Chiang Mai Thailand in December is GOOD. If you love Thai food, crafty things, and exploring gravity defying waterfalls, then I have an itinerary for you! First things first, go in December the weather is absolute perfection, think California 75 and sunny every day with minimal humidity. Second, Chiang Mai is a bit wide spread meaning there’s a lot of acitivites-things to see and do but not many of them are close together so most likely you will have to travel a bit to get to popular excursions like elephant parks, waterfalls, and cooking classes. If you want the old historic town with lots of temples then stay in the old quarter if you want a bit more trendy hipster area stay in Nimman like we did. My full Nimman guide here and why we chose to stay there and what we did in that fun area.
We did 5 days in Chiang Mai and split up our time at two different hotels, Arch 39 Wall (hard beds, but amazing location) in Nimman and Horizons resort out in the country side. Don’t worry I hemmed and hawed on this decision forever, but knew we would need a break from the city. At this point I feel like I know Asia, I know our family and how we feel during travel, so splitting our time between city and country was the best solution. By the way, I made this decision 2 days into our trip, I’m crazy like that. Booking.com (not an ad, truly love them) allowed me to switch hotels and book another one with no additional fees or penalties.
- Day 1 Nimman-Rustic Blue breakfast, Nimman 1 market, Lunch at food court Maya Mall, Think park market at night
- Day 2 Larder Cafe Breakfast, Siam Rice Cooking Class (short course 12-2), Chiang Mai Walking market, dessert at pink house
- Day 3 Head to Horizons hotel- explore hotel zoo, park, and botanical gardens
- Day 4 Elephant Poo Poo Park & Sticky Waterfalls
- Day 5 Flew to Taiwan (Taipei itinerary here!)
If you are staying in Nimman and I recommend staying right off of Nimmanhaemin Rd to be close to all the restaurants and shops, start your day 1 with coffee at ristr8o and breakfast at Rustic and Blue. Heavenly. Then peruse the shops/markets at One Nimman with it’s beautiful brick building complete with clocktower, also hit up the Maya Mall next to grab souvenirs, and end the night with a massage and Think Park Market!
We tried a different breakfast place, called Larder Cafe in Nimman and the kids said it was the best french toast they ever had in their lives. So there you go, get yourself there. Then got picked up for our cooking class with Siam Rice and it was a dream. I choose them because they allowed kids to have their own burners which was key for my two since they are a bit older (13 and 8) and can handle it. The best surprise of the cooking class was it’s farm location complete with animals to pet, gorgeous flowers, and an environment outside of the city smog. Not to mention the best curry we had plus we made it ourselves, so satisfying. I keep making it home too! Siam Rice cooking class returned us to our hotel, we rested and hit up the Chiang Mai Walking market. I actually don’t recommend it, it was shoulder to shoulder even the kids were unhappy. We lasted 15 minutes and left, but the saving grace was gluten free Pink house restaurant right outside of the market, I got to savor gluten free khao soi and cake! Additional Nimman sights we didn’t make it to but looked good- Insect Museum, Wat susan dok temple as well as Suan buak hat park.
Head to the countryside for fresh air and running space at Horizon Village & Resort. I literally found this on my phone while in Chiang mai and couldn’t resist booking it, turned out to be the perfect choice for our family. The resort is about 20 minutes outside of chiang mai and set on 115 acres with botanical gardens, playground, pools, mini zoo, and even hot air balloons. This place has it all with the look and feel of an oasis. Only downside is the mosquitos, they have bug spray on hand though!
Day 4 Why we didn’t visit the elephants.
We hired a Grab car (they are the nicest cars/ super reliable) from our hotel for the day to get to the Elephant Poo Poo Park and Sticky waterfalls (Bua Tong waterfalls). The drive was long and bumpy so if your kiddos get carsick, heads up! I cannot express enough of how worth it the Elephant Poo poo park is….the place is so organized, beautifully landscaped, and done well. Call to reserve a slot, they take you through a short tour which is super engaging for the kids, then let every person make a craft from the elephant poo paper. We opted out of an elephant park for a couple reasons, we have been to Thailand previously and visited the elephants-the experience was not good. This was 12 years ago when every park was allowing you to ride them and it kinda scarred me, they whipped the elephants the whole time and they were super skinny. I think it’s amazing how they have addressed this overall and made changes in Thailand to focus on protection, but after reading this article I decided to still wave off since it was pricey, far from our hotel, and would take an entire day. The elephant poo poo park was a good alternative option for us! Following the poo poo park, I asked the girl at the desk of a lunch recommendation and boy did she come through, theres a place right next door with great food and incredible mountain views, called Rabieng Na Maerim. The restaurant in- house kittens really entertained my boys, such a treat. Last stop of the day was the sticky falls. DO NOT miss this. It was worth the long windy ride, in fact I wish we made more time for it, the park closes at 5pm. The waterfalls have limestone minerals deposited on the rocks so you can actually climb up the waterfall like spiderman. Your children will literally think they are superheroes. Do note, the darker rocks are still slippery so still proceed with caution!
Head to airport for our long layover (day and half stay) in Taipei Taiwan, click here for that itinerary!