Written by Shannon Osztonits
Edited by Dawn Pillay
One of my favourite places in all of Thailand has got to be the North, specifically Chiang Mai and it’s surrounding areas. With so much natural greenery, cultural delights, and some amazing historical sites to see, it instantly has a magical feeling about it.
My boyfriend and I decided to make our way around the North and soon realised just how perfect it is for couples (let’s get one thing straight, tourists don’t flock to this part of Thailand for a party!).
And although the North gets busy, it’s not unbearably so, which makes for a perfect romantic and relaxing time with your boo.
As a couple, life becomes about appreciating the things that matter, such as beauty, wonder, awe (and delicious food).
From gorgeous sunsets, to romantic strolls through rice paddies, gushing waterfalls and even…a hot air balloon! There’s so much to do, see and eat in these parts so enjoy your romantic adventure!
PS: You can pick up your local SIM card, organise airport transfers from Chiang Mai airport, private car with driver (and even a boutique airport lounge) – etc all with the help and convenience of our friends over at Klook!
Just for our dear readers, get 8% OFF any first-time bookings (capped at S$15). Simply apply the promo code ‘TRIPCANVASTH’ when you check out!
How to get to Chiang Mai?
From Singapore, Scoot offers direct flights to Chiang Mai from USD $207 (round-trip). Earliest flight is 8.55am, landing in Chiang Mai at 11am. It takes 20min by car to get to Chiang Mai. It takes 20min by car to get to Chiang Mai.
From Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia offers direct flights to Chiang Mai from USD $90 (round-trip). Earliest flight is 6.55am, landing in Chiang Mai at 8.40am. It takes 20min by car to get to Chiang Mai.
How to get around Chiang Mai?
To fully enjoy Chiang Mai, you should definitely look into hiring a car to get around. A Lot of activities are surrounded by nature here, so not necessarily all in the city. Whether you would rather have a private chartered car or prefer driving around yourself (only if you’re confident on foreign and mountainous roads) – getting around can be simple!
a. Klook’s Private car with driver (From USD $45 / 1390 Baht per day)
Klook makes it simple with this competitive service that not only includes a private chartered car service that’s affordable, it also comes with a local driver that’ll help with your itinerary while making getting around extremely convenient and comfortable.
b. Car rental without driver (From USD $38 / 1200 Baht per day)
If you enjoy driving around personally and are confident on unfamiliar roads, you might want to consider renting a car from Thai Rent A Car or Avis. It’s tried and tested! (Prices vary depending on the car model chosen.)
c. Airport and City Transfers (From USD $9.69 / 299 Baht)
If you’re not keen on hiring a car to get around and only require an airport transfer, or city transfer, the simplest way to do it would be via Klook.
d. Motorbike Rental (From USD $4.85 / 150 Baht per day)
Renting a motorbike is relatively easy business in Thailand, and you’ll always be able to find a local shop, tour office or even a local, renting out mopeds and scooters. Remember, if you’re going to drive a bike, please be aware of traffic officers (they will ask for an international driving license if you’re a tourist) so make sure you’ve got one, otherwise you’re gonna pay a hefty fine – talking from experience here). And DON’T forget to always wear that helmet!
PS: You’ll also need a local Sim Card to get around, whether it’s to use Google Maps for directions, or to Instagram your holiday away! (From USD $4.25 / approx. 131 Baht)
Enjoy a world of colour, indulge in delicious Thai cuisine, and shop till you drop
Note: The most affordable flight to Chiang Mai is Scoot (from SGD295 for a round trip), and earliest flight is at 8.25am, which means you’ll reach Chiang Mai at 10.40am. After collecting your luggage, you will likely leave the airport by 12pm where you’ll hop onto your car (rented/chartered) and head to lunch! We will also be using Arch39 Art & Craft Hotel as the default hotel for this itinerary.
1. Lunch @ Cafe de Oasis (1.5h)
2. Activity at Bo Sang Umbrella Village (1.5h)
3. Dinner @ The House by Ginger (1.5h)
4. Shop till you drop at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar (2.5h)
5. Check in @ Veranda High Resort
After a long afternoon of travelling, your tummy must be rumbling, and if you follow the pathway through a set of shrubbery-covered doors (look out for the cute red bicycle outside the entrance), you’ll be in for a treat at this hidden garden cafe.
Cosy and super ambient, enjoy some a-maze-ing (strong) drip coffee and as equally-delicious food. Their menu is a fusion of Thai and western delights, and their ultra cheesy Baked Penne with traditional sausage had our mouths all kinds of watering.
Photo Via Plummy_pony, Pimkiez
Once you arrive at the village, you and your boo will immediately be greeted by a world of colour, with a wide array of popping umbrellas in bright colours, and busy artisans who are working on bamboo umbrellas ranging from colourful ones to those with unique designs.
These handmade umbrellas are made from bamboo struts, Saa paper (a type of paper made from mulberry), cotton and wood. Some of them are even water-resistant! You can also find fans, lamps, parasols and other locally-made products (and they are sooo beautiful!)
Curious about how these umbrellas are made? Visit the umbrella factory and watch how these experienced artists transform simple materials into works of art through their craftsmanship and exceptional artistic skills!
Photo Via Emagasty
Nimmanhaemin Road is famous for its cafes, boutique shops and fun discoveries. Strolling around this area is something relaxing to do together, with different discoveries waiting. If you’re looking to shop, Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center might interest you with its plethora of shops ranging from affordable boutiques to designer Thai brands.
Otherwise, a slightly quirkier non-shopping option might be the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders! It’s a quaint and unique private museum filled with natural discoveries that’ll intrigue most and is the perfect photo-op too!.
Photo Via TripCanvas
A long standing restaurant in the city, and a firm favourite with annual local travellers, this electrically lush spot has all the holiday feels, and the food, ohhh wow, the food!
This is a fantastic and elegant take of using traditional Thai ingredients, but with a fusion touch. Drunk in love? The cocktails here are to die for, and their mixologist is apparently crazy good!
Photo Via Cjiahong, Trangvux.02
My partner and I were itching to get to the city’s gigantic night market zone, knowing that this one in particular is known for it’s amazing and diverse Thailand treasures – and it did not disappoint!
FYI; even though it just seems like one MASSIVE market filling out onto the streets, and then in buildings, they’re actually three different markets: Kalare Night Bazaar, Anusarn Market, and Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Kalare for food and they have a covered Food Court as well as other stalls indoors
Anusarn has lots of handicrafts and such, and there’s also a few bars on the outside / alley of this market
The Night Bazaar is where all the stalls on the roadside / in the middle of the street and here you’ll find your market finds – I have to say Chiang Mai’s Night Market which everyone just refers to as this one, is amazing.
Photo Via TripCanvas
I absolutely love finding stays that has all the needs and comforts of a home. This stay ticked all the boxes, with a beautiful living space, kitchenette and gorgeous bathroom.
End your day relaxing in the bathtub or start your day with a refreshing swim in their outdoor guest pool, they’ve even got bicycles for all guests to use if you’d love to discover the town with the early morning sun.
Photo Via Winky_kiki, Sangsoonie, Tataapathitta
Escape the crowds, with this dreamy choice of stay, set just outside the city (and it feels as if it were designed with couples and romance in mind).
Being totally surrounded by nature, you’ll feel as if you’re in your own private game resort, and it’s giving me some African outback/safari feels. Their Plunge Pool room comes with its own private pool and patio surrounded by bamboo trees (perfect for some private underwater kisses). The perfect choice for setting up home for the next few days with your sweetheart.
Photo Via Nisa_prapa, Ssoyyonnii
Whisk away on a romantic hot-air balloon ride and sooo much more
Note: We’ve prepared an optional morning market for the early risers (6am) in this day!
1. Optional for the early risers, Jing Jai Morning Market (1h)
2. Breakfast at Rustic and Blue (1h)
3. Wat Pha Lat, The Monk’s Trail (2h)
4. Optional: Hot Air Balloon Ride (2)
5. Head to lunch @ BrandNew Field Good and go exploring the rice paddies (2h)
6. Enjoy a couples massage at RarinJinda Wellness Spa & Onsen (1.5h)
7. Dinner @ David’s Kitchen (2h)
8. Optional: Enjoy an evening cocktail and listen to some live music @ North Gate Jazz Op (1.5h)
What better way to start the day than flea-market style, rising with the morning sun, hand-in-hand with your darling..
This super artsy morning market hosts three different markets; Farmers Market (Organic and fresh produce and handmade goods); Hobby Market (really cool flea market style, lots of art vintage, crafts, books, clothing, etc) and the Rustic Market (Vintage, bits and bobs, second-hand, hand-made woods and furniture)
There are some other boutique like shops in the complex too, as well as cafes, and across the road is the largest plant market! (I’m a sucker for greens, even just walking among them).
Photo Via Nattpattama, Cylincy, Feera_117
Whimsically adorned with draping greenery, the magical garden setting at Rustic & Blue is what gives this place its appeal, leaving a romantic feeling in the air.
…Wooden tables and comfy couches furnish the outdoor lawn…
…White linen umbrellas shade the tables…
…And hand-woven dreamcatchers blow gently in the breeze…~*
The food (especially brekkie) is excellent and gorgeously presented. Hearty, healthy and generous portions ensure you won’t be disappointed.
Photo Via Thaov.illustration
Spend some quality time together amongst nature, taking a jungle trek (hike) to a hidden temple, known as the Pilgrim’s Path or the Monk’s Trail, that’s rarely visited by tourists!
Get lost together amongst the gorgeous greens and gushing waters, and after 40mins you should reach two dragon heads at the foot front of a small waterfall, walk up stairs and you’ve found the entry!
Surrounded by bamboo trees and waterfalls, this stone monastery in the forest just becomes more and more beautiful. (A seriously awe-inspiring moment to share with your special.)
Photo Via Miahorvit, Nataliarodriguezpe
This is definitely not Turkey, but here you’ll get to go on a hot air balloon ride too! There are two options, one is a lot more expensive than the other but it’s an hour long actual ride, reaching 2000 meters high, whilst you enjoy breath-taking views over Chiang Mai’s landscape.
(The cheaper option reaches 30 metres above the ground, with beautiful bird’s eye views.)
PS: Ahem, if there are any gentlemen out there looking to pop the big question, this could be a pretty perfect option! Wowee ❤️
Photo Via Mariacarolinaap, Graysphotoss
Come get lost among the rice paddies as you surround your soul with beauty and the slow paced life.
A wooden bridged pathway leads the way through the fields and we have to say, it makes for some really beautiful photographs, so spend time with your honey snapping away memories to last a lifetime, with the most gorgeous backdrop.
Try some delicious local favourites, as well as quirky desserts – try their Baffles – waffles in a bowl with yummy toppings!
Photo Via Baankaiho
A holiday is not complete, without a massage, am I right? And what better way to relax with your boo, than indulging in one together?
If you’re looking for an actual spa with amazing (and different) treatments, in a totally relaxing setting Rarinjinda Wellness Spa is a must-visit, although a bit more on the pricier side.
PS: If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, Let’s Relax is less fancy but they also have a great selection of treatments to choose from!
Photo Via Kingleduc, Mtsuchiya0130
This gourmet fine dining concept is amazing, the owner has set up the restaurant in a really relaxed space, so for those that truly appreciate good food, can experience it without breaking the bank.
Enjoy this ultra romantic French restaurant delights the culinary senses with dishes such as Wild mushroom Risotto with truffle foam, or signature dish Fettucine with truffle cream, lobster claw and sliced truffles.
Photo Via Eve.naewmaung, Paige_coz
Chiang Mai is known to be a city full of culture and art, and that includes its residents. If you’re not ready to hit the sack, and are keen on some live music and a glass of red wine, head to this cultural explosion.
People from all walks of life gather here to meet, talk, eat, drink and enjoy one another’s performances, don’t forget the lawn area with its variety of shops run by artists displaying their craft; jewelry, book binding and other hand-made items.
Photo Via Anica_daily, Mjbe89
Hike to Big Buddha and have the best time ever at this amazing Walking Street
Note: After checking out of your hotel, grab an early-ish breakfast so that you’re leaving Chiang Mai for Pai at 9am, to get there around midday. Don’t forget to grab some snacks from the local 7/11, it is a 3 hour drive and you might get peckish… Klook also offers city transfers between Chiang Mai and Pai, so there’s no need to stress and try and organise this whilst you’re staying in Chiang Mai. They will pick you up directly from your hotel and off you make your way.
1. Check out hotel and head for brekkie @ Ss1254372 Cafe (1h) Leave for Pai
2. Arrive in Pai and check-in @ Kalm Pai Resort (4h)
3. Lunch @ Silhouette (1h30)
4. Activity @ Big White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) (2h)
5. Coffee wake up at Art in Chai (45mins)
6. After freshening up at the hotel, make your way to Pai’s Walking Street for Dinner & Shopping (3h)
Make your last breakfast in Chiang Mai an absolutely delicious one (they have amazing smoothie bowls, just saying) and feel as if you’re dining in another era.
Not only is the food incredible, but so are the interiors and the entire design of this cafe. It has these big, gorgeous round windows with tons of green ferns hanging down from the roof (and it all makes me think of some sort of fairy submarine/spaceship, but in the most beautiful way possible haha!)
Photo Via Songg.e, Apple_138p, Netchawanin
Gorgeous and affordable, their Deluxe garden bungalows (with a built in stone & wood natural hot spring tub for you and your lover to enjoy after a long day) are pretty amazing!
Traditional in style and design, it almost has a homestay feel to it, but that’s part of the beauty and experience of the North of Thailand! Rooms are spacious, and being built from raw materials gives it a very warm feeling.
Photo Via Eddynoda
After you’ve arrived in Pai, head to your private island, I mean, hotel…
The set-up here is absolutely gorgeous, with big, bright, contemporary / traditional design, and cool Medetterian-style villas set next to the river (plus privacy is guaranteed – each villa is secluded and private, and enjoy your own hot tub under a cosy thatched roof too).
As a couple you probably may never want to leave, and their Honeymoon Suite is simply dreamy. There are four seperate rooms for you to enjoy, and wait till you get a load of the bathroom – this hot tub is big enough for five! Now behave yourselves you two…😉
Photo Via Byxjg, Janna_wang126, Qin0626, Anchoen_saisoen
Once you’ve settled in, it’s time for lunch, and this rustically charming choice among the palm trees, gives me all the old French countryside feels.
Here you’ll delight in finding both fantastic food and great settings. Their salads are insanely yum (brie cheese and walnut salad) and they do a lot of mezze style plates – my boyfriend and I always share our meals anyway so this was absolutely perfect!
Photo Via Aloha_ejbyej, Chelzb_, Poundsterlings
Enjoy breath-taking views of the city, and snap some beautiful photos of the views and architectural design – Big White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) (1.5h)
Feeling refreshed after a delicious lunch, hop on your scooter and make your way to Pai’s famous Big Buddha – who truly is a beauty to astound upon. The drive here is probably the shortest part (10mins), but the actual walk to Buddha is where you’lI break a sweat, so heads up, there are two sets of steep-ass steps to climb!
The actual walk up is beautiful too, and the traditional Naga Snake follows you all the way to the top of the temple. Once you reach here, enjoy stunning views of Pai town below, and even more views once you climb the second set of stairs to Big Buddha.
Photo Via Kellypea, Mhhaug, Soph.g.mee, P4u1_murphy
After that brief spot of exercise, I’m sure you’re both thirsty, and I can personally testify that you’re about to have the best, traditional Indian Chai Masala tea in the whole of Thailand!
Art in Chai serves the most heavenly Spiced Indian Masala Chai tea (definitely try their iced option), just bursting with cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon. The set up is a beautiful bohemian rhapsody and we sat watching the owner finish off his painting of a beautiful tree with Buddha sitting gently underneath.
Photo Via Jinawonderland, Tales_in_orbit
It’s time to shop (and eat) till you drop…Our favourite Walking street in Thailand – Pai Walking Street (3h)
Where to even begin…I’ve travelled a lot of walking streets (Probably over 100 just whilst being in Asia TBH) and this is by far, my absolute favourite, and the boyfriend agrees too!!
It’s an incredible eclectique mix of the most beautiful trinkets, handicrafts, jewelry, clothing, leatherworks, artwork and delicious food.
What made it for me was that there’s a great variety of food here; something to suit all taste-buds and moods. (Because of this, we actually ended up eating here most evenings because the food was just that good!!! And there’s so much to try! ).
I went back twice for Queen Gyoza’s gyozas which had the perfect amount of golden crisp on the outside whilst the actual dumpling was soft and delicate really.
There’s cups of strawberries everywhere too and you have to try a bowl of Chicken Noodle dumpling soup – typical to the region.
PS: During the day, there are still some actual shops open, but all the roadside stalls (and floors) open at night and some shops even transform into another!
Photo Via Livvsquillari, Just.c.luv_
Explore an ancient Chinese Village, chase a waterfall and go strawberry picking
Note: Make sure to wake up early for views of the rolling sea of clouds! Get up at about 5.30-6am!
1. Early rise for views @ chinese ancient village Santichon (2h)
2. Breakfast @ Lemon & Thyme (1.5h)
3. Mor Paeng Waterfall (2h)
4. Delicious, local Lunch @ Nong Beer Restaurant (1.5h)
5. Strawberry picking and photo op @ Love Strawberry (1h)
6. Coffee Wake up @ The Container (1h)
7. Pai Canyon for sunset (1.5h)
8. Dine for dinner @ Charlie & Leks (2h)
9. Optional. End the night off with live music and a great ambiance @ Mojo Bar (1.5h)
Wake up early (we did, and we promise it’s worth it), and make your way to one of the best viewpoints in Pai, as you watch the early morning clouds roll in, drinking green tea upon the mountain top.
This one is said to be a special place for lovers, and you can buy special blessings for the two of you which you place on the tree for good luck.
After checking out the clouds, drive back down and you’ll pass the Santichon Castle, which was super cool just to walk through in itself. You can dress up (and buy) traditional-wear, walk around the grounds, and there’s even a wooden swing chair – that I really wanted to try!
Photo Via Shannon-Osztonits, Kittiphop_racing
Head back down to the mountain and enjoy one of the best breakfasts of your life – Lemon & Thyme (1.5h)
Whenever we travel, my love and I always like to enjoy at least one incredible breakfast, and honestly I have to say, in terms of variety and quality of food at this gem of a cafe, blew my expectations.
The food is bursting with freshness, they make their own bread, and for a person who isn’t hugely into eggs, there were so many other divine brekkie options (we ate here every day actually) I was in my element.
On that note, my partner said he had “one of the best Eggs Benedicts of my life” – because nothing beats a perfectly poached egg.
Photo Via Biggiebiggu
The awesome thing about this area is that there’s so many easy ways to submerge yourself by nature, and as a couple, it’s important to let your bodies relax and decompress together in mother nature.
There are a few waterfalls around Pai for you to hunt (or favourite was actually Mae Yen, although it is the longest trek), but Mor Paeng Waterfall is definitely the easiest (and shortest) one to reach. Once you reach the car park, it’s a short 2 minute walk to the start of the falls!
It is also the most popular, and you can climb to the second tier and slide down a rock into one of the pools! Epic fun for the both of you!
Photo Via Oipuuui
This restaurant and is a firm favourite with locals, and apparently has the best Khao Soi chicken in all of Pai town (Khao Soi is the traditional noodle curry dish regional to this area of the North).
The set-up is nothing fancy, but we’re here for the food anyway. Enjoy bursts of coconut, red peppers, lemongrass, chili and tumeric in a fragrant soup, filled with egg noodles and chicken. It sounds simple, but with the crunch of the noodle and flavour of the broth, it’s a sensory delight.
Photo Via Paitoronto, The.food_.pundit, Grrrl-traveler
Unsurprisingly, Pai has some of the best strawberry farms around. Love Strawberry is a farm and strawberry themed cafe, where you can sample lots of different strawberry influenced food and drink from cute strawberry shaped seats.
It also has a really cute umbrella canopy that you can walk underneath and take cute photos at!
Photo Via Melissakarakas, Superjoanna
On the hunt for some epic views to take home in your memory box? This colourful cafe with gorgeous views of fields of green and in the distance, the hills of Mae Hong Son, is worth a visit, and another awesome photo op for the two of you!
Chill out on swinging chairs, grab and coffee and enjoy the last hours of the afternoon sun.
Photo Via Bemytravelmuse, We_went_where, Littleofftrack
Steep dirt roads carve through a plunging canyon in the middle of untouched nature, creating a spiritual setting unlike any other. Great for exploring the canyon and taking pictures, enjoy awesome 360° panoramas of the surrounding mountains and landscape from the various trails.
The scenery is impressive with jagged cliffs, steep ridges, giant rock walls, and trees for as far as the eye can see! Pai Canyon is a serene and peaceful place to watch the sun dip below the horizon, and enjoy the coloured aftermath of the sunset in your darling’s arms!
Photo Via Ansonimage
Whilst you’re in this region of Thailand, you would be silly not to get fully involved in the Northern cuisine, unlike any you’ll find across the rest of the country (with influences from places such as Nepal, India and Myanmar in their flavours).
Spend your last evening trying an array of local, and beloved, Thai dishes, bursting with flavour, and their Crispy pork with Massamam curry is a firm favourite with all patrons.
They’re located in an alley off Walking Street, if you’re up for another round of shopping afterwards.
Photo Via Redfilm_video_drone, Milkigin, Shannonmayobrien, Chelsealrice
Mojo Cafe was where we found ourselves after dinner for an evening glass of wine (or two), as well as delish cocktails, and some live tunes.
Sit back and relax to the Blues-y sounds of their regular jazz and blues band, an eclectic mix of Thai and foreign musicians.
The ambiance here (seating inside and outside) is warm and low key lit, and it really has a jazzy, classical feel to it and it was simply the best ending our evening off to some great amazing live music, snuggled into my lover’s arms.
Photo Via Poptrairak
Breakfast in an enchanted garden cafe and head home!
Note: Head back to Chiang Mai around 9-10am (the drive back will take approx. 3 hours), before your flight home leaving at 3.50pm on Scoot airlines.
Step through the wooden doors, and as you enter this adorable garden cafe, you’ll feel as if you’re actually in a hidden garden! Spend the morning enjoying delicious coffee surrounded by magical flowers, plants and flora.
There’s a delightful mix of Thai and western food, plus a ton of veggie and vegan options!
PS: Once you’re done eating, start the journey back to Chiang Mai from Pai!