Chiang Mai is the provincial capital of Thailand’s north. It’s known for its rich cultural history and it’s one of the best places to visit in Thailand with family. What’s there to do in Chiang Mai with kids? We asked the professionals at Expedia.com.au to narrow it down for you.
Food stalls: Thai food includes kid-friendly options that may surprise you. Some favourites are sweet potato balls, cashew chicken, mango sticky rice, and roti (flatbread topped with condensed milk and bananas). The stalls near Chang Phuak Gate at the north edge of Old Town are a good starting point.
Dash Teak House: This is a popular spot for Thai families and tourists alike. There are large tables, plenty of space outdoors for the kids to tire themselves out, and a big, diverse menu. What more could a family ask for?
iBerry Garden: Located northwest of the Old City in Nimmanhaemin, Chiang Mai’s trendiest area, this artsy ice cream shop offers cones, cakes, and great photo ops with its quirky art installations. Bonus: It has air conditioning.
Café de Thaan Aoan: You’ve had an exciting day exploring, and all you want is some cheap, tasty food and a nice blast of air conditioning. Enter this Old Town café, which has a huge menu and reasonable prices for the area.
Old City temples: There are three temples in the Old City, located within walking distance of one another: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, and Wat Phra Singh. Teens will love Monk Chats at Wat Chedi Luang, which is just what it sounds like—a chance to sit down and chat with a monk!
Saturday Market: The markets of the Old City are a must-visit for all travellers, including families. However, the Sunday Market tends to be more crowded; try the Saturday Market instead if you’ve got little ones in tow.
Cooking school: It’s perfect—a unique family activity that will keep the kids occupied and introduce them to the cuisine of a different culture. Many cooking schools in Chiang Mai welcome kids of all ages, complete with a trip to the market for ingredients.
Art in Paradise: This is an art museum with a twist kids (and adults!) love—it’s filled with impressive 3D murals. From the jungle to ancient Egypt, you’ll look like you’re really there. Don’t forget your camera!
Old City: If you want to walk to everything, the Old City is the most central place to stay in Chiang Mai with kids. Hotels here tend to be boutique, but are ideal for smaller groups who like that personal touch.
Nimmanhaemin: This neighbourhood just northwest of the Old City is great for families. Maya Mall has a movie theatre, food court, playroom, and arcade. The area is also home to off-the-beaten-path, kid-friendly attractions like the Museum of World Insects.
Riverside: Got a large family? If you’re bringing along everyone from bub to grandma—or travelling with multiple families—consider a stay in one of the spacious resorts of the Riverside area.
Serial cyclist and blogger Jack Thompson, of Jackcyclesfar gave up the 9 to 5 life in 2015, deciding instead to pursue his passion for ultra-distance cycling and adventuring around the globe on two wheels.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand invited Jack to join the Great Mekong Bike Ride to provide valuable feedback on this endurance cycling challenge and he ended up spending 12 days cycling in both the north and south. Here are a few highlights from his comprehensive blog post chronicling his journey through Thailand.
Having spent an incredible 12 days cycling around northern Thailand earlier this year, when the opportunity presented itself to return to this cycling mecca, I couldn’t help but say ‘yes.’
My most recent travels saw me spend another 12 days in Thailand. The first five days were spent in the North East racing in the official “Great Mekong Bike Ride” which attracts more than 700 riders from around the world. The remaining 7 days were spent touring ancient wonders, historical sites and culturally rich landscapes in the area just north of Bangkok, with good friend and fellow travel guide Sea Keong Loh from Venture Wander Travel.
The Great Mekong Bike Ride
Broken into three stages, the Great Mekong Bike Ride commences in Nakhon Phanom and showcases the very best of the region. Cities such as Sakon Nakhon are lit up with excitement as the race passes through. I guided 15 Australians to the race and we agreed, as a group, that it was the best organised event we have ever participated in.
Some of my favourite things about racing and cycling adventure travel in general, is the cultural immersion that comes from travelling by bike. The people you meet along the way, the fragrant aromas of the local cuisine and the rich market life.
Big grins greeted us at the start and finish of the race and as each racer finished, they were presented with food vouchers, so that they could choose treats from the many food trucks that were there serving us their local cuisine, fresh fruit smoothies and deserts. The camaraderie between the local and international riders was unreal.
After a quick flight back to Bangkok, the second part of my trip began and what a week I was in for!
Ancient Wonders of Bangkok and Ayutthaya
I was collected by my guides Tintin and Patipath, (aircraft mechanics in the Thai Army). We made our way back to the army base in Bangkok and settled in for the night. The following morning, Tintin whipped up a couple of Thai style omelettes and before long we had hit the road for our first day of riding.
Our destination for the day was Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient Capital City. Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya is home to many ancient ruins and as we arrived into town, we were greeted by spectacular, colourful stone temples.
The ride itself was 80km in length. Departing Bangkok, although busy, felt incredibly safe. The drivers in Thailand are courteous, unlike that of the western world. There is a sense of urgency, but very little risk is taken. After 20 – 30 km we were out of the mayhem and riding the banks of a small river system en route to our finishing point in Ayutthaya.
There, we visited the floating markets, sampled the famous delicacies and continued to our hostel accommodation, ‘Busaba Ayutthaya Hostel’. Think 5-star New York Hamptons: white wood, lots of greenery and views of the river. If you find yourself in Bangkok and looking for something to do, I would highly recommend Ayutthaya. The city is rich in history and the temples and monuments are brilliantly preserved.
Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai
We commenced our second day of riding on a local velodrome before heading south west towards our destination for the day, Kanchanaburi. Famous amongst backpackers for the huge number of attractions in the surrounding areas, Kanchanaburi is probably most famous for the bridge over the River Kwai – the start of the infamous World War 2 Death Railway to Burma.
Our ride was 100km along predominantly flat roads. It was great chatting with my guide, Patipath as we rolled along the rice fields. That afternoon we explored the war cemetery, the first portion of the Death Railway over The River Kwai and the War Museum. There was so much information to take in, that I would love to visit Kanchanaburi again and spend more time really getting to understand how the tragic events of WW2 unfolded there.
We spent the next day exploring Kanchanaburi by bike and completed 110km through the luscious green landscape. The highlight of the day was visiting the Death Railway. Perched high along the banks of the Mae Klong River, the railway was an impressive feat of engineering constructed long, long ago. The second portion of the day, and our finishing point was the Erawan waterfalls. A spectacular landmark made up of seven, different levelled waterfalls.
Mae Klong Railway Market
For those who haven’t heard of this landmark, it is essentially a street market built on top of railway tracks. What makes it unique is that the railway tracks are still in operation, and every time a train approaches, the stall holders quickly pack up their stalls, allowing the train to sneak through and as soon as the train passes, the markets set up back on the tracks. After a walk along the markets we made our way south to Hua Hin, our destination for the final two nights of the trip.
Hua Hin is a seaside resort on the Gulf of Thailand and located 200km south of Bangkok. It is one of the most popular Thai holiday destinations for those living in the country’s capital and home to the best ‘Mango Sticky Rice’ in the country. Hua Hin is like Phuket but nowhere near as busy. There is an array of offerings for tourists such as local craft markets, traditional Thai massage, shopping centres and fitness studios.
The scenery in this part of Thailand is breathtaking. It is completely different to Thailand’s mountainous north. The south is flatter, and the seaside vibes reminded me of being back home on the beach.
In my opinion, a mix of Chiang Rai and Hua Hin is ideal. Mountains for climbing and a somewhat sleepy seaside town for relaxing. Comparing my time in Chiang Rai to my time in Bangkok and the surrounding areas, I can honestly say that both are as brilliant as each other.
Later this year, Jack will be running a series of guided adventures to northern Thailand and in 2019 he will also run a trip from central Bangkok. Contact Jack for more information, and read his full blog post here.
Bangkok is one of the world’s most popular destinations, and it’s easy to see why: the culture, the nightlife, and of course, the food! In fact, we’d argue that you can’t really consider yourself a true foodie until you’ve experienced Bangkok’s fine dining scene.
We enlisted the travel experts at Expedia to put together a list of the best hotel restaurants in Bangkok for those who like life on the finer side.
The Pullman Hotel G has quite a few creature comforts, like a full-service spa, gym and recreation centre, and a pool terrace. It’s also home to Scarlett Wine Bar & Restaurant—37 floors above the bustling streets of Bangkok. This rather swish eatery consistently serves up some of the finest French cuisine in the city.
We recommend a stay at the St. Regis and a meal at the on-site restaurant Zuma. Their thinly sliced seabass with yuzu truffle oil and spicy beef tenderloin with red chili and soy are go-to menu options. Finish off the evening with a nightcap at the lounge.
At least once in your life you need to splurge on a set menu dining experience at an award-winning restaurant. Make your way to Celadon at The Sukhothai and take your pick between either the 9-course or 12-course meal. We’re willing to bet you’ve never had a dinner like this before.
Located in the heart of the Embassy District off Wireless Road, the Oriental Residence Bangkok is exactly what you’d expect from a luxury hotel: amenities galore and one of the few Michelin-starred restaurants in Thailand. Savelberg is the creation of Dutch head chef Henk Savelberg – be sure to sample a tasting plate of caviar, among other delights.
For one of the best breakfast experiences in Bangkok, you can’t go past The Verandah at the Mandarin Oriental. We suggest the French toast with caramelized pears and a cup of freshly squeezed papaya juice.
Family travel blogger Rene Young of Together We Roam shares her top tips for a stopover in Bangkok with kids.
Gilded palaces share Bangkok’s skyline with mega malls, the traditional collides with the ultra-modern in a most frenetic pace. The wonderfully diverse capital offers myriad ways to choose your own family adventure.
Explore the magnificent Grand Palace
Allow at least half a day to explore the Grand Palace’s enormous 21-hectare grounds and stroller friendly pathways. Divided into an outer, middle and inner court there are countless temples, pavilions and royal buildings to admire. The intricately decorated pediments and statues, manicured gardens and golden spired rooftops around the grounds a marvel in its own right.
Drop lucky coins at Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Wat Pho stands as one of the city’s oldest temples, just to the south of the Grand Palace complex, and is home to a impressive 45-metre long golden Reclining Buddha featuring intricate mother of pearl inlay and Buddhist Sanskrit.
Let kids run the world at KidZania Bangkok
KidZania is a unique Disneyeque concept where kids work and earn Kidzos (KidZania currency) to buy experiences. It’s capitalism for kids done in a super cute way. Kids get to ‘work’ in a variety of occupations, they can; solve crime as a police officer, hose down a smoking hotel as a fire fighter, attend to the sick and wounded at the hospital, become a flight attendant at AirAsia or attend university which entitles graduates further discounts.
Get hands on at Museum Siam, Bangkok
A short walk from Wat Pho is the Museum Siam, one of the best museums for children in Bangkok. What once was a building for the Ministry of Commerce has been transformed into a modern, bright and beautiful museum that boasts a huge range of super fun and interactive exhibits to help visitors with kids discover Thailand’s history.
Cruise along the Chao Phraya River
Snaking its way through Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River is the lifeblood of the city and taking in the views from the water is a lot of fun with the family.
Explore the canals and discover Bangkok’s best floating markets
Floating markets are a nod to the days where the river and canals (klongs) were used as main thoroughfares and connected Bangkok’s communities for trade. Long tail boats loaded with fresh produce and wares from silk art, piles of bright marigolds to fresh river caught fish were transported to central markets and sold fresh from the boat. Three of the best:
Taling Chan floating market
Amphawa Floating Market
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Watch as trains rattle through the Maeklong Railway Market (Day Trip Idea)
The Mae Klong Railway Market is most adored in our family, while it is quite spectacle witnessing a fresh seafood market positioned right on the train tracks. It’s discovering the authentic and unfiltered ‘Thainess’ that appeals. It’s as close as we got to the real Thai way of life with warm smiles from stall owners who weren’t out to sell you knock of sunglasses.
Let off some steam at BOUNCE inc Thailand
Travelling with kids does involve some give and take, swap temples and markets and let the kids loose with over 80 interconnected trampolines at BOUNCE INC Bangkok.
Shop ‘til you drop
There’s no doubt about it – Thai’s love to shop! An abundant neon-lit malls beckon. Enjoy Thai’s favourite past time and get your shopping on! There are many a clean air-conditioned corridor to stroll and shiny gravity defying escalator to ride that lead to floor upon floor of retail heaven.
Escape the city chaos at Lumpini Park – Bangkok’s oldest
Get a glimpse into Bangkok life, where your kids have a chance to play with the local kids. Partake in a tai chi or ballroom dancing lessons or check out the great big monitor lizards that amble around.
Cool off at the Pororo AquaPark (Day Trip Idea)
Newly opened in March 2018 the Pororo Aqua Park located on the 6th floor of Central Plaza Bangna is the best way to escape the heat in Bangkok with kids. A short 20-30 minute drive from central Bangkok and kids can be splashing in fountains, zipping down slides, swimming in a variety of pools or floating down a lazy river(my kids fav!)
Take in the sights, sounds and smells of Chinatown
Chinatown is one of Bangkok’s most fascinating districts, packed with restaurants, shops and cultural sights that make it a must to explore.
Cuddle kitty’s at Caturday Cat Cafe
The Caturday Cat Cafe is home to around 40 gorgeous felines which are more than happy to be cuddled and stroked while you enjoy a coffee or afternoon tea. Pay a little extra for a cat snack and watch them pounce all over you for a little cat snack.
Embrace your inner rainbow unicorn at Bangkok’s Unicorn Café
If you prefer rainbow unicorns over kittens then Bangkok’s Unicorn Café is not to be missed. Located on a corner of a nondescript side street, the Unicorn Café is fast becoming Bangkok’s Instagram institution.
Escape to SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World
SEA LIFE Bangkok Open Hours: daily at 10.00 AM and closes at 9.00 PM. Last entry is at 8pm.
When the kids are completely over Bangkok’s temples, can’t stand another shopping mall and can’t bear the look of another Pad Thai in the heat then SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World, conveniently located in the Siam Paragon Mall – is a easy, central, indoor entertainment option especially for kids.
For an incredibly comprehensive guide to Bangkok with Kids, including maps, opening times and detailed instructions on how to reach each of these attractions, plus a guide to the best shopping centres and places to eat for kids, visit the full Bangkok guide on Rene Young’s blog: Together we Roam.
Travel writer Ian Lloyd Neubauer visits Koh Kood to try out Soneva Kiri’s luxury accommodation offering and examine the hotel’s eco-credentials.
On arrival, two things strike me about Soneva Kiri. First, it’s massive: 400 hectares. But the grounds are not covered in water-greedy gardens or golf links. Instead, they’re jungle, as nature intended.
The second thing to stand out are the 36 villas: they, too, are massive. I stayed in the smallest: a Bayview Pool Villa Suite with 464 square metres of living space – eight times the size of my two-bedroom unit in Sydney. Soneva Kiri’s largest villas, eight six-bedroom clifftop residences, each covers 2000 square metres.
Constructed from local timber, driftwood and bamboo, my villa looks a bit Robinson Crusoe-esque, but on a Macquarie Bank budget.
In the main bedroom, a leather trunk at the foot of the four-poster bed conceals a flat-screen TV that pops up with a touch. Window walls open onto sprawling decks and a wraparound oasis swimming pool and a walking track behind my pool leads to a private beach and calm harbour.
Every villa comes with a pair of mountain bikes and an electric buggy. The bikes are obviously greener but hooning around the resort in the buggies is plain fun. So is catching a ride on a slick leather-trimmed speedboat to Soneva’s private beach club in a neighbouring cove, catching a flick at the moonlight cinema and visiting the chocolate room: a refrigerated glass chamber crammed with the finest handmade chocolates, macarons and 60 bespoke ice-cream flavours.
How is this air conditioned luxury environmentally friendly? According to Soneva’s sustainability report, the company emits 34 tonnes of carbon a year. Of that, 70 per cent is attributed to guests’ air travel, which cannot be mitigated. Of the remainder, two-thirds is power use, which is drawn from the grid and roughly the same at Soneva Kiri as any other property of similar size and capacity.
The last 10 per cent of Soneva’s carbon footprint comes from food, ground travel and freight. Soneva Kiri certainly scores high here, growing its own vegetables and making biofuel.
But even if emissions in these categories are cut by 50 per cent (a big call), Soneva hotels would be only 5 per cent more sustainable than their competition.
When I pose this conundrum to Soneva Kiri environment officer Eline Postma, she takes me to a clearing in the jungle not far from my vila. There I see ponds covered in lily pads, with birds, flowers, butterflies and fish.
“You want proof of our green credentials, well you’re standing on it,” Ms Postma said. “Look around you. This may look like a healthy wetland but it’s our sewage treatment plant. We dig these holes, pump our sewage in and utilise biological agents like fish, birds, insects and plants to recycle it for gardening.
“I’ve been to so many resorts where I see sewerage pipes going right into the sea. We could do the same, no one would know,” she adds, “but as a marine biologist, I’ve seen the effects of nutrification on coral ecosystems when it comes into contact with untreated sewage, and I know the coral in our bay is healthy.”
On my last night at Soneva Kiri, I meet general manager Francisca Antunes at The View, a cantilevered bar that hangs over the edge of a cliff with breathtaking views of the Gulf of Thailand.
“Many luxury resorts today talk about sustainability but few actually do anything about it on a day-to-day basis,” she said, “but we do. Look at the way we build our villas and public areas. Not a drop of varnish. All this wood would last twice as long if it were treated, but that would mean thousands of litres of paint ending up in the soil and water.
“Maybe we are not 100 per cent sustainable or self-sufficient. But we try 99 per cent harder than the rest.”
Accommodation at Soneva Kiri starts from about $1500 per room per night.
This review was first published in The New Daily. Read the full article here.
In August this year, The Tourism Authority of Thailand, Australia (TAT) will host the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW)’s Annual General Meeting in Bangkok.
TAT is delighted to report that the conference will be attended by 115 members, and over 80 members will attend pre- or post-convention famil programs.
Delegates have been offered a wide range of famil options and TAT is happy to report that most have been able to attend their first choice. There are seven famils on the AGM program, with the most popular choices being Kanchanaburi and Trat, with 15 attending, followed by Krabi (14).
The range of famils aims to show case the wide range of experiences – ‘Open to the New Shades’ – to be found in Thailand.
Delegates on the Kanchanaburi tour will travel the infamous Death Railway from River Kwai Bridge, visit Hellfire Pass, visit an elephant sanctuary and go on a firefly night cruise in Samut Songkhram , while those on the Krabi tour will visit the charming Muslim enclave of Koh Klang, learn to fish with the locals and go island hopping.
In Trat, an unknown gem in the Gulf of Thailand near the Cambodian border, delegates will learn how to make Ya Na crackers, weave ‘Ngop’ (farmer’s hats) with palm leaves and cruise to small islands within Mu Koh Chang National Park. While in Chiang Rai, delegates will visit the White Temple to marvel at its wild murals and travel through beautiful mountain scenery in Doi Mae Salong.
ASTW members have been advised of their assigned famils this week, and are encouraged to book flights as soon as possible. Flight bookings close on 30 June 2018.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has started its annual seasonal closure of several Thailand’s National Parks nationwide.
Several attractions are closed every year for a certain period, depending on weather and park conditions. The closure is often due to extreme weather, especially during the rainy season, that may create unsafe conditions and allows for some ecological recovery time.
Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor, said: “Natural rejuvenation is a key to preserving the biodiversity and pristine quality of Thailand’s amazing nature and natural resources. I believe that closing off several attractions for certain months during the rainy season demonstrates Thailand’s commitment to ensure sustainable environmental management of the country’s valuable nature heritage.”
Thailand currently has a total of 147 national parks, covering an area in excess of 70,000 square kilometres or 13.64 per cent of the land area of the country. Of the total, there are 59 national parks in the North, 43 in the South, 25 in the Northeast, and 20 in the Central, Western and Eastern Regions.
This year, the DNP will close attractions in 66 national parks nationwide, including in 24 in the North, 28 in the South, nine in the Northeast, and five in the Central, Western and Eastern Regions.
In the North, access to many of the region’s scenic waterfalls will be closed, and in the south, popular scuba-diving destinations including the Similan and Surin Islands will be closed.
A full list of the parks affected can be found on the TAT Newsroom.
The Thailand Shopping & Dining Paradise campaign is on again this year, from 1 June to 31 August, showcasing Thailand’s wide-ranging shopping experiences, from night markets and traditional handicrafts to fashion and luxury goods.
Now in its 20th year, the re-named Thailand Shopping & Dining Paradise is bigger than ever, reflecting the huge popularity of Thailand as a destination for people who love great shopping, delicious food and unbeatable bargains.
A new website has recently been launched to provide tourists with a guide to shopping in Thailand, with a Top 10 guide to tourist shopping in Thailand, from art and antiques to gems and jewellery, home décor, spa products, silk and cotton products as well as traditional Thai food and snacks.
Also highlighted on the website are the Top 5 shopping venues in Bangkok as well as guides to Premium Shopping, Outlet Shopping, Chic and Art Shopping and Fashion Shopping.
This year there is a focus on the processed goods that Thailand is famous for as well as a comprehensive guide to where to buy them. The guide shows tourists where to find processed foods such as BBQ Pork Jerky, Pork Floss & Fried Pork Jerky, Chinese airdried sausages, steamed pork rolls and salted eggs both in Bangkok and in the provinces.
Of course, the Thailand shopping experience wouldn’t be complete without exploring a few night markets. More and more night markets are springing up around Bangkok and throughout Kingdom. They’re fun to explore and usually offer delectable local street food, great people watching and live entertainment.
Despite recent reports that Southern Thailand’s famous Maya Beach will close for three months this year, in fact no decision to this effect has been made by Thai authorities.
Phi Phi National Park Office confirmed yesterday to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) that the park will remain open.
As Thailand grows in popularity with international visitors, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is constantly looking at ways to improve management of the Kingdom’s natural resources.
Measures have been made in some areas to limit the number of boats permitted to visit popular islands such as Koh Phi Phi, and the Similan and Surin Islands, and it is something that continues to be monitored.
Discussions were held mid-2017 regarding the management of Koh Phi Phi Lei, and it is understood the option to close the beach to tourists was discussed; however no decision to that effect has been made.
The Thai Government is committed to promoting sustainable tourism development, with a focus on quality over quantity.
According to TAT Oceania Director, Rujiras Chatchalermkit; “With a continued marketing focus on immersive experiences such as wellness retreats, culinary experiences, eco-tourism and agro-tourism, TAT aims to move away from the nation’s previous appeal as a budget destination for young full moon party-goers, to now focussing on the increasing global demand for high-end quality tourism product. This focus on quality tourism has seen a move from simply counting visitor numbers to measuring tourism revenue.”