Exploring Chiang Mai's Old City and Nimmanhaemin (Coffee Edition)

Chiang Mai’s Old City [ActivityFan.com link] is a highly walkable square measuring about 1.5KM from side to side. The city dates back to the late 1200s and there are many ancient sites that can still be enjoyed by tourists. Apart from the obvious city wall and moat, numerous Buddhist temples are spread out throughout the area and feel like a step back in time and pace of life.

My 2019 visit marked the third time I had been to Chiang Mai as a tourist on a short trip of only 1-2 weeks. Each time I go I find new places and experiences that continue to mark this place as highly enjoyable yet still exotic to my western culture. For my daughters lots of great shopping is to be had with bargains easy to come by.

I know it might be hard to believe, but this may have been my first time to try durian. I often saw durian in the Philippines and other tropical places where I have lived or visited, but never tried it for myself. Until now.

Akha Ama Coffee

I first learned about Akha Ama Coffee during my last visit as an American friend of mine, based in Chiang Mai and working in the coffee industry, couldn’t say enough good things about them. Their storefront I visited was in the Old City on Rachadamneon St and coming from Portland this felt very comfortable. It was the closest vibe to any I visited harkening to the third wave coffee experience and comfortable, yet industrial design. Naturally I chose the cortado, as I do these days whenever I can, and it was spot on. I briefly met Lee, the founder, on my previous visit and it doesn’t surprise me that he has ties with Stumptown in Portland.

Nine One Coffee

My daughters and I had left the AirBnb to the south of the Old City and were now situated in Nimmanhaemin, a trendy spot just to the west of the Old City. Out for a Sunday afternoon walk and in need of a coffee break, we stumbled upon Nine One Coffee. The baristas were friendly, the space cute and cozy, and the coffee (matcha tea in my case since asking for a cortado warranted a quizzical look) served with delicate care with a special attention paid to beauty. I like that.

Several coffee shops in Chiang Mai are directly tied to farms not too far outside of the city. Nine One was among that batch. Vice has a great article that explains nicely the background of Nine One; of how a former government employee in Bangkok traded the hustle and bustle for a slower pace, rich in aroma and meaning. The kind that make me think about how that seemingly overpriced cup of coffee, in this case from Nine One, directly benefits families who put in the blood, sweat and tears that give me my afternoon calm.

Massages

The ready availability of inexpensive soothing massages is always a draw whenever I’m in Thailand. Pretty much every day, I at least consider whether I have time to fit in a foot/leg massage, or shoulder/back/head massage, or even traditional Thai massage. For my girls’ first experience at this, we opted for the traditional Thai massage. We were not disappointed. There are so many places in which to get a massage, including outside the mall on a weekend evening or at the Sunday night market, that I can’t rate or recommend. They all feel great to me!

Wat Jetlin

This Buddhist temple on Prapokkloa Rd just north of the Three Kings Monument was my favorite of the Old City temples. The space was relaxing, the tourists few, and whenever there is a water feature I’m like putty in their hands.

Fern Forest Cafe

We met up with old friends from Malawi and Mozambique who now live in Chiang Mai! What a relaxing spot to eat! The food was much too spicy for me, and that’s saying something, but an enjoyable time was had none-the-less and next time I’ll order something different.

Could I replicate this back home in Portland? That’s pretty much a regular running thought as I am amazed at the many unique and beautiful ways Thais have beautified their surrounding using water, plants and fish

Could I replicate this back home in Portland? That’s pretty much a regular running thought as I am amazed at the many unique and beautiful ways Thais have beautified their surrounding using water, plants and fish

On our first tuktuk ride together in which we were headed to RX Cafe to visit friends we met in Portland who now work in Chiang Mai and help with RX Cafe operations

On our first tuktuk ride together in which we were headed to RX Cafe to visit friends we met in Portland who now work in Chiang Mai and help with RX Cafe operations