Chiang Mai Province – The Gateway

Gateway to Northern Thailand and the Golden Triangle!
Chiang Mai is arguably the best city in S E Asia to live in. With lots of character & charm, it has all the necessary facilities of a modern city, but without the horrendous traffic problems. Smack bang in the middle of North Thailand, it is the perfect base for making 4-5 day loops by motorcycle around the Golden Triangle region. The local expat bikers love the place and never want to leave (although some won’t admit they are hooked). From wherever you are in North Thailand, Chiang Mai is only a day’s ride away maximum.

A road to ride out of Chiang Mai. The Wat Chan road.

On two wheels you’re never far from wherever / whatever you need. It is only 10-15 mins (20 mins in a car) maximum to the international airport, bank, post office, railway station, hospital, school, department store / supermarket.  Or in 45 mins you can be in the forest with elephants, hill tribes and waterfalls. (If you were in a major city like Bangkok, you’d still be stuck at the traffic lights!)

Pansawan restaurant, 20 minutes from central Chiang Mai.

Getting Started: the best way to get to Chiang Mai is fly. Chiang Mai’s a much easier place to settle down and acclimatise in than Bangkok (see Bangkok on the way out). Taxi from Chiang Mai International Airport costs 140 baht & takes just 10-15 mins to get into the centre of town.

Wat Sri Suphan, Chiang Mai.

Use the free Chiang Mai tourist magazines for their city maps & comprehensive service directories to find most places you want. The best magazines are Chang Puak and Citylife.

Bangkok Overnight: If you have to overnight at / or near the Suvannnabhumi airport in Bangkok, & don’t want to go into Bangkok city; then check out these
1. Great Residence or 2. Airport hotels. 3. Valentine Hotel.
Or check out some GTR recommendations here

In Chiang Mai to get around town, hire a Honda scooter for the first 2-3 days to familiarize yourself with the place; then hire a bigger bike to make 1 or 2 day trips before going up-country. Use a Mae Sa Valley – Samoeng Loop map to find you way around.

The Borsang umbrella centre. Well worth visiting.

First-timers to Chiang Mai should at least
1.    Ride up Doi Suthep mountain overlooking Chiang Mai city.
2.    Go to the night bazaar & do some shopping.
3.    Go to the Sunday walking street market on Rachadamnoen road.
4.    Get some clothes tailor made.
5.    Have a Khantoke (traditional Northern Thai) dinner & hill tribe cultural show.
6.    Visit the main day market Talad Warorot.
7.    Take in some of the main city temples – Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Umong, Wat Chiang Man & Wat Sri Suphan.
8.    Check out the zoo if you’ve got kids.
9.    Visit Bor Sang, Sankamphaeng & Ban Tawai villages to see the traditional handicrafts.
10.    Do the Samoeng loop, see an elephant show & take an elephant ride.
11.    Have dinner at one of the riverside restaurants & bars. (Riverside / Good View / Yoi River.)
12.    Have a 2 hour traditional Thai massage. Try a foot massage too!
13.    Relax and unwind, Chiang Mai is a safe & great place to be.

A place to relax on the outskirts of Chiang Mai

Jump ahead. Go to Day Trips / Rides from Chiang Mai.

Jump ahead. Go to Overnight Trips / Rides from Chiang Mai.

Come and take a look for yourself… To help you get off to the right start and make the most of you time in Chiang Mai, here are some recommended businesses, that I use on a regular basis.

RESTAURANTS
Bier Stube The expat favourite for 20 years – consistently good western food. The best value breakfast in town?  33/6A Moon Muang Road. Tel: 0 53278 869.
The Kafe (David Unkovich’s fave hang-out.) The best atmosphere and value for money Thai restaurant in town. Good food and music, with an excellent mix of both Thai and farang customers (not easy to get and maintain). Satellite TV for all the football matches. The cheapest happy hour (5.00 – 8.00 pm) in town: Don’t miss it.  127-129 Moon Muang Road. Tel: 053212717
UN Irish Pub run by Aussie Sandy (& various non Irish partners). Satellite TV. A popular expat hang out, and with a good upstairs bar, this is the place to watch the bike GPs / SBK & F1 races,  plus live football matches & other sporting events. And, if you’re a trivia quizz fan, then don’t miss Thursday night quiz night at the Irish Pub. 24 / 24 – 1 Ratchawithi Road. Tel: 053214 554.
X-Centre Chiang Mai’s X-Centre is the one-stop for all adrenaline junkies with a wide range of thrilling activities to keep visitors of all ages entertained all day long. If its motorsport action you’re after you can try one of our off road tours by motorcycle or buggy into the hills that overlook the beautiful Mae Rim Valley or if you’d sooner go racing you can take to the track in the easy-to-drive indoor drifter karts.
Some more GTR Chiang Mai restaurant favourites

BARS / PUBS (there’s a few of them & I try to hit them all on a “semi-regular” basis. Chiang Mai’s brilliant for food, music & the odd social drink……)
The Kafe, David Unkovich’s fave hang out in Chiang Mai.
Blues Bar run by Tui. A laid back, roadside, cheap drinking spot. Excellent collection of blues music tapes / CDs. Next to the Bier Stube. 33/6 Moon Muang Road. Tel: 053277 040.
The Riverside Chiang Mai’s most famous open-air riverside pub. Magic atmosphere. Great food, live music (3 bands), and often crowded – the place to be for a big night out, especially on Friday and Saturday nights (with the herd mentality). Best for a meal around 7.30 – 9.00 pm, then best for drinking, music & fun…

ACCOMMODATION
For accommodation, value for money places to consider are

  1. Lux Hotel. Undercover parking.
  2. Boonthavon Court Apartment block – weekly – monthly rentals. Undercover parking.
  3. Tri Gong Residence This new and lovely guest house is situated on a quiet lane (“soi” in Thai) near the ancient moat that once protected this ancient city of Chiang Mai, founded over 700 years ago.

All  3 of the above are a stones throw of Mr Mechanic, The Kafe & the UN Irish Pub.

Or if you don’t need to worry about your budget & want something special & unique that is unbelievably biker friendly, then try
5. Rachamankha Hotel. Managed by English Paul & GT Rider with a Kawasaki 650 Versys.  The Rachamankha: A haven of peace within the 700 year old city walls of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand, Rachamankha is a small, yet spacious gem in the crown of Thai boutique hotels. Designed by one of Thailand’s most renowned architects, and with the interior and landscaping designed by an equally renowned designer, the property is more a work of art than a hotel. Voted one of the best new hotels in the world by Condé Nast 2005

Chiang Mai Hotels List:

The complete line-up of Chiang Mai Hotels here…

TOURS & TRAVEL
Contact Travel for mountain-biking, rafting and kayaking  adventure tours, plus on-line airline tickets. Run by Swiss Alex. Contact Travel Co., Ltd
420/3 Changklan Road, Chiangmailand Chiangmai 50100, Thailand. Phone: 0 0 5320-4664 and 0 5320-4665. Fax: 0 5327-9505

TAILOR
Neramit Extremely good & reliable tailor – a cut well above the rest. Hit Neramit your first day in town, then hit the road & pick up your new clothes on the way out, or, have them delivered to your guesthouse / hotel while you’re away. Clothes always a perfect fit. The GT Rider uses Neramit for tailor made jeans & lined cold weather denim riding jacket. Highly recommended. 91 / 2 Ratchawong Road. Tel: 053 234353.

JEWELLERY
Shiraz Jewelry The jewelry shop of choice for the residents of Chiang Mai, local as well as foreign – 19 years of service and trust. Always satisfied customers & never any complaints. Excellent value for money.

CHIANG MAI MOTORCYCLING SHOPS 

1. The big bike shops – where to shop for a big bike.

2. The bike accessory shops – where to shop for bike gear.

Come & stay in a Chiang Mai for a few weeks to experience the good life.