Chiang Mai is the so-called "capital" of northern Thailand. It is a university town and the second largest city in the country behind Bangkok. Chiang Mai is home to Thailand's second most important Wat (buddhist temple) and the royal family's winter palace. Set below green mountains and jungle-y terrain, Chiang Mai possesses a certain kind of shabby-chic charm that tourists love and locals seem to be proud of.
The locals in Chiang Mai are extremely friendly and helpful. As a tourist, this really meant a lot. Everyone from tour guides to well-meaning pedestrians had something friendly to say to us or had a friendly tip to share. Granted, tuk-tuk drivers were out to rip us off but everyone else seemed honest and happy to have us as visitors in their city.
Perhaps it is because everyone in Chinag Mai is taking it easy but, whatever the reason, the traffic in Chiang Mai was totally manageable. This meant renting a motorbike and hitting the streets was possible (which was key since there is no public transportation system in Chiang Mai)! Motorbikes offer toursits a great way to cover lots of ground in a short time at a low price. We rented our bike for THB200 and had it for 24 hours. Not a bad deal considering most tuk-tuk drivers charge THB100 for a 10 minute ride. What's more, riding motorbikes is hilarious, especially if you ride two-to-a-bike like Justin and I.
The night markets and bazaars in Chiang Mai are fantastic. Locally made art, handwoven silks and colorful embroidery, amongst many other things, fill the market's stalls. The Sunday night market is particularly noteworthy (and gigantic) and has a great street food section well worth filling up at.
The food in Chinag Mai is spicy and packed with flavor. Koh Soi is the go-to food in Chiang Mai and can be found roadside and in restaurants. Koh Soi is a spicy, curry-based soup noodle dish that is fantastic if you like curry and noodles (duh). The traditional northern style sausages in Chiang Mai are also worth sampling.
If you are looking to spend a night out on the town I have two suggestions for you. First, visit a Muai Thai fight in the "old city" and load up on beer as you place bets on the fights. Second, stop in at the Good View. The Good View is a big, riverside restaurant/bar that plays host to locals looking to get loose and tourists vying for late-night grub. It's relatively expensive but the service is good, the food is decent and the live band is a riot.