I Heart My City: Alana’s Chiang Mai

Alana Morgan quit her 9-to-5 job in Seattle and moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand to travel and experience the world. Two years later, she’s still living abroad and planning her next move. Here are a few of her favorite things about Bangkok’s “little, nicer, cleaner, smaller, calmer, prettier sister” city.

Follow Alana’s story on her blog and on Twitter @alana_morgan.

Chiang Mai is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to go eat some great cheap eats on the street.

One of the countless stalls at Chiang Mai's Sunday Night Market. (Photograph by Diane Valera, My Shot)

November is the best time to visit my city because the weather is perfect — coming from Seattle, any place where you can see the sun ever day is just about heaven.

You can see my city best from getting lost in the little sois (streets).

Locals know to skip the Night Bazaar and check out the Saturday and Sunday Walking Streets instead.

The weekend night markets or daily Warorot Market are the places to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

My city’s best museum is: scratch the museums and spend your time walking around the different parts of town. So much of life is lived outdoors in Southeast Asia that the best way to soak it up and learn is simply to keep your eyes open.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s there’s a method to the traffic madness. Watch it before hopping on a motorbike yourself.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai. (Photograph by Ed Gabrys, My Shot)

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is on the mountain, Doi Suthep, on the edge of town.

My city really knows how to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year, because the center of town is closed for a massive a three-day water fight.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they eat barbecued pork skewers and sticky rice for breakfast.

For a fancy night out, I head to the trendy Nimmanhaemin area for a table-side bottle of whiskey and some great people watching.

Just outside my city, you can visit mountainous jungles and tiny villages.

My city is known for being the second largest city in Thailand, but it’s really  a small town with a close community.

The best outdoor market in my city is…they’re all outdoor markets — from clothes, to food, to flowers!

Good Morning Chiang Mai is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and any noodle soup stall is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the expat magazine, Chiang Mai CityLife.

Another day at the Elephant Nature Park, a rescue center near Chiang Mai. (Photograph by Jeff Gear, My Shot)

My city’s biggest sports event is muay Thai fightingWatch it at several stadiums throughout town.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I am even more thankful for the 30 baht ($1) street-stall meals.

To escape the crowds, I take my motorbike for a ride in the countryside.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be a very modest one because although it has a lot to offer, it’s always humble.

The dish that represents my city best is khao soi, a northern specialty of a spicy, coconut curry served over yellow egg noodles, and Sang Som and soda is my city’s signature drink.

Practically every Buddhist wat (temple) is my favorite building in town because they are all so intricate and beautiful.

The most random thing about my city is the fact that you may just see an elephant walking down the street.

The North Gate Jazz Co-Op is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Monkey Club on the west side of town.

Going ziplining, chatting with a monk, learning to cook Thai food, meditating at an ancient temple, eating grasshoppers and enjoying a massage — all in one day — could only happen in my city.

Tourists being driven in an ox-driven carriage in Chiang Mail. (Photograph by Elena Popescu, My Shot)

*We only have 3 seasons!*

In the hot season you should head to mountains of northern Thailand for cooler temperatures and breathtaking views.

In the rainy season you should always have a poncho…and some patience.

In the cold season you should enjoy the perfect weather day in and day out.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss making a wish and setting off a paper lantern during the Loi Krathong Festival.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is the John Butler Trio‘s “Ocean.”

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because Chiang Mai is Bangkok’s little, nicer, cleaner, smaller, calmer, prettier sister and has some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see.

Do YOU heart where you live? Fill out our I Heart My City questionnaire for a chance to share the love on the Intelligent Travel blog.


  1. Chris and Angela Tieland to Thailand
    October 26, 2013, 8:53 am

    I love the short sentence style of this post and accompanying movement pictures. It definitely gives a great overview of what Chiang Mai is all about. Thanks for sharing what this city has to offer!

  2. Rashad Pharaon
    Saudi Arabia
    October 19, 2013, 7:09 pm

    Wow – what a unique and thoughtful article that gives a local’s insight into Chiang Mai. It’s nice to hear about some of the challenges (weather, traffic) while also giving positive ways to overcome them. Awesome post!!


  3. kostik
    September 10, 2013, 4:21 am

    Hello, I need someone who has experience in tourism in Chiang Mai and want to know more about the hotel. Attractions. Includes motorcycle hire. Where is the good service and not expensive prices for travelers. And I know that this is a good motorbike for rent. https://www.facebook.com/ChiangMaiScooterRental. Do you know or not. Please recommend the hotel you stayed or where you have a restaurant or rent a motorbike etc.
    Thank you so much

  4. iheartchiangmai
    September 9, 2013, 10:52 am

    If anyone interesting in joining the tours check this website out! http://www.iheartchiangmai.com Like Us and Share!! :)

  5. Noor - Desert to Jungle
    Chiang Mai
    August 11, 2013, 4:01 am

    I love your answers to the question. If I didn’t live in CM you’d definitely make me want to visit!


  6. tobi
    everywhere, mostly asia
    June 21, 2013, 12:09 am

    what a super photo above of the monks!

  7. Elli Murr
    Chaing Mai
    May 31, 2013, 4:00 am

    Really liked this read and will help us build up our site information on Chiang Mai.
    Elli xx


  8. Le David Morris
    May 27, 2013, 12:21 pm

    Doing a info research. I have three questions.

    Did Chiang Mai have TV reception in the 1960’s?
    Was the airport in Chiang Mai run by The Thai Air Force?
    Was there a small detachment of American U.S. Air Force personnel stationed at the Thai Air Force Base in Chiang Mai?

    I was stationed in Don Muang outside of Bangkok in the late 1960’s. I had a friend that was stationed up north. I am writind about my encounters. I just an old man trying to recapture my memories. I plan on coming to Chiang Mai later this year.

    David from Tennessee

  9. Adina
    February 12, 2013, 6:17 pm

    Hello old friend! This is awesome! Your articles was great and inspires me to travel too someday. I especially loved the photos, full of color and clarity. I’m so happy for you!

  10. krishna
    February 7, 2013, 10:06 am

    good information for travelers


  11. Roberta
    February 5, 2013, 4:25 pm

    Just back from my first trip to Chiang Mai. Absolutely loved it there. We would love to go back for a bowl of khao Soi and some more shopping at Win Cosmetics and the,walking street markets. And there were no pollution problems at all while we were visiting.

  12. Jun
    New york
    February 4, 2013, 11:27 am

    Many talk about loving chiangmai, but i know many that won’t live there because of the year round pollution which gets even nastier during the burning season.

  13. Terrah
    United States
    February 4, 2013, 5:52 am

    Chiang Mai is AMAZING! Last November I was there for a month. It has such beautiful people. I cannot wait to return this year for seven weeks. Doi Suthep has stolen a piece of my heart! I flew solo last year, but this year my kids and husband are joining me. It is something everyone should experience at least once.

  14. Alana - Paper Planes
    Chiang Mai
    February 2, 2013, 11:22 am

    Thanks for the kind words – I’m lucky to live in such a place!

  15. Cole @ FourJandals.com
    January 31, 2013, 2:56 am

    Hopefully heading to Chiang Mai for a few months by the end of the year! Maybe see you there :)

  16. Bianca at www.jakpost.travel
    January 31, 2013, 1:17 am

    Chiang mai is amazing.also Chris , i love Bali too, but chiang mai is no joke either

  17. Luxury Travel Blog
    New York
    January 30, 2013, 11:49 pm

    Absolutely brilliant! I love this feature in general and loved your answers. Chiang Mai is so glorious. I am so jealous that you live there. I visited before and fell in love adn can’t wait to go back again!

  18. Chris at Part Time Vagabond
    Maine, United States
    January 30, 2013, 5:53 pm

    What a fantastic view of Chiang Mai. I have an acquaintance who works in Bali and who also loves Chiang Mai. With those glowing reviews, I think the town is going to go on my list!