Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Chiang Mai Travel Guide + Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (Doing it the DIY way)

Chiang Mai – home to hundreds of Buddhist temples, is a city in the mountainous Northern Thailand where most of the elephants in the country resides. It is also a famous side-trip for tourists heading to Bangkok, Thailand. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary located in Chiang Mai is one of the main reasons why tourists visit this peaceful city surrounded by the highest mountains in the country. Learn more about the awesome things you can do here through this Chiang Mai Travel Guide!

Whenever tourists talk about Chiang Mai, I can’t help but notice a genuine smile of excitement in their faces. As for me, I think my eyes sparkle a lot just by the thought of it! And I’m having a wild guess that you are probably (A) curious or (B) planning to visit this beautiful place too. So! Enough with this travel guide intro, let’s talk about Chiang Mai and the things you need to know before visiting this paradise in Northern Thailand!

(Special thanks to a friend I met in Bangkok for helping me create this Chiang Mai travel guide! Most of the places and travel guides stated in this article are from his advises. Thanks for being my virtual guide, Pessi!)

About Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you’re looking for a relaxing place with a serene atmosphere to chill for your vacation, Chiang Mai is the place for you. Located approximately 12 – 15 hours bus/train ride from Bangkok is another epic get away to expect when in Thailand.

There are 2 seasons in Chiang Mai which are the dry and wet season. Rainy season falls between the months of May to September. Therefore, the influx of tourists in Chiang Mai are the months before May and after September.

For foreigners going here, it is advisable to download a google translate application or any application that may help you communicate with the locals. Although English is spoken by some people, there are still locals who can only speak their language. I have always been putting this as a recommendation in my previous travel guides with other countries as well. Things might come in handy so better to be prepared.

How to get around? (Chiang Mai Travel Guide)

Getting around the main city in Chiang Mai is very easy especially if you’re planning to visit Buddhist Temples. Note that there are so many Buddhist Temples here so stretch your legs and do a little walking trip to see some of these incredible temples. BUT, if you are not in the mood to do a little walking then you can rent a bicycle! Some hostels offer free use of their bicycles for 2 hours. I stayed at 9 Hostel and they have free 2 hours use of their bicycles.

Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Another way to get around the city is by motorbikes. If you know how to drive a motorbike then you can tour more of the city through this.

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai?

For budget travelers, I suggest 9 Hostel in Mueang Chiang Mai District. There are restaurants around the area and lots of Buddhist temples that are just walking distance.


How to go to Chiang Mai from Bangkok?

There are 3 ways for you to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and that is by plane, by train and by bus.

By Plane

This is the fastest way to go to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and is also the most expensive. Chiang Mai is just an hour plane ride from Bangkok and the fare usually range from 2,500 THB to 3,500 THB.

By Sleeper Train

The sleeper train has become one of the famous way to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The impressive view of the mountainous Northern Thailand gives the tourists a competitive choice. Furthermore, its downside is that it’s slower than the bus and may take up to 15 – 16 hours of travel time. Most tourist still choose this to travel since it has a VIP room where a bed is provided where you can comfortably sleep and wake up in the morning to watch the view from the window. The fare usually range from 800 THB to 1300 THB.

By Sleeper Bus

For budget travelers who doesn’t mind long travels, this is the best option for you! If you have been backpacking and traveling around Asian countries, a long travel by land isn’t really a big thing for you now, does it? The travel time is 10-12 hours and the fare ranges from 450 THB to 700 THB.

bus to bangkok

Where to book your tickets to Chiang Mai? (Chiang Mai Travel Guide)

The best online tour agency where you can buy plane, train and bus tickets to and from Chiang Mai is with 12GO. They have schedules that departs everyday. Note that you need to book at least 1 day ahead to secure your slots.


Morchit Bus Station to Chiang Mai Arcade 2

There are buses at Morchit Bus Station that goes directly to Chiang Mai Arcade 2 terminal. You can go there directly to buy your tickets. If you will book through 12GO, the Morchit Bus Station is where most of the bus are coming from.

Khaosan Road Bangkok to Chiang Mai

If your hotel is located in Khaosan Road, going to Morchit station may be a bit hassle for you especially with all your luggage since the distance is a bit far. Luckily, there are lots of tour agencies scattered around the streets of Khaosan Road where you can look for the cheapest price. I have asked to about 4 tour agencies around the streets and some offers 550 THB and others are 600 THB. The cheapest I was able to look for is Mama Tour Agencies near Yes Khaosan Hostel and the fare was 500 THB.

Tip: Be sure to ask if it’s a sleeper bus, air conditioned and has a toilet in it. You don’t want to be spending the whole 12 hours trip stuck in an uncomfortable travel.

Things to do in Chiang Mai

It is impossible to stay for a week in Chiang Mai and ran out of things to do. There are lots of things to see and do here! Below are the most suggested things to do in Chiang Mai that me and my friend Pessi gathered for you. Check it out!

Rent a bicycle and visit Buddhist Temples nearby

For starters, you can actually rent bicycles in Chiang Mai and go to the nearest Buddhist temples in your hotel. Most hostels offer this for free if you are staying in their hostel. In my case, I stayed at 9 Hostel and there’s a free 2-hour use of the bicycles for each guest.

TIP: Just look at the map around 9 Hostel, there are seriously lots of temples in every street.

Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Just bike around the place and you’ll see lots of Buddhist temples. Take note that there are no entrance fees to enter these temples! Below are the temples I’ve seen.

WAT CHIANG MAN – the nearest temple near 9 Hostel which is just stones throw away.


Chiang Mai Travel Guide


Chiang Mai Travel Guide


Check out Chiang Mai’s nightlife

If you want to go out and try the night life in Chiang Mai, you may want to try Zoe in Yellow. This place is a few blocks away from 9 Hostel. I haven’t really tried this place but my friend recommended it to me.

Experience taking care of the elephants at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Whether it’s a whole day or half day visit at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, this experience is truly amazing and life changing! Getting the chance to actually learn how to care for them is one of the best highlight during my Chiang Mai trip. In this sanctuary, you’ll see the elephants living free. People are no forcing them to do any work to entertain people or whatsoever. I highly suggest you try this when you go to Chiang Mai!

Here is a detailed travel guide: Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

elephant jungle sanctuary chiang mai

Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The temple is located up in the mountains and would take you approximately an hour to get here. If you are looking to see a beautiful Buddhist temple, I suggest you take the 1 hour ride to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and check this out.

Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Experience more of Chiang Mai’s street markets

Just like in Bangkok, there are lots of street markets in Chiang Mai too. If you live near 9 Hostel, all you have to do is walk around and you’ll see lots of street markets. Try their street food here and you can also buy pasalubongs at the street market. Although be careful of pickpockets here, just bring a small sling bag you can put in front of you all the time.

Busk in the sun at Grand Canyon Water Park

Located just half an hour away from the main city is a place to look out for especially for thrill seekers! Some of the things you can do here are: cliff jumping, zipline, swimming, enjoy the inflatable play park and getting your tan on. There is also an on site restaurant here where you can eat and try refreshing beverages. Read more here.

Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Connect with nature up in the mountains at Mon Jam, Mae Raem

If you want to get a quick escape in the busy city, Mon Jam might be the place for you! The place has an incredible mountainous view and you can see the whole view of the city from up here too. Enjoy a relaxing stay here with a compliment of a cool atmosphere from the mountains. You can also find lots of strawberries here.

mon jam, mae raem

Get a Traditional Thai Sak Yant Tattoo from a Monk

I have heard from a friend of mine in the Philippines that you can get a traditional tattoo which is done by a Monk in Chaing Mai, Thailand. To those of you wondering, Sak Yant Tattoo is a way of tattooing that originated from Thai ancient people. The tattoo designs and meanings came from their old beliefs and is accompanied by a prayer while it is being done. Similarly, it can be compared to the traditional tattoo in Buscalan Philippines.


The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

I have talked about the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in my previous post and you can read my full review and travel guide here: READ ELEPHANT JUNGLE SANCUARY TRAVEL GUIDE HERE.

“No Riding” Policy by the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary implements a strictly “NO RIDING” policy. It is where the elephants can do what they want when they want, and are not subject to any training for profit-making entertainments.

When you visit the EJS in Chiang Mai, the elephants will not be forced to entertain you. You will go there to develop a positive relationship with them and if they want to eat, sleep or bathe with you it is up to them!

The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is definitely a place where elephants can be elephants!

Where to Book Slots for Elephant Jungle Sanctuary?

There are 2 platforms where you can buy your ticket/slot for the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (1) through Klook and (2) through their website.



I booked my half-day visit through Klook and the tour was smooth and no hassle at all. If it’s your first time hearing about Klook, they are the number 1 online travel activity provider and they have lots of travel-related activities across Asia. The mobile application of Klook is very user-friendly. Skip the line and the long queue for buying tickets by purchasing your discounted tickets online and receive the voucher in a few seconds!

How to use Klook? Follow the easy steps below.

  1. Sign up with Klook here
  2. Search for Elephant Jungle Santuary
  3. Buy the ticket using any form of payment available. Take note that you will need to put your hotel address for the pick up location on the date that you will choose to visit.
  4. Once you’re done purchasing it, in a few minutes you will receive an email voucher and the receipt on the email address you provided during the sign up process.
  5. Once you received the voucher, take a screenshot and show it to the tour guide and you’re good to go!

Things to do in the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

  • Help feed the elephants
  • Mud bath with the elephants
  • Lear about the elephant’s nature
  • Promote awareness on how to properly care for the gentle beasts

Other Helpful Tips From Joan’s Footprints

  • If you are planning to take the bus or train to Chiang Mai, I suggest booking the night schedules to avoid wasting a day especially if you are in a time-sensitive state.
  • Rent a bicycle or borrow from your hostel and take a morning bike around the city
  • Download google translate apps
  • Book your bus or train ticket back to Bangkok at least 1 day before to secure your slots


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