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5 Tips for Making the Most of Chiang Mai!

If you’re thinking about a semester abroad with Insight, you’re likely curious about what daily life looks like in each of our program locations.

Our newest Semester in Development launched in Chiang Mai, Thailand in Fall 2019. Considering a semester in Thailand? Here are 5 tips for making the most of your time in Chiang Mai!



 Embrace the Local Cuisine

Chiang Mai has a huge foodie scene, with a large variety of international cuisines and a seemingly endless number of cafes, restaurants and bars. No matter what dish you’re craving, Chiang Mai has got you covered.

All of that said, the local Thai cuisine is truly on another level. One famous dish in Northern Thailand is Khao Soi, a noodle soup cooked in a coconut milk-based curry and topped with fried egg noodles.

Eating local is also much more affordable. You can get a full meal from a local food-court or street food vendor for as little as $1.50!

Taking a Thai cooking class is a great way to learn more about Thai culinary culture and to learn how to prepare your favourite dishes. You can learn to cook 5 or 6 dishes over the course of a few hours for around $30.

A few other favourites to try:

  • Tom Yum Goong Soup
  • Massaman Curry
  • Papaya Salad
  • Mango Sticky Rice

 Shop at Local Markets

When it comes to shopping, Chiang Mai’s many markets are the way to go. While the city has a number of large grocery stores and shopping malls, the markets are where you’ll find hidden gems and the best prices.

During the weekend, head to the Saturday Night Walking Street or the Sunday Night Market for handicraft vendors, live music and delicious street food. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, Jing Jai Market is a great spot to visit for handmade products and organic food vendors.

If you’re just looking to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, head to one of the city’s many produce markets. Prices are much lower than what you’ll find in the grocery store, the produce is fresh, and it’s a great opportunity to practice your Thai!

 Try a Muay Thai Class

Building a good routine is key to staying happy and healthy while living abroad. Joining a Muay Thai class can be a fun way to stay active and challenge yourself, while learning more about Thai culture! Drop-in Muay Thai classes cater to all fitness levels and typically cost around 300 baht ($12 CAD) per class.

 Attend Community Events

Attending free classes or events is a great opportunity to meet new people and find a sense of community within the city. Chiang Mai offers an impressive range of community events and activities, with something for everyone.


All of the activities listed below are offered for free in Chiang Mai:

  • Language Exchange Chiang Mai (Cube No. 7)
  • Open Mic Nights (Free Bird Café)
  • Swing Dancing Chiang Mai (One Nimman)
  • Pub Quiz (Archers Chiang Mai)
  • Salsa Dance Lessons (One Nimman)
  • Meditation Sessions (Chiang Mai Holistic)
  • Yoga in the Park (Suan Buak Haad Public Park)

There are also a number of local festivals to take part in – check out Loy Krathong and Yi Peng in November, the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in February and Songkran in April. During festivals, free events, installations and activities are hosted throughout the city.






















 Make the Most of Your Weekends

With a busy schedule balancing your studies with your internship, you may find yourself using evenings to rest and recharge. Weekends are the perfect opportunity to get out of the city and explore something new! Whether it’s just a day trip or a full weekend getaway you’re after, the region surrounding Chiang Mai has a lot to offer.

The Monk’s Trail is a scenic hike that will take you from the city centre all the way up to the top of Doi Suthep, a famous peak just west of Chiang Mai. Doi Suthep is home to Wat Phra Doi Suthep, also known as the ‘golden temple’ and features beautiful panoramic views of the city. You can also end the hike part-way at Wat Pha Lat, a beautiful old temple hidden away in the jungle.

Time: 3 hour hike (roundtrip) to Doi Suthep, 1.5 hour hike (roundtrip) to Wat Pha Lat.

The Bua Tong Waterfalls (also known as ‘Sticky Waterfalls’) are a popular day trip from Chiang Mai. Just an hour north of the city, the falls are famously grippy and easy to climb, hence the name ‘sticky’. The waterfalls are located within the Sri Lanna National Forest, a beautiful place to hike or enjoy a picnic.

Time: 1 hour by car or songthaew from Chiang Mai

A few hours north of the Chiang Mai, Pai is perfect for a weekend trip away, offering a more low-key, quiet retreat from busy city life. Pai has numerous budget-friendly guesthouses, vegetarian cafes and outdoor attractions, including hot springs and waterfalls. Pai Canyon is a great spot for hiking or to catch the sunset.

Time: 4 hours by minibus bus from Chiang Mai

About Jessie Castello

Jessie is a Program Director with Insight Global Education. Since joining the team in 2018, she’s called 3 different continents home, and has had the pleasure of leading 6 Semester in Development cohorts. Her favourite travel destination is Tanna Island in Vanuatu, home to Mt. Yasur, one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes.