For my birthday this year, I decided to visit the northern side of Thailand. I have visited Bangkok and Phuket a handful of times, but never ventured to Chiang Mai. I was pleasantly surprised by the slower-paced urban oasis compared to hectic Bangkok. I was super excited for the spanking new hotel we booked and the Chiang Mai Foodie Tour. It was a short weekend trip from Hong Kong, so we thought a 4 hour food tour was the best way to see the city, learn some history about Thailand, and taste some authentic northern Thai dishes like Khao Soi, curry egg noodles. After walking around in the heat, we were glad we booked Raya Heritage to cool off and relax in this luxurious haven.
Did you know Thailand was made up of 7 different kingdoms? Chiang Mai was part of the Lan Na kingdom, "Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields." Northern thai people actually have a different language they speak, however only the men know it because they were the only ones allowed to go to school 60 years ago. It seems like a dying language as most young thai people speak the normal thai language. Also, about 95% of Thailand are Buddhist.
I learned all of these facts during my four hour food tour around the old city of Chiang Mai. We got a private tour guide and driver who were both the most sweetest tour guides I have ever encountered. We found this foodie tour by simply online searching for the best food tours in this city. An added bonus is that the revenue from the tours go towards providing employment opportunities, and funding to The Jasper Kids Foundation. My boyfriend and I selected the original food tour (9AM - 1PM) where we got to try 10 authentic local dishes. It costs about 1350 Baht per adult and 750 Baht for children. They also offer evening tours (4-8PM) and customised private tours. The tours include all food and drinks, transportation, english-speaking tour guide, and phrase book.
My favorite dishes on the food tour were the northern thai spicy sausage, mango sticky rice, authentic khao soi (there are four recipes), and the Hainan chicken. Each of the restaurants or food stalls they picked were not "touristy," but all spots that locals frequently visit. As I looked around each restaurant, we were the only foreigners in sight. I loved that the tour guide explained all the history behind each restaurant and dishes.
Aside from this culinary adventure, the hotel we stayed at, Raya Heritage was a highlight. Recently built last year (2018), this luxury five star resort was incredible. We booked the Pool Villa suite, which comes with a butler. The room was massive, filled with a walk in closet, gorgeous bath tub, his and her sinks, and massive king bed. The shower and toilets were in their own separate rooms. The hospitality at the hotel was impressive. They noted that it was my birthday and surprised me with a chocolate birthday cake and card.
We dined at the hotel restaurant on our first night and it was absolutely delicious. All the ingredients were fresh and the presentation was spectacular. I highly recommend ordering the Jin-Loong starter. It's juicy Thai-style pork meatballs are deliciously flavored with lemongrass, ginger and garlic with rice vermicelli noodles. The price was quite steep (100 USD total), but if you're too tired to venture into the city, this is a great option.
During our weekend stay, we also visited David's Kitchen, which is a french fine dining restaurant in Chiang Mai. My boyfriend booked this restaurant as it was a very popular well established restaurant in Chiang Mai with consistently great reviews. Their menu is composed of classical French dishes with a modern Asian twist. Their signature and most popular dishes are their Japanese pumpkin soup, beef cheeks, and escargot. We ordered the June special which was the gnocchi stuffed with lamb shank and it was phenomenal. You should also do yourself a favor and order the sticky toffee cake - it was probably the best dessert I've tried in months. David is a sweet old British man who came around to speak to us during our dinner to wish me a Happy Birthday. He even sent a personalised email after to thank us for coming. This was one of the best dining experiences I've had in awhile.
On our last day in Chiang Mai, we decided to check out the Sunday morning market at JingJai Market. It is only open on the weekends from 6AM-2PM. It is a very environmentally friendly market in which local food stalls serve food in paper bags, operate a plastic free concept and sell lots of organic products. It is a cute and rustic market with beautiful handmade items. It definitely has a farmer's market.
If you are looking for some spa action, I highly recommend booking Fah Lanna Spa. We visited the one in the Old City and booked online the day of. The massages were well priced and the ambiance of the spa is tranquil and nature-esque. It was a beautifully manicured property and the staff were extremely friendly. The spa offers private rooms for massages which is perfect for couples. I got an hour foot massage, but asked for 10 minutes on my shoulder which they were happy to accommodate (800 Baht). They also offer a free pick up from your hotel and drop off which was an added bonus.
Chiang Mai is also known for their cute and cozy cafes. I am currently sitting at one now as I am writing this blog. Woo Cafe was recommended to me by a friend and it is a cafe, art gallery and lifestyle shop all in one. It's great for grabbing a snack, coffee, smoothies, local thai dish, or just to lounge around with a glass of red wine and blog. Other cute cafes that I found while researching this trip were Rustic and Blue, The Barisotel by The Baristro, Forest Bake, and Daddy's Antique cafe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this quick getaway to Chiang Mai. It's a relaxing city with a good mixture of amazing authentic food, cute cafes, and nature. Although it was rainy season, the weather was in our favor and only rained in the evening. We mostly got around by Grab (super cheap) so we avoided walking. Definitely check out the food tour we booked and Raya Hertiage. Bon voyage!