We have been living in Thailand since June 2014. What follows below is an overview of our experiences and recommendations thus far. We will try to update this page regularly.
As we talked about in The 3 Year Saga of Moving to Thailand, we really did not like Phuket. The honeymoon resorts were amazing, but real Phuket was not.
If you’re looking into a honeymoon in Phuket, or simply want a more up-scale vacation, we would absolutely recommend our resorts. Alexis wrote up a great post fully recapping our honeymoon here: A Heavenly Honeymoon in Thailand.
For a glimpse into “real” Phuket, and how we spent our first week as newlyweds post-honeymoon, read One Week in Phuket, Thailand.
If you are planning a trip or a move to Chiang Mai, or have just arrived here, make sure to read A Resource Guide to Getting Started in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
After a post-honeymoon week in Phuket, we’d had enough and moved north to Chiang Mai. From Phuket, we caught an AirAsia (who has super cheap flight deals all over Southeast Asia) flight to Chiang Mai. For two tickets, we payed $150 ($75 a person).
The only issue with this flight turned out to have nothing to do with AirAsia, but with Bravofly, the website we booked our tickets through. I searched Kayak.com for our flights, and booked the cheapest one available, just like I always do (unless we’re flying for free). Kayak redirected me to Bravofly’s website and I booked the tickets through them. It’s a long story, but the gist is: we payed Bravofly for our check-in bag, but they did not give that money to AirAsia. We emailed and phoned customer service for hours and days on end but it was never resolved. We ended up having to pay for the bag again.
This was just our experience. I’m sure many people have used Bravofly with no problems, but one bad experience was more than enough for us. We will not be booking with them again.
Once at the Chiang Mai airport, getting into town is super easy. The airport has a taxi service that charges a flat rate of 120 baht ($4) to take you into town. Alternatively, you could just walk out of the airport parking lot and catch a songthaew that’s bound to be waiting there. Unless you’re an expert haggler, songthaews aren’t going to take less than 100 baht to take you into town, so I don’t really think saving 20 baht is worth it. Just use the airport service — the cars are much nicer, you won’t have to walk far or try to negotiate a price — it’s just much simpler.
Our first impressions of Chiang Mai were: So much cleaner than Phuket! It felt like a real place that people actually live in. And sidewalks! Ohh, sidewalks, how we missed them. However, before we moved to Chiang Mai, I always remember reading stuff like, “Chiang Mai is up north in the mountains,” or “beautiful Chiang Mai surrounded by mountains.” Let’s clear this up: Yes, it is beautiful, but there one mountain, Doi Suthep, and it’s not that big. It’s small as far as mountains are concerned. I feel like I was misled.
Stephen was our main point of contact, and if I may, I’d like to wax strong for a moment about all the reasons he’s awesome and why I highly recommend you stay at his place.
- He’s an American married to a local woman from Chiang Mai. This is the perfect combination of knowledge for new people to the city.
- He’s honest and upfront about the struggles foreigners will have in Chiang Mai.
- He spent like 30 minutes with us when we checked in showing us tons of different places on a map, like the best places to eat, where all the markets are, where the U.S. embassy is, etc. All of his suggestions were spot on.
- He also helped us search for long-term apartments during the week we stayed with them.
- Although we never booked any tours while we were there, because his wife, Ketsuda, is Thai, she could have booked the tours for us and gotten a cheaper rate than we could have without them.
- They have motorbikes available to rent for a cheap rate. I’ve never rented from anyone else since and I never will. I know I’m not going to get shafted or charged a high price renting from them.
- They’re just genuinely nice people. They made us feel comfortable and welcomed in a new city. Coming from such a crushing post-honeymoon experience in Phuket, this was exactly what we needed.
- The actual room was perfectly fine, no complaints at all, but it’s honestly at the bottom of the list of reasons I’m so glad we stayed with them.
So, moral of the story: book with them. You won’t regret it. Now on to one of our favorite activities…
Our Favorite Restaurants in Chiang Mai
Click on the “Breakfast/Brunch Cafes” box.
A: Bird’s Nest is probably the restaurant we go to the most. It’s a weekend brunch staple for Alexis and I and also a frequent weekday workplace for me. Their food is all organic and homemade. Everything is delicious, especially their coconut milk cappuccinos.
B: Good Morning Chiang Mai is another fun cafe brunch spot that we sometimes meet up for lunch at since it’s close to Alexis’ school. Their food is slightly more expensive than Bird’s Nest, but everything we’ve had has been really good.
C: Blue Diamond probably has the most expansive menu of these three, as their Thai food selections are just as numerous as their Western breakfast options. Since we like to go to these brunch cafes on the weekends, the one big drawback for Blue Diamond is that they are closed on Sundays which only leaves us with one day a week to be patrons.
Click on the “Good Western Food” box.
A: 3 Little Pigs is where you want to go if you’re looking for some good ol’ fashion southern soul food. Get your fix of fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and mash potatoes. Neither of us are from the south, but every American needs some soul food once in a while.
B: Loco Elvis is Alexis’ favorite place to get Mexican food in Chiang Mai. Although both of us agree that their tortilla chip and salsa are the worst of all the Mexican restaurants, their chicken burritos make this place jump to the #1 spot on her list.
C: El Diablo’s is located right across the street from Loco Elvis. Their menu is much more limited than Loco Elvis’ as they only make two things: Burritos and quesadillas. I actually prefer the burritos here, plus their chips and salsa are better, but obviously if you’re looking for something other than burritos or quesadillas, Loco Elvis is the better option. Unless you go to…
D: Salsa Kitchen. This is my favorite Mexican restaurant in Chiang Mai. Not only are their burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, and chip and salsa great, but they also got me turned onto guacamole, which I usually despise. This is much to the chagrin of Alexis who now has to share her guac.
E: La Fontana has the best pizza we’ve had in Chiang Mai. We heard others saying as much and after trying it out for ourselves, we’d have to agree with them.
F: The Glasshouse feels like our little secret. Not because it’s some dinky hole in the wall — it’s actually quite massive and modern looking in fact — but in spite of that, it’s always empty. We have no idea why as their food is delicious as well as relatively cheap for Western food in Chiang Mai. They serve up a variety of dishes from pasta, to burgers, to steaks. It’s a really romantic restaurant too. As the name would suggest, the walls are floor to ceiling glass with LED lights around the parameter.
Click on the “Thai/Other Cheap Asian Food” box.
These are our go-to spots. We can’t afford Western food every night, of course, so these are our delicious, yet cheap, daily options. None of these places will show up on Google Maps, nor are we using their correct name most of the time. This is because they probably don’t even have names, they’re just little Thai shops that are popular amongst tourists and Thais alike.
A: A’s food may taste the least “authentic Thai” of this group, but everything we’ve had there is delicious nonetheless. At 40-80 baht per plate ($1 – 2.50), you can’t go wrong there.
B: Best Pad Thai is what we call it because that’s how Stephen described it to us when we first moved here. No idea what their actual name is (if they even have one), but their pad thai is indeed delicious and cheap at 30 baht.
C: Muscle Pancake is called as such because they have a sign out front advertising their muscle pancake which is a popular Thai dish. Although we have never gotten the muscle pancake because it sounds disgusting, we are big fans of the pork soup, pad thai, and pad see ew. Everything here is 40 baht, unless, of course, you get the rice dishes without rice, then you pay 60 baht. Yep, you read that correctly… less food = more money. I have no idea why.
D: Japanese Curry is another place I have no idea what they’re actually called, but they’re cheap and delicious. Especially their chicken curry rice, pork katsu udon, and chicken teriyaki. Dishes here range from 50-100 baht.
E: Matsu, another Japanese restaurant, was introduced to us as “the best sushi in Chiang Mai.” I am sad to report that we have yet to substantiate that claim, but the other things we have eaten there have been great. I love the oyakodon and Alexis usually gets tempura or chicken teriyaki. This is most expensive of the bunch, but still cheap at 60-120 baht ($2-4 USD) per plate.