Despite my last post being a little…questioning…I love Chiang Mai – I mean, I’ve stayed here about a year longer than I initially expected. I’m kind of a fan. But the town it itself can be…dingy. There are some really charming, even beautiful, spots and the city is relatively clean, but there are also a lot of areas that look worn out. There aren’t a ton of trees or green spaces, and hastily thrown together ‘coffee shops’, tourist agencies and guest houses clutter the streets. If someone was only passing through town and here for a couple of days I could understand if they were…underwhelmed.
The real beauty of Chiang Mai lies outside of town in the country roads, hills and jungles. And while it may seem easier to stay in around the city center, it really doesn’t take much effort to go further out.
The best thing about being able to live or spend more time in a place is discovering the things, places and activities outside of the immediate tourist track. I never would have heard about or gone to the following three spots if I hadn’t spent a lot of time here, but they’re each an easy trip just outside of town perfect for a morning excursion or afternoon break.
Huay Tung Tao – One of the most simple and enjoyable things I’ve done here is spend an afternoon at lake Huay Tung Tao. Located just a quick 25-30 minutes from Chiang Mai’s city center, visitors can spend hours in a cabana by the water ordering drinks and dishes to share from the restaurants situated around the lake.
The Samoeng Loop – It’s no secret that I love motorbikes. Whether driving or riding, I’m completely content to spend all day watching everything pass by. It really is the best way to see Northern Thailand (and Southeast Asia general) and isn’t as intimidating as it might seem when you first touch down in the Land of Smiles. There are plenty of drives just outside of town and one of the best is the Samoeng Loop. Good roads, interesting stops and great views make the trip an easy getaway. While the first part of the drive takes you through I guess what you would call Thai suburban sprawl, once you get on the main road and away from town the hills will open up for you.
Mon Cham – A Royal Project site (Thailand’s Royal Family has various agricultural projects throughout the country helping villages and hill tribes better produce crops), Mon Cham is essentially a strawberry field in the hills – with a killer view (just look at the first photo). Enjoy the drive up (less than an hour and a half from town) Come here for the nice drive and stay for lunch at the garden’s outdoor restaurant situated right on the ridge. While not many tourists know about the spot, Thais certainly do and travel up here for numerous photo opps. At 9am on a Friday morning I was one of two foreigners taking in the view, but was surprised by the number of songthaews, cars and tour minivans that were already there. It still didn’t feel overcrowded though and was a great example of how Thai people love sightseeing…and taking pictures. For those who want to stay longer, there’s camping (tents and bungalows) at Mon Cham as well as at several spots on the road up.
Live or spent some time in Chiang Mai? What did I miss? Tell me your favorite day trip spot in the comments below. For more photos check out the Paper Planes Facebook Page.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
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I like the look of Mon Cham. That would be my pick! 😉
It was worth the trip if you have some extra time up here…if you were only here I few days I probably would do it though. But then again, it definitely was off the tourist (at least, foreign tourist) trail which can be a nice change…
Oh yes, I have been to Chiangmai twice this year, and will be going there next month. We were lucky that the International Flower Show and La Krathong events haeppned simultaneously. We did visit the night market just next to the Tapae Gate. It is unbelievable we had to walk for nearly 3-4 kms from one end to the other. Its full of people and lots of bargains. We couldnt help indulging ourselves in getting cheap foot massages along the footpaths. Things are dearth cheap. Lots of arty farty thingies to choose from.For those who have not experience this before, it has to be a must go so that next time, when you talk to your mates about Chiangmai, at least, you can say, been there and done that. Finally, its pretty safe at the night market.Cheerskenneth coeNew Zealand
I’m looking forward to Chaing Mai! A nice break from the chaos everywhere else! Definitely going to look up Huay Tung Tao!
Do! They’re definitely quick and easy getaways from town
I love motorbikes as a way to get around too, at least in rural areas. I really hate riding them in cities. chiang mai isn’t too bad though, in terms of traffic.
I can handle Chiang Mai fine, but don’t think I’d want to be driving in a city that’s much bigger. Sometimes getting to and from school during ‘rush hour’ was…interesting…I wish I had a camera on my helmet!
I’m in Chiang Mai right now, and I’ll make sure to visit Huay Tung Tao! Looks amazing!
It’s simple, but pretty and a good way to spend an afternoon
Mon Cham looks near to us, I think we’ll check that out when the haze dies down
I definitely want to give all of these a try! I’m hoping to stay in Chiang Mai for a while so should have plenty of time to explore!
p.s I love your blog, so many tips 🙂
Thanks for reading, Lisa – getting out of town is one of the best parts about being in Chiang Mai!
Making our way there soon. Is a Honda Click 125 with 2 people good enough to make it to the top to Mon Cham?
It probably is if you know what you’re doing – I think we did it one a Honda Click 150. I usually drive an older semi-auto Honda Wave 125cc and would have had some trouble getting up with a person riding on the back…but always tend to shift down at the wrong time on hills. It’s steep, but still doable!
Nice ideas and tips, Mon Cham looks lovely 🙂
It is! Even a bit cold in the ‘winter’ which is refreshing 😉
Checking this post while looking for things to do in Chiang Mai (I am here right now!). It looks amazing, if only I could ride a motorbike :/
Well there’s plenty to do without a motorbike too! 😉 Have fun!
I ride a motorcycle in the US, but have been warned/ordered (I’m in the military) not to ride in Thailand because it’s “extremely dangerous”. But, you are saying that it’s not an issue? I’m guessing the Northern part is less sketchy/dangerous than the southern part? Going to Chiang Mai in October for a week. Our plan was to hire private drivers for the day trips.
I wouldn’t say that riding a motorcycle anywhere is ‘safe’ and you never know what is going to happen. A lot of the safety factor rests in your skills as a driver, being familiar with the traffic/rules of the road and knowing where you’re going though which are three things most visitors driving in Thailand aren’t comfortable with.
21 Comments on 3 Different Day Trips from Chiang Mai