And so, so much more. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Bangkok is fast-paced and modern, but still totally different than anything we’re used to experiencing in the US. For those of you planning trips (I know there are quite a few), I’ve included some links at the bottom of this post to help get you started. Please, please leave comments if you’ve been or are planning to go. I’d love to hear what you did; consider it fodder for my next trip!
In Chiang Mai, we loved our stay at Oasis Baan Saen Doi. It’s a resort in a sleepy neighborhood outside the city, and they offer a free shuttle service to town every day. If you’re only in town for a couple days, you might want to stay in the center of the city. But if you’re looking for somewhere to truly get away, I can’t imagine a more peaceful and relaxing place to take in Chiang Mai.
Massages in Chiang Mai run about $10 per hour – a total steal. We got one every day, at whatever small shop looked open. There are hundreds of options and they’re all basically the same. However, if you’re up for spending American prices and want to go somewhere totally and completely indulgent, the Tamarind Village Spa will not disappoint.
Spice Roads was the company that organized our bike trip, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. We also looked into Grasshopper Adventures, and while their dates didn’t work with our itinerary, I’ve heard great things about them, as well.
When eating in Chiang Mai, it’s hard to go wrong. Even the mediocre restaurants serve good food. That said, the food can be truly outstanding if you know where to look.
Everyone everywhere will recommend Huen Phen (also spelled Hue Phen). It's in the middle of the old city and historically, it was where the locals had lunch. Unfortunately, it's now totally touristy. There are still a lot of Thais there, but what I heard from a Thai food blogger is that most of those Thais are tourists, too. He said that Chiang Mai residents eat elsewhere. We went there and had a really average meal.
We had great meal at Pun Pun, which serves local, organic food, and Kuhn Churn, which was all vegetarian and no less flavorful for it. Start your adventures there.
Also, you must have khao soi. It is hauntingly good, and it's everywhere. Austin Bush's favorite place is Khao Soi Prince.
In Bangkok, if you’ve got the stomach for a hot, stuffy, crowded market, definitely go to Chatuchak weekend market. I think it’s the largest market in Asia, and it’s got everything from fresh fruit and made-to-order noodles to stuffed squirrels (for decoration). Or so we hear: we lasted there about 30 minutes before turning around and going home. Ahh, well; can’t do everything.
One spot in Bangkok that we would never have found on our own, but loved, was Jay Fai. We ordered as we were told: pad kee mau, lard na talay, and kai jiew pu. Everything was delicious. It’s got weird hours, so poke around online or in Chawadee’sbook (soon to be updated!) before going.
Also try Rungruaeang, which has amazing noodles in tom yum broth (bamee tom yum). No website, but I think the address is Sukhumvit 26.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a place to sit and have a nicer (but still inexpensive) meal, I’d really recommend Soul Food. Chawadee’s friend owns the place; it’s a bit like something you’d find in Brooklyn. Food mostly local and organic; meats and spreads all made in-house; that sort of thing. We had a really wonderful meal there, and the drinks were excellent (and cheap).
We stayed in a fancy hotel in Bangkok because it was the price of a regular hotel stateside. The room was gorgeous and the pool kind of obscene – but it was the service that made the hotel worthwhile. They made recommendations and reservations, printed us maps and drew us directions, and overall made us feel less like the foreigners we were. If you’re looking for an indulgence, The Four Seasons Bangkok is quite a nice one.
A couple of indispensable social media folks: Chawadee is at @BangkokGlutton and Bangkok Glutton. Austin Bush is @austinbushphoto and Austin Bush Photography. Robyn and David are @eatingasia and Eating Asia. All were invaluable to us on our trip
Seriously, you can’t go wrong. A trip to Thailand is a trip well spent. Leave comments if you’ve been or are going soon. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences.