I’ve been asked a few times recently about what my hobbies are, and I haven’t really known what to respond. I’ve also been asked why I like living in Chiang Mai so much, which is both a very simple and complicated question to answer.
I think I recent one-night trip answers both however.
My professional work and personal interests have become increasingly intertwined over the years. I’ve never liked to spend my money on things so much as experiences and traveling has been one of my favorite ‘hobbies’. Now, when I travel it’s often a little bit for work and a little bit for pleasure. Traveling regularly also makes it so I don’t have a lot of time in my schedule for extra hobbies – it seems like I’m often preparing for a trip, working a lot to get things done before I’m on the road, then catching up on work and errands when I get back before starting the whole cycle over again.
Instead of spending my free time working on a personal project or practicing a certain skill, I go somewhere, like a few weeks ago when, on a whim, a small group of friends and I went to the mountain village of Chiang Dao – City of Stars – about an hour away from Chiang Mai.
Chiang Dao is one of my favorite places in Thailand. Hidden away in the northern Thai hills, the town is small, simple and surrounded by beautiful natural scenery. It’s far enough from Chiang Mai to feel like you’ve gone somewhere different and had a break from your regular schedule, but close enough and so easy to get to that it doesn’t require a lot of time or planning to pop by for a night.
There’s not much to do – you can wander through the Chiang Dao Cave, walk the 510 steps up to Wat Tham Pha Plong, a temple with a golden chedi overlooking the jungle covered hills that appears like something out of a movie, or wander through the local Thursday morning market. That would be about it if it weren’t for a boutique resort that somehow manages to make some of the best European dishes I’ve had anywhere in Thailand (you always ending up spending more on food and wine than the bungalow, but it’s worth it!).
There are other places to stay in Chiang Dao, but there’s something about staying at the Chiang Dao Nest that never disappoints and the fact that I can easily make it to a charming, affordable place to leisurely spend the evening eating, drinking, swimming, relaxing and connecting on a random Thursday is one of the things I appreciate most about living where I do. My hobbies are spending time with good people and experiencing different places, and living in Chiang Mai allows me to do both on a weekly basis.
Whenever I meet people who are visiting Chiang Mai for a few days, staying in town then quickly moving on, I can’t help but think that they’re making a terrible mistake. Chiang Mai’s real charm lies outside of town in the hills and to not experience it would be a shame. If you visit Chiang Mai, you have to get out of the city for at least one night and Chiang Dao provides one of the perfect places. You can get there by car or motorbike, it’s an easy drive on a well-paved highway (Route 107 heading north out of Chiang Mai), or take a local bus from Chang Phuak bus station in Chiang Mai (just outside the north gate of the city) to Chiang Dao then get a songthaew to your accommodation. The bus will be 40-50 baht (about $1.15 – 1.43) but the songthaew drivers from the Chang Dao bus station will charge you a couple hundred baht to your accommodation.
I stand by staying at Chiang Dao Nest but there are a number of other accommodation options in Chiang Dao along with several farms and homestays nearby.
Go. You won’t regret it.
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.
New places are always calling my name...
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Hello! I just want to thank you for your blog! My husband and I are planning our honeymoon to Thailand and all of your posts have been so helpful. I am also originally from Seattle! I say the same thing about Seattle as you said about Chiang Mai, the best experience is outside of the city. We will visiting Chiang Mai over NYE.. any suggestions on a fun way to ring in the new year?
There’s always fireworks at Tha Pae Gate in the Old City (and a ton of people)… If it were me, I would find somewhere special to stay and enjoy an intimate New Year’s Eve with a nice dinner or something. There are a ton of gorgeous hotels and resorts both in town and just slightly out that would be really special – check out Anantara Chiang Mai, Mala Dhara, 137 Pillars House or Rachamankha.
2 Comments on Chiang Dao: A Night Away in the City of Stars