After Krabi, we hopped on a plane to Chiang Mai, one of our favorite cities in Thailand. Our last visit was about 4 years ago right before we moved to the Bay Area, and it was such a memorable stay, from the Thai cooking classes to the elephant sanctuary. We only wished we had more time to explore the lush forests and villages just outside of the old town.
We decided to head back to Chiang Mai, this time, with Aidan in tow, and we made sure to plan our visit during the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festival. We decided to skip the traditional Chiang Mai activities this time around and spent five beautiful days just roaming Chiang Mai old town, experiencing the festival events and exploring the outskirts of the city.
Check out our little video here!
Day 1: We arrived to Chiang Mai in the afternoon and after checking-in to our hotel at the Le Meridien, we headed into town to explore the festivities. The town was dressed in colorful lanterns and lights for the Yi Peng / Loy Krathong festivals and various events were happening all around. There was this amazing energy and locals and tourists alike were excited for all of the fun that would begin.
We came upon the Ploen Ruedee night market which was right near our hotel. This market was pretty modern with a wide variety of both Thai and Western food stalls. We ordered a huge seafood platter and downed everything with fresh mango smoothies. Lucky for us, just as we were about to leave, there was an evening Thai dance show in the middle of the market, so we stayed and enjoyed the performance.
Day 2: The next morning, we booked a car to take us up to Wat Doi Suthep, a temple in the mountains about a 45 minute drive from the old town. You can choose to climb up the 300 or so steps up or take a cable car. The temple itself was ornate and beautiful with an amazing view from the top.
In the evening, we had Thanksgiving dinner at Dash Teak House (which was so delicious we ended up going back on our last day) and then participated in the festival activities. The highlights of the evening (and why most people visit Chiang Mai during Yi Peng and Loy Krathong) were lighting flower baskets and sending them down the Ping River and releasing huge paper lanterns into the sky. It was a spectacular experience watching the lanterns dot the night sky.
Day 3: We spent the next day wat (temple) hopping and slurping our share of khao soi (a norther Thai curry noodle soup). Each wat was unique and so so beautiful. Our favorite khao soi restaurant is Khao Soi Khun Yai, a little street stand with some plastic tables and chairs. We discovered it during our last visit and it was by far our favorite khao soi eatery. When we came this time around, we were so glad that this little place was still thriving and delicious! But it was almost too busy, maybe due to the festival crowds. We ended up standing in line for about 45 minutes before we finally got to eat…
In the evening, Phil and I headed out for date night at Ginger & Kafe (a super creative and delicious but pricey Thai fusion restaurant). After dinner, we decided to walk off our dinner and headed to Wat Lok Moli which was decorated in bright colorful lanterns and flags for the festival. It was so nice to get away for the evening, and we are so grateful to my parents for watching Aidan.
Day 4: The following day was spent a couple of hours outside of Chiang Mai at the Doi Inthanon National Park. We hired a driver and a van to pick us up at 8 a.m. and take us in.
Our first stop was the Wachirathan Waterfall which was lovely but underwhelming. I would skip it the next time around. We then headed to the Angkha Nature Trail, an easy stroll through beautiful lush forest. We loved this little walk and really enjoyed the quiet, fresh air and greenery.
We then squeezed in the Royal Pagodas and gardens before lunch.
After lunch, after much coercion and translating with our driver (there seemed to have been miscommunication on all the areas we wanted to stop), we also did part of the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail which was a moderate hike through gorgeous landscape (guide required). We wished we could do the whole thing, but my parents were waiting at the bottom with Aidan and we were running out of time. We highly recommend staying a night near the park to get the full experience and see everything.
Day 5: On our last day, we splashed around our hotel pool and had a delicious lunch at Dash’s. Their banana flower salad is seriously so good! I’ve never had anything like it!
In the evening we visited the Sunday Night Market, but it was so packed that we didn’t stay very long. Phil and I didn’t remember it being that crazy the last time we visited, so we were shocked and a little disappointed. We had been walking for most of our time in Chiang Mai, so we had a bit of fun squeezing into a tuk tuk to head back to our hotel.
We had such an incredible time in Chiang Mai during Yi Peng and Loy Krathong and are so glad to have experienced more of Chiang Mai!