The quaint northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is a popular home base for visitors looking to hike, ride elephants, zip line, and do all manner of outdoor excursions in the surrounding countryside. But Chiang Mai’s old town is an attraction all its own, with a collection of ancient Buddhist temples, aged shophouses, and a handful of wooden homes, all surrounded by a crumbling brick wall and moat. It’s devastatingly charming, largely walkable, and home to some of the best eateries and cafes in the whole of Thailand.
Even if you think you know Thai food, eating your way through Chiang Mai might have you wondering if you’re in the right country. With dishes not found elsewhere in Thailand, the cuisine here is characterized by mild but intense flavors, smoky grilled meats, and rich curry noodle soups — not to mention a decent spread of foreign food and a thriving cafe scene. Best of all, meals here cost a fraction of what they would in Bangkok, and the vibe is almost assertively casual and easy. And with influences from China, the Muslim world, Myanmar, and the region’s so-called hill tribes, Chang Mai’s eating scene is unlike anything else in the country.
Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Austin Bush is a Thailand-based writer and photographer. He’s the author of several books, including The Food of Northern Thailand.Read More