If you’re plotting your Thailand itinerary, I’m sure your plans include indulging in Thailand street food, visiting monasteries, and other Thailand must-sees. From night markets to small town visits there’s so much to experience here in the north of the country, especially if you plan to visit one of Thailand’s neighboring countries during your journey, like Myanmar.
Read onward to discover my practical tips on visiting Thailand and Myanmar plus some of my favorite sights in each place. I’ve also included a way for you to give back during your stay.
How to Give Back in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai hosts free monk chats at temples around town, which is a fantastic cross cultural exchange and an enriching experience for monks and international visitors. Inspired to share some authentic moments of joy with locals, my friend Kristen and I attended the chat at Wat Chedi Luang where we taught the monks the Ha Ha Game. Curious about monk chats? Wanna see how the monks faired during our laughter challenge? Watch the video below.
Chiang Mai Travel Tips
Once you arrive to Chiang Mai, there are endless things to do in town and farther astray.
Start the day with a swim at Huay Kaew Falls; it’s about a 15-minute easy hike from the Chiang Mai Zoo. By the afternoon, swing by Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai’s Old City for a monk chat and tour around the inspiring temple grounds. Just down the road, you’ll also find Wat Phra Singh, which houses a breathtaking golden pagoda. If you come to this part of town on a Sunday late afternoon, you’ll arrive just in time to catch the Sunday Street Market along Ratchadamnoen Road from 4pm until midnight. There’s nothing better than closing the day with an hour-long foot massage, a cold coconut, and a traditional northern Thai coconut curry noodle dish called Khao Soi. There are plenty of night markets in town. Some of my favorites include the Night Bazaar and the Student Night Market.
On your second day in town, wander beyond Chiang Mai to the historic town of Lamphun on the Ping River. The town retains much of its old-world charm, plus you’ll feel connected to the culture by stepping off the beaten path. While in Lamphun, start with a quick visit to Wat Phra That Hariphunchai before heading to the Institute of Hariphunchai to observe where hand-woven fabric is made.
There are many expats in Chiang Mai who — like myself — rent an apartment for a month or two and stay to explore the city long term. It can be hard to leave because it’s such a wonderful part of the country, but there are so many destinations close by that are easy and affordable to reach … including Myanmar.
Travel to Myanmar
Myanmar is a fascinating country, which unfortunately hasn’t received the best press because of the political situation. As a first time female traveler to Myanmar, though, I felt safe there. The people were very open and welcoming, the sights were inspiring, and getting to the country was easy. Flying from Chiang Mai to Mandalay via Bangkok Airways only took two hours.
While in Myanmar if you’d like to give back, you can donate rice to the Mahagandayon Monastery. Watch the experience here:
There are many local shops where a large bag of rice (that feed roughly 400 people) will only cost you $32. Located in the Amarapura region, the Mahagandayon Monastery welcomes travelers to come watch a thousand monks engage in their daily lunch ritual. Not far from the monastery, you can also visit U-Bein Bridge, which spans Taungthaman Lake. It’s the longest teak footbridge in the world and a fantastic place to observe daily life in Myanmar.
During my journey in Myanmar, I woke up one morning at 4am to witness the Mahamuni Buddha morning face washing ceremony. Yes, I know early wake up calls can be grueling, but this was definitely worth it to experience one of the country’s important spiritual traditions. When you wake up early to go explore that leaves you the rest of the day to embark on other fascinating journeys like taking a cruise across the Ayeyarwady River to the quaint village of Mingun, visiting a gold leaf beating workshop, or driving to the top of Mandalay Hill for sunset.
Useful Information on Your Trip to Thailand and Myanmar
Thailand time zone
PST +15 hours; ET + 12 hours. If you’d like to compare time zones, I love the free International Time Date Meeting Calendar; I use it frequently to plan meetings and FaceTime calls with friends and family back home.
Thailand visa for US citizens
Applying for a visa in advance is not necessary for US citizens because you’re granted a 30-day visa upon arrival. If you’d like to stay long term in Thailand, you can extend that visa for an additional 30 days for 1900 baht ($58) at the immigration office. You can also exit the country and visit other neighboring countries then get an additional 30 days when you return. However, the government limits visa entries via land borders to TWO per calendar year.
Myanmar visa for US citizens
To enter Myanmar, you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance to your arrival via the US Embassy website. There are also many visa service companies as well that can help guide you through the process, but I didn’t use one.
Thailand enjoys very warm year-round temperatures. The average low during winter (December through March) is 59 degrees whereas the average high during the end of the year is 85. It can get chilly at night, so bring a jacket. During the rest of the year, temperatures hover around the upper 80s with high humidity levels, so prep your wardrobe for the heat.
Quick packing tip
While you might be prepping your suitcase for Thailand’s hot tropical climate, remember to pack some conservative options for temple visits. Bare shoulders and shorts wont be allowed into sacred zones whereas a t-shirt and yoga pants should do the trick. If you’re wearing tank tops, remember to bring a shawl to cover your shoulders.
Flying within Asia
My favorite airline that I’ve flown within Asia is Bangkok Airways, for good reason. When you book with Bangkok Airways, you’re automatically given access to its airport lounges, which offer comfortable space to relax as well as endless delicious food. I even saw a Thai pop star at the airport.
Where to Stay
I honestly feel like such a goddess when I visit Thailand; there are SO many incredible hotels! Here are a few of my favorite places to stay. I’ll list a few options in Bangkok as well since you’ll likely have to connect through the city to get to Chiang Mai. I found it worthwhile during that stop over to spend a day or two there before heading north.
A quaint boutique hotel with minimalistic design touches in Bangkok’s hippest areas, Thonglor.
A blissful hideaway amid Bangkok’s happening streets with a divine rooftop pool and cozy common quarters.
The pinnacle of Thai luxury featuring opulent suites, an inspiring breakfast spread, and expansive balconies surrounded by jungle foliage.
If you’re staying long term in Thailand and are looking for a more cost-effective accommodation option, Airbnb has some incredible properties in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Get $40 off your first Airbnb stay of $75 or more here.
Here are also my favorite condos in Chiang Mai: One Plus Condo Suan Dok, D Condo Su Thep, Play Condominium (across from Maya shopping).
I hope this guide to Chiang Mai and Myanmar was helpful, please reach out to me if you need more travel recommendations! If you liked the feel good videos about doing kind deeds while traveling, make sure you check out my acts of kindness channel on YouTube called the Kind Effect. Hit that subscribe button and bell for notifications :).