4 Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do in Chiang Mai

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The city Chiang Mai is a destination for thousands of digital nomads, long-term backpackers, and regular tourists. It certainly seems everyone wants to stay in this majestic mountainous city north of Bangkok. As such, you can expect crowds in popular attractions such as temples, bars, and markets. Fortunately, there’s always something else to do in this wonderful city that will take you away from the usual tourist traps and instead offer a more unique experience you won’t find anywhere else. Here are some of them.

Get Massaged by a Prison Inmate

When in Thailand, you have to experience an authentic Thai massage. However, instead of going to the more popular spas in Chiang Mai, why not get one at the Women’s Correctional Institute Vocational Training Centre? It sounds dodgy at first, but when you think about it, you’re actually helping support this rehabilitation program for women inmates charged with minor crimes.

After dropping off your luggage at your Chiang Mai accommodation (ที่พักเชียงใหม่), take a tuktuk to the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution at Rachvithi Road to sign up for your massage. Keep in mind that these women are still in training, so the quality of the massage may not be on a par with professional spa parlors. That said, the centre offers a variety of massages at such low prices that you can come and get a massage every day.

Chat With a Monk

Delve deeper into Thailand’s main religion, Buddhism, by having a friendly chat with one of their monks. Monk Chats is a program that provides an opportunity for visitors to have meaningful and sometimes funny conversations with Buddhist monks. All you need to do is to sign up at one of the main temples in Chiang Mai that offers the program, and a monk will be assigned to you.

You can talk just about anything under the sun, including their daily lives or their views about current events. As most of the monks are still learning English, they may come with a cheat sheet of questions to ask you and keep the conversation rolling.

There’s no fee required, but you are free to donate to the temple to support their programs and upkeep. Also, women are required to observe proper dress code and etiquettes such as not touching the monks or being alone with a monk. 

Learn Thai Cuisine Through a Short Cooking Class

Wish you can taste authentic Thai food after leaving the country? Why not enroll in a beginner cooking class so you can recreate all your favorite Thai dishes at home?

There are actually a lot of establishments offering cooking classes, but the most notable is the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School located at Moon Muang Soi 9. Each class is held in a working organic farm and is the perfect backdrop for learning how to cook Thai dishes from scratch. Moreover, your class will be treated to a trip to the local market to learn how to select the freshest ingredients for your dish.

Stroll Through the Baan Kang Wat Artist Village

Located at the outskirts of Chiang Mai’s old historic area, the Baan Kang Wat is a small artist village and market that sells a lot of unique art pieces. Small cafes and ice cream shops can also be found in the complex that’s composed of 10 unique buildings that feature both traditional and modern aesthetics.

Amidst the retro artifacts and plants, you can stroll through each shop and end up filling your memory card with shot after shot of Instagrammable vignettes. The entire village exudes a creative vibe that’s incredibly charming and inviting. In fact, workshops are available for visitors who are curious enough to learn about their craft.

Chiang Mai is incredibly diverse and has a lot to offer every visitor. Don’t be discouraged by the crowds of tourists in one place. Instead, take it as an opportunity to diverge from the well-trodden roads and pave your own way, discovering experiences very few tourists have tried before.

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