City Guide: Chiang Mai Old City

 |  December 2, 2013

What are the defining characteristics of your neighbourhood? What makes it special?  

The old city is the most historical area of Chiang Mai city. Surrounded by crumbling terracotta walls, one can easily go back in time and imagine how this old capital of the kingdom of Lanna once appeared.

What do you like most about this neighbourhood?

The history.  I love the old teak wood houses turned modern day guesthouses, the uneven bricked small soi and alleys (even if my motorbike doesn’t) and the fact that no building can be over eight stories tall.  To me, the old city is the heart and soul of our beloved Chiang Mai.

What do you like least about it?  

Certain times of the year, now in particular, the invasion of the tourists and their lack of driving ability.

Who lives here? 

This area is a melting pot of every type of Chiang Maier, with a plethora of tourists thrown in the mix.  It’s the best of all worlds.

Best everyday restaurant:  We’s Restaurant (50 Prapokklao Soi 1, 083 318 9347). Her yam hua plee is to die for.

Best special occasion restaurant: Pum Pui Italian (Moon Muang Soi 2, 053 278 209).

Best cheap eat:  Tikky’s Cafe (Arak Soi 3, 088 407 3095). EVERYTHING is heavenly.

Best drinks: Upper Deck Rooftop Bar (13/1 Sriphum Soi 1, 081 883 4650). I highly recommend the tom yum mojito.

Best night out: Freedom Bar (Rachapakinai Road, 082 929 3066) is my regular chill-out spot.  Great for us 30-somethings that don’t like the noise and craziness of Talad Boon Yu.  Although, Roots Rock Reggae (Ratwitthi Road, inside the Zoe complex) is by far my second pick, if you have your dancing shoes on.

Best daytime activity: Chiang Mai Gate, Somphet market on Moon Muang Soi 6 or Wat Chedi Luang. I’m a temple junkie.

Best place to shop: Kaber Vintage (58/2 Inthawarorot Road, 085 037 9824) and Love 70s shop on Singharat Road.

Best attraction:  Sunday Market, of course!

Best secret: I’m a busy woman and in my free time I like to thoroughly pamper myself, on a budget of course. My favourite is the Ratchapakhinai rooftop herbal steam and massage; most people walk right by and never know it is there. 

Best tip: Leave the cars and motorbikes outside the walls!  The best way to explore the old city is on foot or bicycle, making sure you don’t miss all of the wonderful little hole-in-the-wall treasures to be found.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Could never possibly list all of my favourite places in the old city, especially after living here for 10 years.  Some things that I highly  recommend:

Drink a banana shake at Bird’s Nest Cafe (Singharat Soi 3, 087 177 4940).

Eat homemade kimchi at Gohanya (9 Moon Muang Soi 7, 089 266 1363).

Go to a Tuesday night jam session at The North Gate Jazz Co-op (91/1-2 Sri Phum Road, in front of Chang Phuek Gate, 081 765 5246).

And if you’re ever in the need for acupuncture or holistic healing, Dr. Mungkala at the Dr. Mungkala Traditional Medicine Clinic on Ratchamanka Road is amazing (053 278 494)!