The Ultimate Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is a magical place that stole my heart. I consider Chiang Mai my second home – it’s full of sweet, caring Thai people. It’s easy to fall in love with this city, as it is full of history and culture, but is also very easy to travel through as a Westerner. Most Thai people in the city speak decent enough English. You can find Western food among the hundreds of Thai restaurants if you are feeling homesick; you can find a restaurant that caters to any culinary desire. I fell in love with Chiang Mai for the people, the markets, the food, the restaurants, and the architecture. The moat that encircles the city is surrounded by greenery, the famous Doi Suthep mountain is close by, and there are dozens of natural wonders that you can see just outside of the city. [PLEASE NOTE: this is still a third world country, and some Thais will do whatever they need to do to make money. Sadly, this can include animal cruelty. Please practice responsible tourism and do your research before visiting any place that uses animals as attractions.]

Chiang Mai has the feel of a large city because there is so much to do, but the city itself is not as big as most typical American cities. There is lots of hustle and bustle in this city. You can get around via tuk tuk or songthaew (aka “red truck”). The tuk tuks are always fun, but a songthaew will usually be your best budget option. If you are staying in the old city, you’ll be able to walk most places. The old city is big enough that if you want to get from one end to the other, you’ll need to take transport (unless you love long walks in hot, humid environments). Taking a tuk tuk anywhere within the old city should cost you about 150 baht (roughly $5 USD), a red truck will set you back about 20 baht (about 60 cents USD). If this is your first time visiting this amazing city, I would recommend staying within the Old City, as that is where most everything is happening. If you’ve been to Chiang Mai before, I’d recommend trying out a new area (I stayed near Nimmanhaemin the second time I visited, and I loved it).



Accommodation in Chiang Mai is vast. There are so many choices, from super budget-friendly, to super luxurious. Personally, I like to snag a private place that still contributes to the local economy, but I don’t want to sleep in a 10 bed dorm room. My top recommendations (I’ve personally stayed at both of these places for more than a week) are as follows:

  • Sleep Guesthouse: This is the first place I ever stayed in Chiang Mai and it is still one of my favorite places I’ve stayed to date (after traveling to over 20 countries). Sleep is an adorable little place, owned by a Thai woman and her European husband. They are so sweet, personable, and super accommodating. The guesthouse is in a great location, just inside the Old City. This guesthouse is absolutely incredible – the only bad thing about it is how well-known it’s getting. It can be booked out months in advance, so I would recommend booking ASAP. Rooms in this guesthouse will set you back about $30 USD per night – this includes a private room, your own bathroom, AC (necessary in Thailand at any time of year), and breakfast every morning.


  • The Bliss Hotel: This is where I lived for three months. They do long term and short term leases, plus rooms by the night. You can see a video tour of my room here – this is one of the long term lease rooms. If you are getting a room by the night, you will get a different style – more like a one bedroom apartment instead of a studio. This hotel is a bit more hotel-like, though it is run by Thais and has a great atmosphere. I had a kitchen and living room area, with a couch and a kitchen sink and counter and everything. This place is more apartment-like and less short-term feeling. If you are looking for a place to feel at home and you are staying a bit longer, I would recommend The Bliss. I paid $280 USD for a month here, or you can stay by the day for roughly $35 USD per night. This hotel is near Nimmanhaemin Road, which is another touristy area, full of shopping and incredible restaurants.
[NOTE: There are so many amazing places to stay in Chiang Mai. The two listed above are places that I can recommend because I’ve stayed there personally, but there are so many other amazing places to stay. You can do a simple google search to find something that works for you. I would highly recommend staying in the Old City if it’s your first time to Chiang Mai.]


Stuff to Do: In the City

  • Wat Suan Dok: There are so many temples in the Old City – a simple search on Trip Advisor will show you at least 20. My favorite one was Wat Suan Dok. It’s a bit out of the way, but it’s absolutely stunning. The whole temple is white and it is just incredible. I’d highly recommend a trip here, and after you take your photos and ring the bells (it’s good luck!), you can have lunch at the authentic Thai restaurant next door, Pun Pun.

  • Wat Phra Singh: I love this temple because it’s beautiful, but another wonderful thing about it is that it is located right near Sleep Guesthouse AND it’s right in front of the best pizza place in Chiang Mai – By Hand Pizza. If you get a craving for a good pizza and beer night, look no further than By Hand. They have a pizza oven and you can watch the whole process, plus they make vegan pizzas (for veg heads like me). I would recommend looking on Tripadvisor to find some temples, and spend a whole day checking them out. Make sure to dress appropriately – women must cover their shoulders and legs. A long dress with a shawl would be appropriate, and will be much more comfortable than jeans in high humidity.
  • Sunday Night Market: If you are only going to be in Chiang Mai for a few days, PLEASE make sure that one of those days is a Sunday. The Sunday night market is not to be missed – a large portion of the old city gets filled with street vendors selling souvenirs, food, little trinkets, soaps, candles, oils, you name it, it’s there. My favorite way to tackle the market is to go early (seriously like 4 or 5, as soon as they start setting up, because this place gets packed), look around at the goods, stop at the foot massage booth for a foot massage, and then head over to the food area. There are a few food courts, where you can try all kinds of exotic foods. I ate so many things there that I didn’t even know what they were, but they were all fun and delicious. It’s especially fun to go with a few people, so you can all get different foods and share. This is also an ideal spot to pick up souvenirs for your friends or family (if you’re into that kind of thing). You can buy shirts, pants, dresses, scarves, hats, seriously pretty much anything here.
  • Massages: It’s well known that Thailand is the land of cheap massages. You can find massage parlors anywhere and everywhere, and a typical Thai massage will cost you roughly 200 baht, or $6 USD. I’ve never had a bad massage, and I’ve been to quite a few massage places in Chiang Mai. I recommend whichever you would like to try!
  • Doi Suthep: Hike up the Pilgrims trail to the top of Doi Suthep if you’re brave; it’s a difficult and grueling hike. It takes about an hour and a half, but it’s steep uphill. If you’re feeling lazy, get a red truck to take you up (250 baht round trip is a good price). At the top of the mountain, you’ll see the incredible temple. You’ll also get a great view of the city. Be prepared to walk up the stairs to get to the temple, and as always, dress appropriately when visiting a temple. Or you can pull an Amanda and wear shorts and borrow some fisherman pants. Note that you will need to take your shoes off to walk inside the temple.


Stuff to Do: Day Trips/Tours

  • Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: I’ve been here twice and can easily say it has been two of the best days of my life. There is nothing that can compare to spending your day playing with elephants. When you book a tour with this sanctuary (which rescues elephants – you do not ride them), they will pick you up from your accommodation, take you on a scenic hour and a half drive to the sanctuary (don’t worry, you’ll stop at a coffee shop on the way), and you get to spend a half or full day (depending which one you book), playing with elephants. I bathed them, walked with them, and fed them. Seriously, do this. [Note: I did loads of research and found that this is one of the only sanctuaries in Northern Thailand that truly does not harm the animals. It is common for elephant farms to call themselves “sanctuaries” to get more tourism. The elephants at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary are treated with love and respect and it’s easy to see that they are not mistreated in any way.] See my full post on the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

  • Doi Inthanon: “Doi” means mountain in Thai. Doi Inthanon is the highest peak in Thailand. Take a ride via airport taxi (with AC, a private tour will cost you about $40-$50 per person), or book a red truck the day before (will cost you about 500 baht per person, about $14 USD). The mountain is also about an hour and a half from Chiang Mai, but well worth the drive. You’ll get to go on a little hike, you’ll see the King and Queens temples at the mountain, and you’ll get to have lunch at a super cute authentic Thai restaurant at the base of the mountain. I took the luxury route and splurged on an airport taxi, and our driver took us on an extra stop to the rice paddies and a really amazing waterfall. It was an incredible experience and I highly recommend it.

  • Grand Canyon: I visited the Grand Canyon on my first trip to Chiang Mai. It was surreal. You can swim in the water at the base of the canyon. When I went there, we were allowed to jump from the cliff, but I believe that has been banned. There is still an area that you can jump from, it’s just a bit lower. You can get here via red truck (the more people you can fit in, the cheaper it will be per person). I highly recommend spending a half day swimming at the canyon. There is also a restaurant here if you get hungry. Bring cash, because there is a 50 baht entrance fee.


Overnight Trips from Chiang Mai

  • Chiang Rai: To be honest, I never made it to Chiang Rai, but it’s still on my list of places to go. Catch a bus up here, stay for a night, and see the absolutely incredible White Temple.
  • Pai: Pai is an adorable little mountain town, about three hours by bus from Chiang Mai. It’s a great place to be surrounded by greenery. I’d suggest renting a scooter and driving to the big buddha, where you can walk up a LOT of stairs to get to the buddha and get a wonderful view of the city. The nightlife in Pai is pretty full on, with markets and bars opening after dark. Lots of tourists and locals go out for drinks. There is a great little beer bar that serves beers from around the world – you can buy a beer from America if you are getting homesick (it will cost you though – I paid $8 USD for a Stone IPA). I stayed in an ADORABLE bungalow in Pai, called Pai Chan Cottages (see below). A two-bed bungalow set us back $15 USD per night.



If you’re a health nut like me, check out these restaurants for the best food in Chiang Mai.

  • Food 4 Thought: Easily, hands down, my favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai. It’s also called Bay’s Cafe. They serve amazing coffee and breakfast, but also do not miss a chance to try their lunches. They have happy hour if you’re into wine/beer/drinks, they serve kombucha, smoothies, and juices, and they have good portion sizes (Thailand is known for small portions). The owner, Bay, and his staff are incredibly friendly. If you want a place to chill out for a bit, this is your best bet. Bay sometimes has rescue kittens that can be super sociable, and you are always welcome to stay for hours (a lot of people do just that). The only downside to this restaurant is that it is a bit outside of the city. Catch a red truck if you’re staying in the Old City, or you can walk from Nimmanhaemin Road.
  • By Hand Pizza: As mentioned above, this is a fab pizza place if you’re craving a good pizza and beer night. This place is super cute and in a great area. The pizzas are fantastic, and it’s a really great place to catch up with a friend and chill out after a day full of touristing. Bonus: It’s right down the road from Sleep Guesthouse.
  • May Kaidee’s: This place has authentic vegetarian Thai food. It’s located close to Sleep Guesthouse (within walking distance). It’s amazing, the food is outstanding, and they even offer cooking classes if you’re into it. Just make sure you book in advance. 🙂
  • Aum Vegetarian: Aum is well known for their veggie burgers, but they also make an incredible curry and some great pad thai. It’s located right by the Tha Pae gate, which is something you will definitely want to see on your trip.
  • Taste From Heaven: Go here, get the pumpkin curry, and thank me later. They also have killer brownies that go great with their coconut ice cream.
  • Rustic and Blue: When you’re craving something healthy and fresh, head to Nimmanhaemin and hit up Rustic and Blue. They offer salads, acai bowls, and some heartier healthy options if you’d like.
  • Imm Aim: Amazing pad thai and super cute place. Definitely sneak up the stairs for a great table with a view down the street and a nice, casual ambiance.

  • Tidmor: Down Soi 7 off Nimmanhaemin, it’s a great spot to stop off for some potstickers, if you’re in the mood.
  • Any of the markets will offer traditional Thai food. If you are a pad thai lover, try the market outside of Maya mall (it only happens Thurs-Sat) for some incredible pad thai.
  • Ristr8to: If you are a coffee drinker, YOU MUST GO HERE. This is my favorite coffee shop in Chiang Mai, and perhaps in the entire world. They offer traditional coffees, complete with latte art, but they also have some alcoholic coffees if you are feeling wild.



What to Do for a Week in Hong Kong

I planned to spend a week in Hong Kong. I just picked this amount of time based on flights, and I like to spend about a week in each city. It gives me enough time to do everything I want to do and then some. It gives me time to wander aimlessly and go to so many coffee shops. Here is how I spent a week in Hong Kong.

Day 1: I arrived at the Hong Kong International airport in the morning, around 10 am. I got some breakfast and coffee in the airport and then took the bus (14 HK dollars) to my couchsurfing hosts apartment. His maid met me and brought me in. I worked a bit on editing (I had slept two hours the night before and was in no shape to go out) and then I wandered around the area. I was staying in Mei Foo, which has a little shopping center. There is a restaurant in that shopping center which seemed like a popular place for the locals. I went in and had to ask for an English menu and ordered a curry. Don’t kill me for not ordering Chinese food immediately – I didn’t know how to veganize it yet!


After dinner, I went back to the house and met up with the two other people who were staying there. We all took the MTR (subway) to Jordan, where we met our host, Dennis, who showed us a great noodle place. Dennis openly admits that he is obsessed with noodles – we ate noodles every time I ate with him. We walked around the ladies market, which is a market that sells knockoff luxury brand products, like purses and iphone cases.

We walked down temple street and passed through a road where people were getting their fortune read. I can be a pretty spontaneous person, and I was feeling wild, so I decided to get my fortune read. It was my first time getting my fortune read and it was really interesting. The woman told me a lot of stuff I already knew about myself, but she also said that I’ll live to be 84 and my first child will be a girl. One of these is a big surprise – if you know me well, you know that I don’t plan on having children. I guess time will tell if either of these come true 🙂


The next day, I went and touristed with my new friend Marijs. She has a website that you can check out here. She takes amazing pictures, so I was stoked to spend a day with her where we can both be super tourists, taking pictures and videos for each other. We spent the day trying chinese food (vegan, of course – luckily she is veg so it worked out perfectly!). We started out with some veg dumplings for breakfast at DIN TAI FUNG. It’s an amazing, Michelin starred restaurant. The dumplings were amazing and we finished it off with some sesame dessert buns. Delish!


We spent a lot of the day walking around. We went to the harbor and took the ferry across the water to Hong Kong Island. We walked around the botanical gardens and through the aviary where we saw some really beautiful exotic birds. I definitely recommend the botanical gardens if you go to Hong Kong – it’s a great getaway from the busy-ness of the city. We took the tram to get to the peak next – but soon realized that was not going to work out. There is only one tram that goes to the Victoria Peak, and it had a two hour wait. We decided to go out for a drink instead. 🙂 We went to a really cute place (I totally didn’t get the name of it), with a really sweet and informative Australian expat who had lived in HK for ten years. She told us to go to Aqua for a great view of the city at night. We headed over there (it’s a bar/restaurant, so we had to buy a pretty expensive drink to stay there). It was a fancy place and a great place to hang out and talk. The view was great as well.

The next day, we were determined to get to the Victoria Peak. The Aussie woman from the bar the night before had told us to get a taxi from Soho to the Peak – it’s roughly the same price as the tram if you have two people. We did this and split the price of the taxi – 80 HKD. It was totally worth passing up that two hour wait.


And we got the view! The view from the top was incredible. Definitely one of my favorite things that I did in Hong Kong. I could have stayed up there all day, but Marijs had a flight to catch, so we headed back.


The next few days were spent wandering solo through Central and Soho. I went to lots of coffee shops, restaurants, and dessert places (so much vegan ice cream!). Soho was my favorite place to wander. It was full of shops, healthy restaurants, and lots of people watching. There are so many great coffee places in HK as well. Check out this post for my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong. IMG_1389.JPG

One day, while I was bored in Soho, I even popped into a salon and got my hair colored. I was having a pretty wild week.

IMG_1332.JPGraspberry sorbet at Emack & Bolios in Soho 


coffee at Holy Chef with Jeremy

Overall, Hong Kong was an amazing city to explore. I loved the huge variety of health-focused restaurants, and I love that I can get whatever I want to eat. It was so exciting to go to my first Michelin-star restaurant, get the best city view I’ve ever seen, and meet so many amazing people. Hong Kong has EXCELLENT public transportation, and they even have a really fun ferry service that you can take to HK island if you feel like being a little more adventurous than just taking the ferry. Hong Kong is a great place to go if you feel like spending some money. There is so much shopping, so many amazing places to eat, and so much to do.


A big thank you to Dennis and Jeremy for hosting me during my stay in Hong Kong!


Have you been to Hong Kong? Did you go to any of the same places I went? Let me know in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to check out my Hong Kong video here.


The Best Vegan Restaurants in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a beautiful city full of places to eat, drink, and shop. The views are impressive, the harbor is beautiful, and the city is jam packed with over 7 million busy, bustling people. You can buy anything your little heart desires here. What my little heart was desiring was some good, nourishing, healthy food. And maybe a bit of junk food too.

Hong Kong was a week worth of indulging in fancy vegan restaurants, all in the name of research. You’re welcome 😉

DISCLAIMER: I was not sponsored by any of these restaurants, I paid for all of my food myself, and I must say, it’s an expensive city to eat in. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

I walked and ate and walked and ate and walked and ate my way through Hong Kong, all in one week. It was a busy week of eating but I was able to come up with a list of the best vegan restaurants in Hong Kong. Without further ado, let’s get into it. PS This list is not in any particular order.


This place was awesome. The only drawback was that I didn’t find it sooner. There are multiple locations; I frequented the Soho location. It’s pretty close to the Man Mo temple, so stop by Classified on your way there. It’s a wonderful place for coffee, breakfast, lunch, or (my favorite meal) BRUNCH. Classified has a few vegan options and a huge variety of smoothies and drinks aside from coffee. The ambiance is great and it is SUPER instagrammable. I definitely recommend this place –  I wish I’d had time to go to their other locations! IMG_1389

avocado toast with tomato and a date banana smoothie 

See Classified’s menu here.

Grassroots Pantry

Grassroots was the first restaurant I went to and I was super impressed with the menu. For breakfast/brunch, they were offering lemon chia seed pancakes, and you KNOW I had to order them. I love lemon anything and I will always order lemon whatever is on the menu. Grassroots has great coffee and a lot of vegan options. They even offer a wide variety of vegan desserts, most of which are raw. Can I get a “hell yeah”! They focus on organic and sustainable ingredients and also are an instagramers paradise. I give them 8 out of 10 for presentation – you can tell they put effort into it. The entire front wall is floor to ceiling windows. The prices are a bit high but not too extreme.


lemon chia seed pancakes 

I went back to Grassroots for one light dinner (vegan meatballs in marinara) and another breakfast. I got an acai bowl the second time. I think the pancakes were the best meal there. The acai bowl was good, but a bit overpriced I think (over $10) and was full of ice chunks.


acai bowl

See Grassroots menu here.

Mana! Fast Slow Food

The place I was most looking forward to going to was Mana. I had seen the menu online and it looked amazing. They also have a few locations, and the one I went to was in Soho. They have a cafe and they also have a restaurant that focuses more on the working lunch crowd that takes food to go. They have seating, but it was pretty limited, considering the amount of people they had coming through. I’m assuming the cafe location has a bit more seating.

Mana offers a great variety of healthy fast food. I tried a few things – the burger, the kale salad (I added avocado), and the acai bowl. Mana definitely had the best acai bowl out of the ones I tried in Hong Kong. The burger was made with a block of tofu as the “burger” part, which was not my favorite thing. It was a bit crumbly, but the bun and the grilled veggies made up for it. I saw most people eating the flatbread wrap, which seemed to be the popular item there.


See the Mana! menu here.

Cali Mex

I hadn’t searched for vegan Mexican food in Hong Kong, but I passed a few Cali Mex locations while strolling through Soho, and if you know me, you’ll know my deep love for Mexican food. Burritos are the most amazing thing in the world and they are relatively easy to veganize. But when I walked in and took a look at the menu, I saw that Cali Mex has  a VEGAN BURRITO. I was sold. I ordered the Venice Vegan burrito and they even added daiya cheese to it. Like really. I could not have been happier when I saw that bag of daiya pulled out from behind the counter. The ambiance at Cali Mex is pretty cute. They had upstairs seating and a very colorful, Mexican vibe. I brought my burrito upstairs and just about died of happiness while eating it. I was so happy about it that I didn’t even get a picture. I did get video of me hugging my burrito though – see my Hong Kong video here. I would definitely recommend Cali Mex. It’s a great, chilled out place to grab a bite to eat.

See Cali Mex’s menu here.


Now we are moving on to the sweet stuff – dessert! I ate so many desserts and vegan ice cream in Hong Kong. One of my favorite places was Oddies. They offer a guava sorbet as well as a blood orange sorbet. I tried both and they were both to die for. Oddies is located in the Soho district, pretty close to Grassroots and Classified. Oddies is a great, very instagram worthy place to chill out (pun intended). The lighting is great and the service is friendly.


Oddies doesn’t have a website, but check out their instagram here.

Emack & Bolios

Emack and Bolios is hard to pass by. You’ll see it while climbing the stairs in Soho. It’s a colorful, adorable, and incredible smelling place. I tried the raspberry sorbet in a dark chocolate dipped waffle cone with sprinkles and IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. I definitely recommend this place. They have seating inside but there is also a few places to sit across the street (not part of the restaurant). I chose to people watch while eating my sorbet, and it was fun to see everyone enviously eyeing my cone.


Check out Emack and Bolio’s here.

What do you think of my list? Want to try any of these places or do you have a favorite restaurant in Hong Kong to add? Let me know by commenting below!





Unexpected Encounters: Killer Wildlife in Singapore Botanic Gardens

I needed a chill out day after two full days of touristing through Singapore. I thought I’d head over to the Botanic Gardens in Singapore to relax with some greenery. I arrived at the gate of the garden. I walked a bit. It was serene. There were butterflies fluttering around my head. The birds were singing, along with a couple of hippies that had a guitar. It was more serene than I ever imagined a botanical garden could get. But then it turned bad. And dangerous.


About half way through the garden, I basically turned into Steve Irwin after spotting a massive killer lizard. By “I turned into Steve Irwin”, I meant that I bent down and snapped some pictures. No way was I going to touch that thing.


Okay, he isn’t a killer lizard. It’s a monitor lizard. Harmless. He looks pretty serene, right?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t automatically assume that he was a hunter. He looks a bit scary. I looked up monitor lizards when I got home and apparently they are carnivorous. Not necessarily for humans, though. He mainly eats turtle eggs.


I also had some nice, serene moments before (and after, shockingly) this near death experience. I experienced total relaxation in a foliage garden. You really haven’t experienced life until you’ve been in a foliage garden. You can see the relaxation and pure bliss in my face below.


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I was feeling so giddy and full of sunshine and nature that I decided at this point that it would only be fitting to hug a tree.


I believe this tree hugging experience really brought everything together. I think if you visit a botanical garden, you really can’t leave without hugging a tree. It was just the cherry on top of a wonderful, garden filled day. Here is me walking out of the garden, alive and mostly well (in case you wanted proof).



Catching up in Chinatown, Singapore

Today I headed over to Chinatown in Singapore. San Francisco has a Chinatown, which I haven’t been to since I was a kid, so I was excited to see a different version of what I knew growing up. I was so happy when I hopped off the MRT directly in the middle of Chinatown. The buildings here are so brightly colored and the alleys have beautiful paper lanterns draped through them.


It was a hot, overcast day. I walked through the streets and alleys of Chinatown with my lukewarm bottle of water and a sense of adventure and awe.


The alleys were packed with tourists. I snuck a peek at one of the restaurant menus (I RARELY eat in touristy areas because the food usually is really expensive and not that great), and the beer was $6 for a Tiger, which is the Asian equivalent of a Coors light. My couchsurfing host had told me to look out for alcohol prices in Singapore, because it is so expensive to drink here. Good thing I’m not too big on drinking! I walked and walked and walked instead. Finally I came upon something that caught my eye…


How cute is this?? Finally, after walking over 5 miles, I had to call it a day. I’ll leave you with this picture. What do you think the lady in the background is doing?