-11. Buy it in the deli section and they toast for you. ( just plain cheese are the best !!!
We listened to your recommendation and had one on our last night in Thailand. Had to go to two 7-11s just to find a plain cheese one. Was scared of the sausage and cheese toastie.