Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wat Sri Suphan  (The Silver Temple)

Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand and the second largest city in Thailand with a population of over 1.2 million people as of 2022.  Founded in 1296 the city was surrounded by moats and a defensive wall, although very little of the wall remains around the historic center and what does was restored in the 19th century.  The ‘city’ of Chiang Mai which covers only 40 square kilometers of the city center has a population of 127,000 which is where we got fooled into thinking it was not a large city.  The city sprawl has extended to several neighboring districts which accounts for the large population numbers.  Plus, the government does not count expats, non-permanent residents, migrant workers or other Thai citizens living here temporarily so it is estimated that the real population is closer to 1.5 million…yikes!!!!  That translates to a lot of people everywhere and a shit load of traffic ☹️ Interestingly, 2 other nomad couples we spent time with while here echoed the same sentiment as us, none of us had any idea Chiang Mai was this big.  Fortunately, we did not have to travel far from our apartment and the historic center to enjoy the city.

A corner and one of the gates around the historic city center

Chiang Mai was a new city for us and Thailand a new country for us, which is surprising considering how many times in our lives we have been to this part of the world.  We chose to spend three weeks here because over the years we have met people who come here for months at a time, and it’s a popular haven for retirees.  With its relatively good infrastructure and inexpensive cost of living we can see why people want to retire here, although it’s a bit too busy for our liking.

Prior to arriving in Thailand there is no online arrival registration nor visa application to complete.  Under the Thai Visa Exemption Scheme, Canadians are allowed to stay for 30 days.  Not having to complete any arrival documents ahead of time we anticipated a slow process clearing immigration.  Nope, it was incredibly quick and easy.  Show our passport, have our digital fingerprints taken, have our photo taken and in we went.  We were not asked for any proof of onward travel, perhaps because once in the country we could apply for an additional 30-day extension if we wanted to.

There are more than 300 temples in and around Chiang Mai, some more interesting to visit than others but virtually one on every street corner.  Some of our favorites were:

Wat Chiang Man was founded in 1297 and is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai.  The ‘Elephant Chedi’ is the oldest construction within the temple complex with 15 life size elephants emerging from the first level.  There were not many people here so we had a peaceful wander around the complex.

  • Almost 800 years old


Wat Sri Supan (the Silver Temple) was founded in 1502 and is probably the most beautiful temple in Chiang Mai, or I thought so.  The entire temple is covered in sparkling handcrafted stainless steel and silver.  Women are not allowed inside the silver ordination hall, so I sent Blair in to take a few photographs, it’s breathtaking in there!  At night the temple is lit up with changing colored lights making it even more spectacular.  Most temples are free to visit but this one had a nominal fee of 50 Baht (USD $1.42) each, including a bottle of water and a key chain.


Wat Lok Moli is located just outside the northern city walls.  Although the exact founding date of the temple is unknown, it was first mentioned in a 14th century charter.  During the 16th century the massive brick chedi and assembly hall were built.  The chedi used to contain the ashes of several kings and queens, but who knows if they are still there after all these centuries.


Wat Phra Singh was built in the 14th century and stands out with it’s huge gilded chedi/shrine.  The chedi is circular with a square base, each side of the base is decorated with an elephant figure emerging from the shrine.  I saw some old photographs of the chedi and it used to be plain concrete, but in 2016 the complex underwent a major makeover and the chedi was overlaid with a brilliant golden covering.

  • The gold is blinding!


Eating out in Chiang Mai is so inexpensive that most people don’t bother cooking.  On average we could have dinner in a restaurant for around USD $10 for both of us and it cost even less when we went to one of the many markets around the city center.  Some restaurants we enjoyed and recommend are:

Dash:  One of the more upscale restaurants in Chiang Mai old town but the food is excellent quality, beautifully presented and well worth it. The first time we went,  Noi the owner, was there and came by our table to let us know what her best selling dishes are, as well as her favorites.  Lunch with two meals and an appetizer cost 480 Baht (USD $14).  We liked it so much went back again for lunch with Lisa Naas, Tim and Sachi, three other nomads we met here in Chiang Mai.

Appetizer and one of our meals

Je Hua Noodles:  Incredible dumplings and dried noodles with roasted pork. This small Chinese restaurant was 3 blocks from our apartment, we did takeaway meals there at least twice a week!!

Paak Dang:  This restaurant has been awarded a Michelin Plate designation and the back story sounded interesting, so we decided to give it a try.  At the start of the evening, we met one of the owners K-Lin, and had a chat with her about how the restaurant came about.  Not only does she serve spectacular meals, but she hires at risk youth, trains them and teaches them skills they will use the rest of their lives.  It’s a heartwarming story and admirable of K-Lin and her brother to help young people in need here in Chiang Mai.  Of course being a Michelin Plate restaurant, the food was nothing less than incredible.  And what did this incredible meal cost…USD $26.  This included an appetizer, a Massaman chicken dish, a vegetable dish, rice and roti bread.  Expensive for Chiang Mai, but inexpensive compared to just about anywhere else in the world.

L’Opera French Bakery was a great place for fresh baguettes, sandwiches, quiche and oh so delicious French desserts.  I enjoyed getting my fix of French baking!

Mad Dog Pizza:  If you want a quick beer and an inexpensive meal, this is a good option offering more familiar North American food.  We came here a few times and on one of those occasions we met fellow nomads Kevin and Ruth, Jeanne and Phil here for an early dinner to trade tips and share stories of home free living.

A popular activity here in Chiang Mai is strolling through the numerous markets.  There are night markets, day markets, flower markets, covered markets, a Sunday market, a Saturday night market etc offering everything imaginable for sale.

We spent the majority of our three weeks in the city and besides visiting temples, night markets and restaurants we found a few other interesting things to do:

Lady Boy Cabaret performances are quite common in Thailand and we were invited to meet another nomad couple at the Siam Dragon Cabaret for an evening of entertainment.  Interestingly, we did this on Christmas Day so I don’t think we will forget this Christmas anytime soon.  The performance was entertaining, if a bit amateur, but we had a few laughs and were impressed at how lovely the ‘boys’ were 🙂 Tickets to the cabaret cost 550 Baht (USD $15.90) each.


Chiang Mai hosts a few Flower Festivals every year, and the Charming Flower Festival was on during our time here, so I joined new friends Jeanne & Phil for a trip there one evening.  Blair hurt his back the day before, so I left him at home recuperating.  It was New Years Eve and the traffic was horrific so we ended up taking a tuk tuk for the 30 min journey, it was not the most comfortable way to get there!  We spent a couple of hours walking around the light displays, flowers, fireworks, water fountain show and grabbing some food from a few of the stalls.



I made it home from the flower festival by 10pm so Blair and I could ring in the new year together.  There were paper lanterns and fireworks all over the city lighting up the night sky, it was magical.  It’s a New Years we will remember for quite a while, probably because we are usually asleep by midnight 😂


Tom Yum Thai cooking school was recommended by fellow nomads Howard and Whitney so we had to give it a try.  The day before our class we were asked to select the items we wanted to cook, ostensibly so they could get all the ingredients prepared.  We chose to cook Pad Thai, Cashew Nut Chicken, Hot and Sour Prawn Soup, Thai Noodle Soup, Spring Rolls, Green Chicken Curry and Panang Chicken Curry, finished off with Mango Sticky Rice.  Oh my, what a lot of food we cooked and consumed!!!!!  There were 8 other participants in the class who were all fun to be around.  The morning started with a visit to the market where we learned about the various noodles, vegetables, spices and fruits that we would be cooking with.  Then back to the kitchen where for a few hours we chopped, diced, cooked and consumed the fruits of our labor.  Everything was delicious and we recommend Tom Yum Thai cooking school if you are in Chiang Mai 😋  The cost of the cooking school was 900 Baht (USD $25) each.

  • Shopping at the market


We enjoyed our three weeks in Chiang Mai, exploring the city and a few places around Northern Thailand.  It’s an easy and inexpensive place to spend time and if we find ourselves in SE Asia again we would come back here.  I think what added to our enjoyment was spending time with fellow nomads and sharing stories.  We enjoy meeting fellow travelers and find everyone’s road to becoming a nomad very interesting.  All our stories are different but the joy we find in this lifestyle is a common thread amongst all of us 👍

Next up, the huge metropolis of Bangkok…..






We stayed in the Astra Condominium and while the location is good the Astra Sky River is a newer building with fantastic rooftop pools, we would stay there next time.  Astra Sky River is 8 minutes further walking distance from the old city center but worth the walk in our opinion.



6 thoughts on “Chiang Mai, Thailand

    • January 29, 2024 at 11:57 pm

      Ah good, you will enjoy it there!

  • January 27, 2024 at 12:33 pm

    So glad you enjoyed the cooking class – we couldn’t eat all that food so were delighted they packaged up the leftovers for us to take home! Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    • January 27, 2024 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation! Perhaps in a large group the portion sizes were smaller because we finished all our food, but did not need to eat until the next day 😂 See you guys soon.

  • January 27, 2024 at 3:52 am

    So glad I finally got to meet you both. Enjoy your onward travels!

    • January 27, 2024 at 4:01 am

      Thanks Lisa! I hope we can meet again one day. Safe travels to you also 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.