On Being a Lazy Traveller While Living in Chiang Mai

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It’s time for my visa run, which means I have now been living in Chiang Mai for almost a month. And you know what? I have turned into the worst explorer ever. Go ahead and call me lazy because I really can’t think of any excuses for my lack of motivation, or maybe we can just blame it on what feels like 40+ Celsius weather…yeah, maybe that’s a better idea.

Biking around the moat in Chiang Mai, Thailand
On Being a Lazy Traveller While Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I may be calling Chiang Mai home for the summer, but the truth is that I really don’t know this city all that well. I thought I was fairly familiar with my neighbourhood, but then the other day the tuk-tuk driver was driving me back home from the train station and we went past a bakery shop behind my apartment building that had completely gone under my radar.

A bakery shop…

Just ten meters behind my apartment...

Pies, cheesecakes and chocolate croissants for the taking and this pastry gourmand was completely oblivious to it.

But it’s not just about the bakery shop. I haven’t been to any of the main sights or even the ‘lesser known’ attractions around town.

I almost don’t want to admit this, but I saw more of Bangkok in one day than I have in Chiang Mai over the course of an entire month! What is happening to me?!

I was reading an article a few days ago about all these free things you can do around Chiang Mai and I was surprised by everything that’s out there. You can go cliff jumping in the nearby canyons, go climbing on the ‘sticky rock’ waterfalls, and even catch a free documentary in town every Thursday night.

Where have I been hiding?! I guess I’ve just been living the digital nomad life in Chiang Mai

If a friend of mine were to arrive in town tomorrow and ask me to show them around Wat Chedi Luang, I would have to pull out a map and try to figure out where it is, because sure, I can see the temple from my rooftop, but I’ve never actually been there.

So what exactly have I been doing with all my free time over here?

Oh you know, developing an addiction to banana-mango-coconut smoothies at Dada Kafe, sampling food at every Mexican restaurant in town, visiting Mrs. Pa’s fruit shake stand at the night market, and slurping on pork dumpling noodle soup with lots of chilli added. I’ve been…eating. And for the sake of salvaging the situation, I’m going to argue that eating is a ‘great insight into the local culture…’

Since time is ticking down and I already have a few side trips planned to Southern Thailand and a few neighbouring countries, it’s time to kick this thing into action – no more lazing around Chiang Mai!

I am making a list of what I want to do during my time here, and unlike my Korean bucket list, I intend (for starters) not to lose it, and also to cross off as many things as possible over the coming months. So here it is:

– go zip-lining through the jungle with Flight of the Gibbon; this could be a fun way to spend my 26th birthday

visit the Elephant Nature Park and spend the day playing with these gentle giants

– visit the Wat Sri Suphan, the Silver Temple, which apparently is right by my home

– go to the Saturday Night Market

– and then go to the Sunday Market because one market is never enough

catch a free documentary at Documentary Arts Asia on a Thursday night

– visit Wat Chedi Luang because seeing it from my rooftop doesn’t count

– go white water rafting and try not to fall overboard

– reach the top of Doi Suthep, the mountain which overlooks the city, and visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the temple which sits atop

– and perhaps also go adventure caving

I’m going to try to squeeze in as many of these activities as possible while living in Chiang Mai for the summer, so wish me luck!

Have you ever turned into a lazy traveller?
What destination was to blame?

Join the Conversation


  1. Great list! I just added a couple of these to my list. I definitely want to do the elephant nature park, that’s what I’m most excited for! Just got to Chiang Mai a couple days ago and will be here for a month. I can totally see myself getting lazy in this city. It’s just so comfortable indoors with the aircon or by our apartment pool! We do venture out at night though for all the delicious food! Where is your favorite spot to get pork dumpling soup? I haven’t had that here yet. If you like spicy, try the Khao Kai Tod Rad Sauce Kaprao Keop (roast chicken with basil leaves over rice) at Jok Sompet! mmmmmm

  2. says: Vanessa

    Zip lining! Now that sounds awesome! I’ve found myself saving different touristy things for whenever people come to visit. Oh, Namsan Tower… yeah, almost 2 years, and we haven’t been there. haha

  3. says: Alex

    Been living in Chiang Mai for 8 years and there is still so much left to explore! Especially this time of year, it’s hard to get the motivation to go outside (unless it’s to visit a waterfall for some swimming!) Elephant Nature Park is amazing. You should also make an effort to go out and explore some local villages. Let me know if you need any suggestions for the latter!

  4. says: Melissa

    I think when you’re living somewhere you have a different mindset than when you’re just passing through. I’m sure there are many people in Toronto who’ve never been up the CN Tower or people in San Francisco who’ve never ridden a cable car, even though both are cool things to do. A lot of people would say “but that’s for tourists” but why should tourists get to have all the fun? It’s so easy to get into a day-to-day routine when you’re in once place for awhile though that you don’t get out to the “tourist” things.

    Side note: my bf is arriving in Chiang Mai tomorrow for a few days – where *must* he go to eat?

  5. Hope the article was helpful…there were plenty more activities and places I could have added to it! There’s a ton to see and do, but it’s also a place that makes it really easy to doing nothing – which can be nice, but be careful πŸ˜‰

  6. says: Maria

    Wow! How do you choose from so much? And that’s just YOUR list, what you picked from an even longer list. No wonder so many who go stay for so long. Thursday night sounds like a not to be missed event – documentaries, don’t think you’ll find that just anywhere.

  7. says: Caitie

    Yes, absolutely! I loved Thailand and after a year, I only managed to squeeze in Chiang Mai for 3 days over the 4th of July of 2008. I saw the old city and spent time enjoying rum with a Thai waitress who had me translating her text messages for hours ahhah. I enjoyed my time but only really did the night markets.

    As for my lazy travel experience, Bangalore India takes the cake (or the roti) I don’t know what happened to me but I saw nothing of the city and just enjoyed getting to know my neighborhood for 6 weeks. In all fairness I was doing a social justice study program so my days were semi full but in general, for the time I spent, I accomplished none of the things you would think. I enjoyed local food, did lots of yoga, and laughed at myself a lot.

  8. says: Jarmo

    I got lazy in Chiang Mai for a year in 2011, it was great. Although I did still do some motorbiking trips to nearby towns, but basically I was just taking a break from traveling. Chiang Mai is great for that. Hoping to get there later this year and get lazy again πŸ˜‰ Is that so wrong? πŸ˜‰

  9. I can’t blame you if you’ve slowed down in Chiang Mai. I think it is the best stop for those who would like to rest a bit! You’ve been moving a lot the past months hehe πŸ˜€

    I only stayed in Chiang Mai for four days. I was able to go to the Chiang Mai Zoo (because of the pandas… i heard they’re scheduled to be shipped back to China this October :|), Saturday and Sunday Night Market and the walkable temples. Wasn’t able to go to Doi Suthep and missed the big activities because of the budget toinks

  10. says: Agness

    You remind me of myself back in 2012 when I was living in Siem Reap. I guess you are just tired of travelling and the weather. Give it some time… πŸ™‚

  11. says: Franca

    Getting in a lazy mood is easy especially in Chiang Mai with its laid back atmosphere.
    I’m glad to see Elephant Nature Park on your list of things to do, it’s amazing. We spent a month there volunteering at the dog shelters while enjoying the view & sometimes company of the elephants, it was a life change experience!

  12. says: Beth

    I also find that when I’m staying in one place longer I become a lazy traveler. There are so many things I would like to do in Hong Kong, but I’ve kept putting them off telling myself I’d have the whole year. Now it’s a year later and I still haven’t been to half the places!

    Hoping you get a chance to tick off most the items on your Chiang Mai bucket list!

  13. Audrey,

    Eating can never be a bad thing πŸ™‚ If you are enjoying the food that a place has to offer so much, that means you are enjoying the experience that place has to offer. For me, food forms almost half of the fun when I visit any place, although Savi will beg to differ πŸ˜‰

    I am already looking forward to your pictures of the view from Doi Suthep – should be spectacular, I imagine.


  14. says: Michelle

    Sometimes after travelling for a long time, I just get so lazy and spend days just sleeping in and not making it past the hostel bar….but I think that happens to everyone at some point! πŸ˜›

  15. says: Kevin Beretta

    Phew, I’m glad I am not the only lazy person in Chiang Mai … πŸ™‚
    I’ve been here for 18 days and hardly have done anyhting. I was here for a month last year and saw 20+ temples and took thousands of pictures. Now, nothing… πŸ™‚

    I need to do a visa run around July 24th. Anyone else? If we get 4 people, we can rent a car and make it more fun and comfy. I’m willing to drive. I’m on a round the world trip by motorcycle, so the traffic here is not an issue for me.

    Don’t forget Doi Suthep!!


  16. says: Paula C. Wilkes

    I want to see a photo of you with the beautiful Bengal tiger in Chiang Mai Zoo. That was I think a very awesome experience I had. Great experience!

  17. I love this post Audrey!
    It’s so easy to become “lazy” after being on the road for awhile, this happens to us too! All you want to do is hangout, eat and well, relax πŸ™‚ No harm done, you’ll get back at exploring soon enough!

    Cheers πŸ™‚

  18. Sounds like my experience from Chiang Mai. I’m embarrassed that I hardly have any photos after 4 months there. Sometimes you just don’t want to “work” by exploring and writing/photographing it all.

    Say hi to Mrs. Pa for me!

  19. Well, you know that I am travelling at a pretty quick pace this summer… not how I normally travel, and already I’m feeling the need to get a bit lazy. If that’s what your body needs, then listen! I am kind of feeling the need to slow down, but I don’t really have that option. When I’m back in school come fall, I will be very glad for all this madness. Enjoy the laziness, you deserve it! x

  20. I did the same when I visited the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. There was so much to explore, but for the first few days I was far more interested in eating scones and drinking tea (I lived in the UK for 8 years).

  21. says: James

    Chiang Mai is a good city to be lazy in. And definitely make it to the Sunday ‘Walking Street’ Market. It’s a great opportunity to be lazy too… Just stroll along, drink smoothies, eat, wander and do a little shopping, watch some street performances or concerts.

    It’s got a super laid-back vibe.

  22. says: Helen

    Hey Audrey!

    I love the Chiang Mai night market! So much fun. I bought way to much stuff!

    Ii haven’t done white water rafting there, but have done it in Africa! So much fun!

    Sounds like you have a fabulous time planned! Enjoy!!!!


  23. says: This Battered Suitcase

    Um, I feel like I am the laziest traveller ever. I have definitely done very little sightseeing and a whole lot of nothing for weeks on end (and had an awesome time, mind you) in the following places: Pai, Denver, Hoi An, Tel Aviv, Antigua, Koh Tao, El Nido, Buenos Aires, Edinburgh, Copenhagen…

    I miss Chiang Mai! I would love to be back there right now…

  24. says: Lin

    Hi Audrey,
    Your video about the Banana Rotee and this post popped up on our Goggle Alerts for Chiang Mai. We are enjoying following your adventures. We are going to visit Chiang Mai for a month this Dec/Jan and will be moving there July 2014.

    Sponges soaking up any tips and information we can find and glad we found you!
    Thank you for your time and hard work.

  25. says: Nick - Goats On The Road

    Audrey, great post. We’ve definitely become lazy travellers before, in KL and in Thailand twice (Koh Phangan & Koh Tao for a month each). We’re actually looking forward to doing what you guys are doing and being able to have some down time. Perpetual travel isn’t fully sustainable unless you have some time to just hangout and do nothing. I can’t wait to travel for a few months and then take a travel sabbatical in a beautiful place like Chiang Mai.
    Live it up and enjoy it! Keep downing smoothies and noodle soup until you can’t take it anymore! The bucket list is great and I’m sure no one blames you for a bit of downtime.

  26. says: Lauren

    It sounds like you’re living in Smith Residence. I lived there for 3 months last year! πŸ™‚

    And oh my god, I was exactly the same when I was in Chiang Mai. Every single day I’d wake up and announce how I’d be going templing, or to the terracotta gardens, or Doi Suthep, or….

    I ended up doing nothing but eat πŸ™‚

  27. says: Nikhil Chandra

    Now that’s some post πŸ™‚ And I agree when you say that “eating is a β€˜great insight into the local culture…” Well it often happens that people miss the obvious while planning to visit the ‘popular’ or the ‘best’ places. That is why traveling is good. There’s always something new, something previously not visited in the places you have already traveled to or even in your home town.
    I myself discover something new everytime I go out looking to explore Delhi. And I already have a bucket list for places to visit and things to do for when I am going to travel Ladakh next coz after returning from there since last July, I have come acoss 100s of things to do and activities which I missed.

    Good to know that you have a Bucket List. The good thing with them is there’s always space in them to add more things πŸ™‚ Happy traveling!

  28. says: Bradley

    This happened to us in Bolivia. After 3 months of hauling our bags round South America, we just had to rest and take it easy! But we found that it made the rest of our trip far more enjoyable for having taken the time off πŸ™‚

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