Thailand is a gorgeous paradise, rich in culture, where the food is SOFREAKINGGOOD, the people are nice, and a lot of kid-friendly places to drag your little crew to.
We were in Thailand for 11 days. We started up north in Chiang Mai and made our way down by the beaches. Let me tell you – 11 straight days with your family and no break sounds like hell on earth BUT IT WAS SO FUN. We did something new every day, the kids only got whiny when they were tired or hungry, and we didn't get sick of each other until day 10! 👍🏼
We spent five-ish days in Chiang Mai. It was just the right amount of time to do everything we wanted. We checked everything off our Thai Bucket List except getting Sak Yant Tattoos. Sak Yant Tattoos are bamboo tattoos by monks. Hopefully we’ll be back to Chiang Mai again and will be able to experience that.
Chiang Mai is known for their beautiful temples, but with outspoken kids, (i.e. “how many temples are we going to go to?!” “they’re starting to all look the saaaaaaame.” “I already made a wish and washed the Buddha today.”) we didn’t make temples a priority on our list of sightseeing.
Doi Suthep Temple
Here is everything three kids and three adults ate, saw, and did:
DAY 1: ARRIVAL
Our flight arrived around 4PM and we checked into our Air BnB.
Dinner at some restaurant and explored The Night Market. This is where we all tried fried silk worms. It was a delicious, garlicky, crunchy snack. Luke thought they were chips.
DAY 2: QUINTESSENTIAL CHING MAI
They say if you haven’t visited Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and eat Khao Soi, then you haven’t visited Chiang Mai.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. You climb the 300-some steps to one of the most holy Buddhist sites in Thailand. There is a small fee to enter. If you are a woman and your shoulders are legs are showing, there’s a little table that offers scarves to wrap around your waist and shoulders. We made some wishes, bathed Buddha, and hung an offering of small bells. Our kids made an offering and rang the big bells to protect themselves from evil. It was cool learning about a different religion, the history of the temple, and seeing the beautiful architecture.
PRO TIP – there is an ice cream shop outside of the temple, across from the ticket counter, and it has some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know if it was because I was really desperate for something cold, it was ACTUALLY that good, or the magic of Buddha went into making it... But IT WAS HEAVENLY. Before you walk down the stairs, make sure you grab a cone before you leave. I got Taro – there were fresh chunks of Taro in it. 🤤
is it worth the 300-something stair climb? def. yes.
Wat Umong - The Tunnel Temple.This unique temple is at the bottom of the forest near Doi Suthep Mountain. The Temple is in a very old forest, dating back to the 13th century. When you get out of the car, the sound of the bugs and birds is so loud its almost deafening. They say that you can hear monks chanting. There are signs that hang from the trees that say things like “Today is better than two tomorrows”. 🥺🥰 This temple was so unique because it is in a very old forest. Would it be worth the 30-40-minute drive from the city just to visit? Probably not. Would it be worth visiting if you were in the neighborhood? Yes!
If you want your stress levels to rocket and your anxiety triggered, but want to make your kids happy – for a small fee, there's a bird and fish feeding at the bottom of the hill. By bird and fish, I mean pigeon and carp.
The birds will land on you.
They will follow you.
They will swarm you.
But the kids had a great time! 🤢😖
Khao Soi Lam Duan. After two different temples, we were STARVING and tired. We ate Khao Soi the famous soupy noodles that Northern Thailand is known for. You know its good when the restaurant is full of locals. Khao Soi is like this sweet and salty soup? Stew? I don’t know what it is but its liquid. The broth is bubbling hot, the chicken is tender, the noodles are crispy, and the pickles are cold. Its like all the perfect textures in one bowl. 😲🤤 I asked for extra rice to soak up the last bit of soup.
Khao Soi is soi soi good. hahahaha 😅
Bua Tong aka The Sticky Waterfall.With bellies full, we passed out on the hour drive from Khao Soi Lam Duan to the Sticky Waterfall. The Sticky Waterfall was great for the entire family because there was a shallow pond area for the kids to play and swim in at the top and a three-tired limestone waterfall for adults/big kids to climb. The pond IS a natural pond and even if it doesn’t look like it, the water IS running. There is fish swimming in it. There are bugs. Its not as gross as I'm making it sound -- I promise! (I'm normally very facetious but I'm telling you this pond is okay!) There are stairs on the side of the waterfall if you prefer not to climb down but would still want to appreciate the waterfall or cheer someone on.
Dinner at Lemon Grass. After we settled from our day, we ventured out and ate at a very touristy restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome! The menu was in both English and Thai and we were able to ask questions about the menu rather than just pointing and nodding like we did at lunch.
Massage. This is a must-do in Thailand. They usually are around 200 Baht (500 for a high quality spa-like experience and 90 for like.. sketchy ones that offer happy endings 😬🥴) Thai massage is a lot different than Swedish massage (where you lie on a table and the massage therapist rubs and kneads with oil). You change into “massage clothes” and you are pulled, kneaded, stretched, and sometimes even walked on. You will be poked by thumbs, palms, and elbows. Thai massage could get uncomfortable, but you should never be in pain. You’ll feel SO GOOD afterwards, though. It’s like someone took a foam roller to every single joint of your body! Fair warning, spas are not like they are in The US, no matter how nice the spa is – the massage therapists will probably be talking to each other.
DAY 3: EDUCATIONAL CHIANG MAI
Thai Silk Factory was free to get in. It was a very informative tour and the kids were interested – you saw ALL the steps on how they get the silk (from silk worms), to the dying process, and then actually weaving and stamping the silk. There is a shop where you can buy pieces that were made in the factory (this is where the kids became uninterested😅) local designers take the material and create original pieces using the silk. It was cool seeing a bunch of different silhouettes. They also make tailored suites for men and have kids clothing. You are not obligated to make a purchase after the tour is over.
Baan Tong Luang – The 5 Hill Tribe Village. 5 different Hill Tribes live on this little compound in the mountains. You pay 500 Baht per person to enter. You can see how they live, the intricate weaving of their clothes, the intricate carvings of their wood, how they eat, how they learn – it was really cool to learn about and the kids were amazed at all the things they were making with their hands. After we visited, I saw reviews saying that this village was “pitiful” and it was compared to a “human zoo”. They called it a tourist trap.☹️ I didn’t get that vibe, but we talked and interacted with the villagers. The kids were a good ice breaker. I think if you actually talk to the villagers and ask to take pictures of them/their crafts/their clothes then it wouldn’t seem that way. 🤷🏻♀️While buying a souvenir or craft isn’t mandatory, we did any way because despite what Gina from TripAdvisor said -- we did buy souvenirs because they are hand made and beautiful. .
The Mae Rim Elephant Sanctuary was a highlight for SURE. We made sure to go to a no ride, no hook establishment. After lunch we spent the afternoon learning about the Asian Elephants, their habits, and the history of elephants in Thailand and why its important to save them. We learned about what they eat and how to make elephant shampoo (we hammered some bark). 🐘 We fed the elephants, gave them a mud bath, shampooed them with the foamy bark we hammered, rinsed them, and played with them. It was incredibly surreal to see my small kids next to these gentle giants.
The Poo Poo Paper Park was the highlight of the kid’s Chiang Mai trip. I think it’s because they were allowed to play with poop and the property was very kid friendly. The guide taught the kids how to be more environmentally conscious and learned how to adopt super easy ways to help the earth a little bit more. The interactive tour takes you through the entire process of creating the poop paper. You are able to make their own paper from start to finish and decorate their own notebooks!
Dinner at the Night Market I don’t know why we didn’t eat at the Night Market any sooner? What a rookie mistake. If I could turn back time I would go to the Night Market for dinner every single time. The key here is to get a whole bunch of different things from a bunch of different stalls. Our favorites were:
The Mango Salad
The Papaya Salad
Thai Beef Salad
Pad See Ew
The Pineapple Fried Rice
Fish Head Curry
… okay so I realized I’m naming all of the food. So basically try one of everything – its totally doable if you space it out over a few days! Again if you think I'm being facetious, I'm not. No need to go to ALL the Pad Thai stalls and ALLL the satay stalls and ALLL the rice stalls, just pick one! Most single dishes are like 20 Baht (like… $0.60USD) and large platters can go all the way up to like $50USD.
But for dessert? The chocolate roti and the mango sticky rice ALL DAY, BABY.
Then after dinner we got Massages....again, lol!
DAY 4: ROYAL CHIANG MAI
Doi Inthanon National Park is part of the Himalayan Mountain Range 🏔 it is the highest mountain in all of Thailand. It was cool to say that we were In the Himalayan Mountains! Unfortunately, couldn’t see very far because of haze. We went to the very top and visited the remains of The Last King of Chiang Mai. It was super cold. We prepped our self for a strenuous hike but it was just a walkway around the peak of the mountain. It was a little underwhelming, but I think on a clearer day it would have been much better. The change of temperature was a WELCOMED BREAK from the high temps and humidity.
We made our way down the mountain to The King and Queen Pagoda. Also known as The Twin Pagodas. The Thai Army gifted these to the King and Queen on their Birthdays. There are gardens surrounding the Pagodas that are drop. dead. gorgeous to look at. There are stairs leading up to each pagoda and an option up for the escalator. Inside each pagoda are shrines to Buddha. The view at the top was breathtaking.
We had lunch at The Royal Project Garden which is a non profit project put in place by the King of Thailand to improve the quality of life for The Hill Tribes. There are colors, green houses, and rows of plants and trees as far as the eye can see. The Royal Project uses the land for agriculture to revive the forest, help the water ecosystem, and reduce opium growing. The dishes we ordered were made with spices and veggies plucked that very same day. After lunch we walked around and got lost in the many garden mazes around the area, saw a bunch of animals, and made friends with some bugs.
We stopped at the Wachirathan Waterfall before we went back to our Air BnB and hiked around the area. The Waterfall was so pretty with a bunch of easy trails around it which makes it super kid friendly! We went during “the dry season”. Our driver told us that during The Wet Season, there is so much water that you can get soaked from the parking lot!
this picture is equal parts aesthetic and safety.
And on our last night we ate at The Night Market for dinner and got a Massage before bed.
DEPARTURE – Before we left, we took a Tuk Tuk to get Breakfast in Old City. We stumbled upon this little café in an alley called Overstand. HOMAGAH. IT IS SO GOOD THERE. A bunch of options for the kids, the food selection was very… Australian? (smashed avo on toast with rocket), the coffee was amazing, the staff was really nice, and the vibe inside was very friendly. There were some T Shirts for sale and they gave our free stickers which was really cool! Before going back to check out, we walked across the street to take pictures and read about Tha Phae Gate. The kids were fascinated with the tall, crumbly gate with the moat around it. It was cool to see something they read about in books and see in movies in real life.
A FEW THINGS TO NOTE FOR THIS TRIP:
- We stayed in an Air BnB instead of booking a hotel – our family is considered big for South East Asian Standards (i.e more than one or two kids) and we had my mom traveling with us so we opted for renting a flat instead of booking two hotel rooms.
- We booked our own private driver for three days. Its about $60USD a day. If you have the funds to do it, I highly suggest getting a private driver instead of booking with large tour buses.
We were able to pack our things and leave it in the car. The driver stayed with the car while we gallivanted off. He was local and gave us some insight on places that will hustle you, places that are worth going to, taught us the history of Thailand, and became a friend by the end of the trip. A private car is PERFECT if you’re traveling with a lot of people (or a lot of kids) because they can peacefully fall asleep in the car.
- Chiang Mai is mountainous. Get those seabands to wear on your wrist if you or your kids are prone to motion sickness. All the driving up and down through winding roads was nauseating. Our driver had motion sickness medicine and extra plastic bags just in case.
- We did not bring a stroller but if we were to bring one we would’ve brought our PockIt +. We were a little too adventurous on this trip to justify bringing the stroller. So we just brought the baby carrier.
- We travelled to Chiang Mai mid-April. The farmers are prepping the land so it was really hazy and smokey. The sky was gray all day and it was difficult to see far. If you can, pick up a dust mask.
- Northern Thailand is mountainous so no matter what time of day you fly in, there will be turbulence. Consider taking anti-nausea medicine, wearing sea bands, bringing some essential oil, or chewing on some peppermint or ginger candy because that flight is rough.
Chiang Mai is a super kid friendly place to travel to when you’re with your little ones. There was a ton more to see and I wish we had a few more days to see things but we didn’t leave feeling “unfinished” and we have a ton of dope memories to reminisce on for years to come!