Christmas in Chiang Mai was definitely an adventure this year; different from my usual snowy winter wonderland holidays back in Canada. It was green and warm, bright with lights and lively street markets, shows, shopping bazaars and cool, delicious plant based coconut gelato. Even though I missed my friends and family back in Canada during the holidays, a Thai Christmas was really something special!
85% of Thais are Buddhist and 14% are Muslim, leaving the last 1% covering all other world religions, so Christmas in Thailand is not really classified as a holiday. However, Thais love to celebrate Christmas with traditional holiday music, decorations, trees, and lights that fill the city. They put a lot of work into selling christmas cards, wrapping paper, presents, Christmas hats, and ornaments at the bazaars and put on a ton of shows including live bands and Christmas cabaret specials. They actually capture the spirit of Christmas really well and love to wish westerners a very Merry Christmas wherever you go.
So what is there to do in Chiang Mai for Christmas?
1. Brunch at Rustic & Blue: After having a nice relaxing sleep in with your family and loved ones, stop in at Rustic & Blue for an incredibly delicious breakfast/brunch. Their menu items are more on the pricey side but they offer incredibly delicious creative dishes including coffees, smoothies, smoothie bowls, eggs benedict, chicken and waffles, and more. They offer many vegan menu items as well as vegetarian, pescatarian, as well as meat dishes. They speak great english and are very cautious with allergies. My partner has a serious peanut allergy and we have never once had an issue. I would give this restaurant a 5/5 rating and recommend it to anyone, it has both indoor and outdoor seating with a lovely atmosphere. Check out there menu here!
Address: 2/1 Nimmana Haeminda Rd Lane 7, Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200
Hours: 8:30am-10pm everyday (special hours on New Year’s Eve & Day and Buddhist Holidays)
2. Go Shopping: The Maya mall in Chiang Mai offers a ton of holiday specials giving 50%-80% off many items. Starbucks also puts on a promotion where you can buy any drink and get the second free on Christmas and from Dec.16th to Jan.3rd you can buy any holiday drink and get the second one free also! Whatever crazy double espresso, mocha, latte, frappuccino, crazy drink you normally order, get one for you and your friend for the price of one!
When: 11am-10pm everyday
Where: 55 Huaykaew Rd, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50300
3. Ping Fai Festival (Fin Market): A night bazaar that starts at 4pm until 12am from December 21st-28th, where you can get great deals, shop, eat, and enjoy free concerts! Get to know the locals and try some authentic Northern Thai cuisine or any other type of food you desire. The festival even has large fire pits where you can roast marshmallows for 20 baht and buy cheap cocktails in small buckets. It’s a wonderfully bizarre bazaar, where you can fill your night with magical moments with friends.
When: 4pm-12am, December 21st – 28th
Where: One Nimman & Think Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand
4. Explore the Anusarn Market Night Bazaar: This night bazaar is one of the best Chiang Mai has to offer! It is on every night of the year and has everything a local or tourist could want or need. There are tons of food options on their own or in food courts. It has grocery shopping & dried fruit sold in bulk for a low price, bargain clothes or tailor made, entertainment like the Thai Ladyboy Cabaret Shows & live music, postcards, keychains, tourist keepsakes, cheap massages (offered at around 100 baht for 30 mins & 160 baht for an hour), pedicures & fish spas, as well as any other handmade souvenir trinket you desire. You do not want to miss out on this market, it has everything and a great safe atmosphere to go by yourself, with family, or friends. Christmas at this market is special as they give you exceptional discounts and have Christmas trees and lights put up everywhere.
Where: 149/24, 149 27-28 Changklan Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100
Hours: 11:30am-12am midnight although the night vendors usually arrive at 6pm and this is when it turns into the night bazaar
5. Watch a Thai Ladyboy Cabaret Show: Who doesn’t love a good laugh on Christmas? The Thai Ladyboy Cabaret shows will lift your mood and get you in the holiday spirit! They have such entertaining, comedic numbers filled with humour and good laughs while they also put on very seductive, well choreographed numbers where they grace the stage with their stunning beauty. The shows are around an hour and start at 9:30pm so maybe catch one on Christmas Eve or Christmas day after a nice dinner.
Price: Tickets sold at the door, 350 baht per person including a free drink and a seat at a table with bar stools (buy tickets an hour or two in advance)
When: Every night at 9:30pm, special holiday shows choreographed for Christmas
Where: Anusarn Market Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai, Thailand
How To Get There: Catch a tuk tuk or a songthaew and tell them to bring you to the night market, usually costing 50-100 baht per person, per trip (the price usually doubles around 10pm or late at night)
**Warning: To the men who are not comfortable being pulled up on stage or flirted with by Thai ladyboys, do not sit in the first 3 rows because they will incorporate you into the show (like this guy)**
6. Take a Thai Cooking Class: Take part in an authentic Thai cooking class where you get to learn to make 5-7 traditional northern Thai dishes. Starting the class off at a food bazaar where you get to pick and learn about the ingredients you will be using before heading back to the class to cook and finally dig into the delicious dishes you have prepared! Don’t worry my plant based foodies, if you email ahead and ask them, they will always help you to change all the recipes into vegan versions using tofu and soya sauce instead of fish sauce & meat.
Find a cooking class that works for you on tripadvisor!
They also offer a cooking class at Vegan Heaven for only 1200 THB per person. The class starts at 10am where you cook 5 dishes, get a free recipe book and get to enjoy eating your meals after! Maximum 4 people and a pre-booking is required with 50% deposit because the location is notorious for tourists signing up then not showing.
Where: Vegan Heaven on 44/6 Loi Kroh Road
Look up reviews on tripadvisor!
7. Get a Massage: In Chiang Mai there are tons of places where you can get a good massage for cheap (around 200-300 baht). Most places have tons of options depending on what type of massage you are looking for. Although be warned, if you go to a massage parlour on Loi Kroh Road, this street is known for being the center of Chiang Mai’s Red Light District. Loi Kroh Road is full of tattoo shops, bars, pubs, and massage parlours. If you are strictly looking for a professional massage make sure you check out the massage parlours on google or tripadvisor first and then look at the reviews and lastly, before confirming your massage make sure the place is busy, in the open, and has more of a family atmosphere. If the ladies are wearing a masseuse version of scrubs, that’s a good sign but if they are wearing a little mini dress and heels, you will get a very different type of massage.
Massage parlours highly rated on google:
When: 9am – 12am
Where: 10 Loi Kroh Rd, Tambon Chang Khlan, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50100
In my experience, this place was good and professional despite being on Loi Kroh Road but it was too gentle for my taste, although a lot of people have enjoyed the massages from White Orchid.
Where: Rachadamnoen Rd, Sri Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200
- Zen Spa and Massage Chiang Mai
Where: 6/1 Taewarit Rd, Tambon Chang Phueak, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50300
Where: 4/2 Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200
** Make sure to check with the reviews on google and tripadvisor before booking a massage to suit your needs and preferences**
8. Go on a hike: For the adventurers out there, Chiang Mai is gorgeous and close to so many incredible hikes.
Top three recommended hikes:
- Wat Pha Lat to Wat Doi Suthep – one of Chiang Mai’s most popular hikes and a perfect mix of culture and adventure!
- Doi Pui to Doi Suthep – Beginning on the top of Doi Pui mountain and hiking through thick evergreen forest and hill-tribe villages, ending at Doi Suthep Temple.
- Huay Tung Tao Circular Hike – Hiking around the beautiful Huay Tung Tao lake, passing the Mook Waterfall and many bamboo huts along the side of the lake where you can chill out and enjoy a picnic lunch. Make sure to pack some hardy snacks and lots of water!
Culture Trip has more information on these hikes if you’re interested!
- Bua Tong “Sticky Waterfalls” – An hour and a half drive outside the city of Chiang Mai, these falls are unique because of the specific mineral deposit in the rock that makes the rocks especially grippy (like a hardened sponge). This allows you to climb directly up the rock while the water is pouring down towards you making this climb refreshing and a thrilling adventure. Because you are committing to a full day of travelling, hiking, and exploring, make sure you bring lots of food, water, a hat, sunscreen, and extra clothes since you will probably get wet. It is recommended to bring a big picnic blanket to lay on during lunch since you’ll need a break from climbing and adventuring.
Check out Tieland to Thailand for more information on this hike!
9. Get a Tattoo: If you are a tattoo enthusiast, Chiang mai is definitely the place for you! There are tons of professional, clean tattoo shops for you to choose from depending on your style and artist preference. Because of the constant tourist turnover here, getting an appointment within a few days is quite easy to do if you already have an idea or a design picked out. They will tweak the design or draw you an entirely new one based on your requests. Here are a few highly rated shops we recommend:
When: 9am – 12am
Where: 44/2 Loi Kroh Rd, Tambon Chang Khlan, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50100
They require 1000 baht deposit to hold your booking through cash, paypal, or bank transfer.
We highly recommend this tattoo shop, as they did an exceptional job on my partners tattoo. It is more gorgeous then we could of ever imagined.
When: Noon – 7pm (Closed Sunday)
Where: 14/6 Nimmana Haeminda Road Lane 13, Chiang Mai 50200
When: Monday to Friday 11am – 8pm (Saturday 1pm – 8pm & Closed Sunday)
Where: Nakornping Condominium, 2 Rajchaphrunk Road Chang Purk Amphur Muang Chiang Mai 50300
When: 1pm – 6pm
Where: 74 Ratchavithi rd., Sriphoom, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
When: 11am – 7pm
Where: 77/3 Samlaan rd, Mueang, Chiang Mai 50200
** Make sure to check with the reviews on google and tripadvisor before booking your tattoo to suit your needs and preferences**
10. Work With Elephants: In Chiang Mai there are many places you can volunteer to work with elephants and rehabilitation centers, protecting them from poachers and being abused in shows. Although be careful to look online on google and tripadvisor at reviews to make sure that you are going to a legit rehabilitation center and not paying money to exploit these beautiful animals. If they advertise “riding elephants” on the website/pamphlet, this is a bad sign that the elephants have been or are being abused to stay docile. Do your research first.
Bon Voyage Thailand is the best website I have found to help you choose the right elephant sanctuary experience for you!
11. Fireworks for New Years: Celebrate entering into the new year with some Thai fireworks at Thapae Gate (although be warned, it will be packed, every year Chiang Mai attracts over 5 million people, many of which are here during the holidays)! Along with the fireworks, you’ll also see tons of lanterns lit and released up into the sky, although beautiful these lanterns are known for being quite detrimental to the environment and contribute to Chiang Mai’s pollution and waste problem. So because of this I recommend not buying your own lantern, just go out and enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebration with the locals and tourists, grab a fruit smoothie and have fun. In every corner of the city there is a New Year’s Eve countdown so you’ll be sure not to miss it! There will also be tons of street vendors on the streets, live bands, and performances so you’ll be sure to find something to enjoy during the New Year’s Eve celebration!
Beautiful photo taken by The Shooting Star Blog, where she has more insight on the New Year’s Eve celebration in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I hope you now have some ideas of what you, your friends, and family can do to enjoy the holidays in Chiang Mai, Thailand! Best of luck and comment below if you would like more information on a specific topic or have any other information for our readers!