Hey Everyone, we’re back from Chiang Mai and we miss it tremendously. Mrs. RB40 said Portland is so “blah” compared to Chiang Mai. We had a ton of fun and it’s been a struggle to get back into our routine. The Pacific Northwest winter weather sure doesn’t help. It’s rainy all the time and we just hole up at home. Thailand is so much livelier than here. People are out and about a lot more. Anyway, have you visited Chiang Mai? If you haven’t been there in the last 5 years, you’d be surprised. Chiang Mai has changed a lot. It became a foodie city!
In the old days, visitors used to go to Chiang Mai for local attractions like the temples, elephant camps, the Loy Kratong festival, and the mountains. Food was an afterthought. Yes, Chiang Mai has specialties that are hard to find in other parts of Thailand. Khoa soi (curry noodle), sai oua (spicy sausages), kang hung lay (pork curry), and other local delicacies are all delicious. Visitors would eat those northern dishes whenever they come to Chiang Mai.
But something changed over the last 5 years. From what I understand, a hit Chinese movie (Lost in Thailand) featured Chiang Mai prominently. This led to a huge explosion of Chinese tourism. Millions came to visit Chiang Mai and local businesses prospered. At the same time, Chiang Mai also got more popular with backpackers and digital nomads*. Consequently, new restaurants popped up like mushrooms and Chiang Mai became a foodie city. Bangkok people would drive to Chiang Mai for a few days, visit a site or two, and try as many restaurants/cafes as they could. Food has become a big attraction. There are numerous restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines now. It’s an amazing development.
*Interestingly, Thailand is now making it a lot more difficult for digital nomads to live there longterm. Digital nomads are leaving Thailand in droves. Thailand’s tourism authority prefers short term visitors like Chinese tourists. That makes sense because Chinese tourists spend a lot more freely than digital nomads. From what I hear, they buy a lot of luxury goods to take back to China. Those products are cheaper in Thailand.
Chiang Mai Foodie Trip
We usually visit Chiang Mai every few years because my parents live there. Now that they’re older and have more health issues, I try to go see them at least once per year. It’s interesting to see how Chiang Mai has changed. This foodie development mostly passed me by, though. My dad is very particular about the food he eats. He only goes to his old favorites and rarely tries a new restaurant.
We had other issues to deal with in previous trips so I didn’t pay much attention to the food. I wanted to eat the local specialties and that was enough. However, this year, we made it a goal to relax more and try new restaurants on this trip. I wanted to impress Mrs. RB40 so she’ll be willing to move there. I researched and found a bunch of great new places on YouTube. Luckily, I speak Thai so I was able to watch Thai travel channels and reviews. They are a ton of fun and they inspired me to start our own YouTube channel – Eat by 40! Heh heh heh. I’m expanding my brand. You can see our first full-length video at the end of this post.
Anyway, we took a bunch of food pictures on this trip. Let’s start off with our Wat Umong loop, then I’ll share the rest of our foodie tour.
Wat Umong loop
If you’ve been to Chiang Mai and visited all the classic sites before, then this loop is for you. There are many more famous temples like Wat Doi Suthep, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, but I’ve seen them all. Wat Umong is a bit different. It’s at the edge of town near Chiang Mai University and covers 15 acres! The grounds are much bigger than the other temples in the city. A lot of college students live in this area and the alumni started some really cool businesses.
Wat Umong is pretty interesting too. The temple was built in 1297 by King Mangrai, the founder of the Lanna Kingdom. He founded Chiang Mai to be the new capital of his kingdom. The Lanna history is fascinating. They warred with other kingdoms and eventually merged with Siam, the central Thai kingdom. Most northern Thais still speak Kum Muang, the local dialect, and continue practicing the Lanna culture. That’s why northern Thailand is so distinctive from the central and eastern areas. Chiang Mai is a very different city than Bangkok.
My dad said Wat Umong was abandoned for centuries. Then in the early 20th century, Khruba Siwichai led the effort to renovate it along with many other temples. Khruba Siwichai passed away long ago, but he is still the most venerated monk in northern Thailand. You can see his statue all over Chiang Mai and surrounding areas.
Another thing that made Wat Umong different is the tunnels underneath the stupa. These were built for the monks to meditate in. They were interesting, but a bit stifling for me. Also, there were many tourists walking around all over the place. My dad said Wat Umong was a lot more serene in the old days. Anyway, it’s a neat temple to start your day with. My suggestion is to go early to avoid the tourist rush. Next stop, we’ll have a little modern life.
Baan Kang Wat
Baan Kang Wat is a charming “artist village” near Wat Umong. This place is unbelievably cool. Independent artists run their own businesses and workshop here. They created a vibrant community for themselves and their visitors. Baan Kang Wat is a bit touristy, but they have to make a living. It’s still a lot neater than any craft market I’ve ever seen.
The handicraft products are all distinctive and the quality is way better than the usual tourist trinkets. There are jewelry, ceramics, cards, leather products, notebooks, paintings, photographs, and so much more. Mrs. RB40 loved it. Even the buildings were cute. They are a bunch of restaurants and cafés, too. This artist collective is such a great idea. We really enjoyed Baan Kang Wat and I highly recommend stopping by. My pictures couldn’t do it justice. You can read more about Baan Kang Wat at Culture Trip.
We spent about 90 minutes there and had a light lunch. I felt a bit rushed because my dad wouldn’t come into the complex. He gave us a ride and was waiting for us in a temple nearby. If we had gone there by ourselves, we’d easily spend a few hours there browsing and relaxing.
We also got an almond croissant and a banoffee tart at this cute little café. Yumm..
No. 39 Cafe
Our last stop of the day was at the No. 39 café. This was the coolest café I have ever been to. The grounds are amazing! There are various zones where visitors can relax and enjoy their drinks and snacks. I heard they added color to the pond because it was looking a little messy. That’s okay with me. The color gives the place a little pop. A lot of people come here just to take photos – we couldn’t avoid them.
My favorite thing here is the metal slide. The little two stories structure in the back is very cool. One side of the second story is open (no railings!) We went up there, enjoyed our beverages, and came down the slide. It was awesome. The drinks were reasonably priced too. An iced matcha latte cost $2, about the same as in town. Check out the video of us coming down the slide.
Yowza! I wore polyester shorts and came down the slide faster than expected. I’ll put a full clip together soon. Subscribe to Eat by 40! so you can see the whole video when I’m done.
I love this café and highly recommend it. This was the last stop for us that day. If you’re a hardcore tourist, you can visit more sites in one day. The markets near CMU are a lot of fun, too.
Foodie tour delayed
I apologize, but I’m going to put off the foodie tour for the next post. At first, I put everything in one post, but it turned into a huge monster post. We’re not even halfway yet. I figure it’s better to split it up into two posts. This first part has the Wat Umong loop and the next part will be some of the restaurants we tried.
Here is a video to whet your appetite. We went to the Chiang Mai Gate market to get some breakfast to take home. It starts a bit slow as we made our way into the food section of the market, but it gets more interesting. I’ll start you off near the 4-minute mark so you can jump right into it. I think it’s a cool video. You can see what the morning market is like in Chiang Mai without having to travel there. Check it out.
Okay, I hope you enjoyed this first part of our trip to Chiang Mai. Come back in a few days to see part 2!
Next year, I plan to release a video every week. I’ll share our travel, review restaurants, cook my SAHD recipes, and more. Subscribe to Eat by 40! to see if this endeavor will be successful. Thank you!
Starting a blog is a great way to build your brand and generate some extra income. You can see my tutorial – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should. Check it out if you’re thinking about blogging.
Source: Retire By 40
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