Scroll down for my fair, green and healthy CHIANG MAI CITY GUIDE
(updated 22. Dec 2013)
I LOVE Chiang Mai! It must be the vegetarian-health food capital of the world (honestly). After having got rid of some nasty tummy bugs I had brought with me from North India (parasites called Giardia lamblia make themselves at home in your small intestine and steal the nutrients from all you are eating) with a week of strong medication, I was badly in need of healthy, wholesome, fresh vegan food to top up with vitamins and minerals again.
Brown rice, muesli-fresh fruit-(soy) yoghurt, fresh smoothies and even wheatgrass shots are on many menus in the lively area with guest houses, local markets, restaurants and quiet lanes between Moon Muang Soi 9 and Ratchadamnoen Road, the North-Eastern square of the old city. Little stalls offer fair-trade hill tribe coffee and herbal trees from local flowers and herbs and you can get fresh cut fruit on every corner.
Thai people are crazy about snacking. You will see them eating all day! During Chiang Mai’s festival-like Sunday Walking Market, the temples along Ratchadamnoen Road open their courtyards for hundreds of little food and drink stalls. Most of them offer homemade specialities, and so many are meat-free: soft and squishy Japanese Daifuku sweets, green rice with sesame, Pad Thai (noodles) with tofu, sticky rice with Mango, spicy tofu kebabs, warm steamed buns, and so many fresh fruit and vegetable dishes, fruit shakes and smoothies, vegetable stir-fries served in banana leaves, wholesome soups, baked taro (a root similar to potatoes) and delicious little peanut-coconut snacks wrapped in betel leaves. I tried them all!
CHIANG MAI CITY GUIDE:
Here are my favourite local and healthy Chiang Mai hang-outs and tips, please share yours in the comments field or on Facebook, I love discovering new places!
Restaurants and Cafés:
MoonMuang and Old City:
- Angel’s Secrets (Moon Muang Soi 4, open 7 am-4 pm, closed on Monday)
The most beautiful coffees in town, colorful fruit bowls, oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, fresh fruit, smoothies, teas, cosy little garden, jazz in the background, pin board with volunteering opportunities and city news, Thai food and green jungle pasta! Run with love and passion by Jolie, a great way to start the day!
- Amrita Garden (2/1 Soi 5 Samlan Road, open Wed to Sun from 10:30 to 19:00) is a little Japanese macrobiotic lunch café in a beautiful Thai wooden house. Beautiful organic (vegan) set lunch with brown rice, veggies and “detox soup”, yummy cakes & coffee and an organic veggy market every Wednesday from 11 am. amritagarden.net
- AUM (65 Moon Muang Rd, next to Black Canyon at Tha Phae Gate) – we called it “Peace Café”, vegetarian and mostly vegan, has a cosy room upstairs with cushions and floor seating and sells natural massage oils, natural tiger balm (and mosquito repellant!) downstairs. www.aumvegetarianfood.com
- Blue Diamond (35/1 Moon Muang Soi 9, open 7.30 am to 8.30 pm, closed on Sundays) – big garden café with the largest vegetarian (with many vegan dishes) menu in the old city, their own bakery and a little health food store attached.
- DADA Café (20/1 Ratchamanka Road, just off the corner Moon Muang, next to Gecko Books, open 9 am to 9 pm, closes Sunday afternoons) – lovely big fruit shakes like “Energy Me” with mango, banana and fresh coconut, and a great avocado salad.
- Morning Glory – formally May Kaidee (Ratwithi Road, near Moon Muang Soi 6) – sister restaurant to Bangkok’s May Kaidee’s. Best Thai vegan food, became my (non-vegan) brother’s favourite dinner spot! See my older post on her cooking classes. www.maykaidee.com
- New Delhi (right next to Morning Glory on Rathwithi) – this Indian restaurant is the best in town and cooks deliciously light “home style” curries and had oven-baked wholegrain chapatis to mop up the thick and spicy sauces. A favourite.
- Tea Tree House – just opposite Somphet market on Moon Muang Soi 6 – you need to walk up the stairs to the 1st floor – comfy cushions and delicious Ayurveda teas make it a beautiful spot to watch the market from above! Very friendly!
Night Bazar Area
- Giva – Tiny raw food café on Tha Phae Soi 1, Loi Khor Rd, very fresh, but you need to bring time and patience, each drink/dish is prepared from scratch, your smoothie can take up to half an hour. Walnut sushi and seaweed salad were delicious.
- Taste of Heaven – On Thae Phae Rd,on the right going from the gate outwards. Vegetarian comfort food, delicious soups, supports elephant camps and other non-profits.
- Tian Zi Tea House - 119/1 Kampangdin Rd (Opposite to Imperial Mae Ping Hotel) – Macrobiotic restaurant (the only one in Chiang Mai) in a beautiful wooden building with very cosy tables inside and out. Try the wasabi broccoli!
I tend to just stick around the old city but if you get a chance, take a trip to trendy Nimmanhaemmen, it’s a modern and fun place to shop and bumble around.
- Kuhn Churn (Nimmanhaemmen Soi 17) – This vegetarian restaurant is well worth the trip, especially for their lunch buffet from 11:30 am to 2 pm – fresh food, loads of salads and fresh juices, curries, steamed veggies – in a beautiful garden, very friendly and attentive service. vegetariankhunchurn.blogspot.com (they are in Bangkok too)
- Pun Pun (now in two locations: one just behind Wat Suan Dok temple and one on Santitham Rd) – In their own words: “Pun Pun Organic Restaurant is a project aimed at supporting local organic farmers, farmer networks, and propagating biodiversity.” On top of that some of the most delicious food in Chiang Mai! www.punpunthailand.org
- Din Dee Café Mud House - at the ChiangMai University Art Center. Cute café run by a Japanese woman who moved to Chiang Mai. Lovely teas on the menu and a shop with handicrafts by local women. http://www.dindeecafe.com
- Salad Concept (Corner Nimmanhaemmen and Soi 13) – Make your own big salad bowl with a long list of dressings to choose from. Big favourite with Thais and expats alike. Open daily from 11 am to 10 pm. http://chiangmaiepicurean.blogspot.de/2010/06/salad-concept.html
- Somphet Market: corner Moon Muang and MoonMuang Soi 6 – fresh fruit and nice vibe. Look for Tip’s Best Fresh Fruit Smoothies: Giant fruit shakes, fresh fruit mueslis, coffee and tea from 8 am to 6 pm – amazing and well worth waiting a few minutes!
- Wororot Market: local/Chinese market, outside the old city, corner Mae Ping river and Chang Moi rd (extension of Ratwithi Rd), fun to bumble around, lovely flower market further South, come early.
- Sunday Walking Market: Ratchadamnoen Rd every Sunday from 4 pm to midnight.
No visit to Thailand is complete without a cooking class. Thai cooking is so easy and fast.
- May Kaidee: Merry Duan offers a vegan cooking course, some of the best Thai food in Chiang Mai! See my older blog post.
- Thai Farm Cooking School: takes you out of town for a great day in the countryside on a beautifully quiet organic farm. They pick you up at your hotel and take you back after class. You can choose to cook with or without meat or fish and even vegan. www.thaifarmcooking.net
- Sammy’s Organic Farm and Asia Scenic offer a similar experience.
Health food shops:
- Baan Suan Pak Organic Supermarket on Wichayanon, next to Thai Orchid Veg Restaurant.
- Shop at Blue Diamond sells wholegrain breads, organic fruit, nuts and seeds, super foods, teas, dried fruits, vegan cookies, nut butters and more.
- Aden on Nimmanhaemmen left of Soi 12 – good combining a visit with Khun Churn restaurant (see above), it is just opposite Soi 17.
- Stock up on nuts and snacks at Vanusnun next to Nakhonchai Air (best bus company for Chiang Mai-BKK trips) at Arcadia bus station (on the older side).
I hope you don’t need these but both have a very high standard:
- Chiang Mai Ram Hospital for health checks or emergencies. www.chiangmairam.com
- Grace dental work. www.gracedentalclinic.com
Drawing and painting lessons:
- Noina Art Studio, Moon Muang Soi 9
A creative alternative to meditation classes!
Yoga and Thai Massage
There are many studios and classes, I have tried and liked these:
- Namo – my favourite, has morning classes at 8am, on Moon Muang Soi 4, they also have Thai Massage courses and 1-to-1 classes. www.namochiangmai.com
- Wild Rose - everybody’s darling. www.wildroseyoga.org
- Yoga Tree – have quite a big schedule, good medical Qi Gong classes, a meditation come-together on Thursdays and more - www.theyogatree.org
- Sunshine Thai Massage School – I studied there two years ago and am back taking Ayurveda/Shiatsu classes, well recommended - www.sunshine-massage-school.com
You will soon find the free maps don’t show any of the detail you need if you are staying in Chiang Mai for a bit, I love Nancy Chandler’s map of Chiang Mai (and Bangkok), it shows all the nice shops, restaurants and sights (including the one-way streets for bikers!). It has a useful “V” sign for vegetarian restaurants, a detailed view of the old city, the markets, as well as a bird’s eye view of the whole area around Chiang Mai. Comes with a little guide, well worth the 250 bhat. See nancychandler.net for updates and where to buy it (basically in all English new or used bookshops).
You can also always check out Happy Cow and this lovely Thai/English page: facebook.com/chiangmaivegetarian2006 with a great map on Google. They have identified over 50 veggy spots in Chiang Mai, I discovered many new ones.