Chiang Mai – tips from a travel insider

Stu Lloyd has spent 20 years living in Asia, in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Thailand (Samui, Bangkok and Chiang Mai), so he’s perfectly placed to share his knowledge of the region, and in particular, how to have the best time possible in Chiang Mai.

Best coffee
Ristr8to, 15/3 Nimmanheiman Road
Specialising in single origin coffees, this cool café in the hip ‘Nimm’ strip has even garnered local and international awards for its latte art. A great place to watch the world go by and enjoy great coffee made with passion.

Best cocktail
For atmosphere, it’s hard to beat The Service 1921. A re-imagination of a spy service quarters in the 20s and housed in what was the British Consulate dating back to that era, nestled within the new Anantara hotel on the banks of the Mae Ping River.

Best breakfast
Bake and Bite gets my vote here, especially as its brunch goes on till … well, whenever. It has two outlets – one at Nimmanhaemin soi 6 and Kaew Nawarat Soi 3/2. A full hearty brekky with coffee won’t set you back more than $6-8, and because it doubles as a bakery, you can pick up some bread, rolls, etc for later.

Best local view
The Rama 9 Lake, adjacent the Hilltribe Museum, in Chotana Road (near 700 Year Stadium). Thatched huts sit over the water, where you can enjoy a low-key Singha or Leo and a seafood feast, while taking in the spectacular sunset views behind Doi Suthep. Quintessential, yet barely known by travellers.

One fun thing you can do for free
Browse in second-hand bookstores. There are many amazingly eclectic stores, especially in the Thapae Road area (near Air Asia office), such as BackStreet Books, Gecko Books, and Lost Books in Rachamanka Road. Problem is, it’s not really free because you will always buy at least one book. But at around $5 they’re a steal.

Something only a local knows about
There’s lots of nice waterfalls around, such as Sukhuntara, Maejo (Sticky) Falls. Bua Tong and Mae Kampong are among the nicest, with the advantage of beautiful bush walks to reach them.

Favourite thing to do in and around the city/region/town:
Motorcycling. Northern Thailand is a motorcyclists’ paradise, with beautiful mountains and valleys, cheap guesthouses and a welcome massage for your weary bum at the end of the day. See to get an idea of the active community, spearheaded by Aussie David Unkovich who’s ridden 1,000,000 km in this region.

Why do you love this town?
Despite becoming busier with Chinese tourists, it still has a grown-up hippy town bohemian feel for the most part, fused with some cutting edge-Thai architecture and resorts, centuries-old temples, and a vibrant live music scene – be it jazz, blues, reggae or rock. It’s also been voted one of the most desirable retirement places in the world, especially for its value.

Have you enjoyed what Stu has revealed about Chiang Mai? If so, you can find his books and writings at


Want some more insider’s tips? Take a look at the following:

Tips from an insider – Singapore

Tips from an insider – Amsterdam 

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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