(A trainer’s guide to the best gyms, yoga studios, outdoor activities, and healthy places to eat in Chiang Mai, Thailand.)
Known for it’s many beautiful Buddhist temples, bustling night markets, and delicious food, Chiang Mai should rank high on your list of places to visit in Thailand. This city is in the northern part of Thailand, about an hour flight from the nation’s capital of Bangkok. While there is always an abundance of things to see (and eat) in Chiang Mai, I’ve curated this health-focused guide on staying active and healthy in the land of tasty rice and noodles.
Where to Stay:
I stayed at a sleek, modern hotel named Bed Nimman. Located in the trendy neighborhood of Nimman, this hotel not only boasts a lovely pool to sunbathe at, complimentary bottled water (which saves you money and encourages you to stay hydrated), but also provided delicious breakfasts and free snacks throughout the day! Their service was impeccable and their staff was incredibly accommodating and welcoming. It’s location is also pretty central for walking around the neighborhood and is a short taxi ride to the Old City. Definitely recommend making this spot your home base.
Where to Work Out, Hike, Do Yoga, and Move:
It’s easy to fall out of your regimen while traveling, but I’ve found that incorporating movement as a way of exploring the city as the best way to do it all. For example, a hike outdoors lets you see the natural landscape and a fitness class connects you with locals/other travelers. I’ve found this mindset adds a more authentic lens to the city. Plus, you usually get more interesting travel stories!
Traditional gyms with fitness equipment & group exercise classes:
A great affordable, no-frills gym @ Fitness Thailand
A Very Luxe Gym @ Maxx Professional Fitness
Fitness Thailand – located just north of the Old City and east of the trendy Nimman neighborhood, this is a great no-frills gym to lift weights, use machines, and even check out a couple group fitness classes. Showers and lockers available, but bring your own lock, towel, and soap. Same-sex sauna rooms are also available in the locker rooms. Day pass cost about $6 USD and gave you access to the entire facility.
Maxx Professional Fitness – if you’re looking for a bit of a more luxurious gym experience, look no further. Located inside the Maya Shopping Center Mall, this gym is insanely clean, provides workout equipment such as TRX bands, battle ropes, and even vibration plates, and offers great group fitness classes. Locker rooms offer RFID keys (fancy!) and boast both steam and sauna rooms. Shampoo and shower gel provided, but towels are not. Tip: bring your own towel for showers/working out or rent theirs for a small fee.
Outdoor activities and yoga studios:
Climb the Bua Thong (Sticky) Waterfall
Hike the 300 Step Staircase to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
Bua Thong Waterfall – where else can you climb up a multi-tiered waterfall in the Thai jungle? This small, but beautiful waterfall is made of limestone and mineral deposits, earning its nickname “sticky waterfall” because visitors can walk up the waterfall without slipping. The limestone is rough like a pumice stone, but not painful underneath your feet. With 5 different levels to climb up (and ropes to assist), this is a fun daytime activity to cool off amidst the hot Thailand sun. Not many tourists know about this spot yet, so expect mostly locals here. About an hour and a half drive away from the main city, I recommend going with a couple people to split the cost of a taxi fare. Definitely worth the visit regardless.
Temple Hike to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Chiang Mai has a plethora of temples to explore, but this one makes you hike 300 steps to view its impressive gold adorned beauty. Unless you go very early in the morning, expect crowds at any time of the day as this is a popular temple. Ladies, if your knees and shoulders aren’t covered, make sure you have Thai baht with you to rent a cover to wrap your body out of respect to the religious site.
– If you’re looking for a place to flow and twist out the toxins from eating excessive pad thai noodles, check out Hidden House Yoga
and Wild Rose Yoga Studio
for drop in yoga classes. Check their websites or Facebook pages for updated schedules on types of yoga classes and times they’re offered.
Walking at the Night Markets – This is completely free and actually was one of my favorite things to do in Chiang Mai. At night, the temperatures finally cool down to have a pleasant evening stroll and the bustling night markets are a great alternative to going out to bars. I highly recommend the Anusarn Night Market not only for its size and various things to check out (including a Ladyboy show), but also for the most delicious street food. If you’re going to indulge with the locals, this is the place to do it.
Where to Find Healthy Food and Drinks:
Orange Zest Coffee Latte & Butterfly Pea Flower Latte (with non-dairy milks!) @ SS1254372 Cafe
Vegan Nori Wraps and Green Juice Elixir @ Pure Vegan Heaven – Chiang Mai
Chicken Veggie Stir-Fry (made by yours truly!) @ Smile Organic Farm Cooking School
*Tip: look up these spots on Google maps when you have WiFi, then “star” the locations to save them to your maps so that you can locate them when you’re offline*
SS1254372 Cafe – great for brunch and artisanal lattes
Overstand Coffee Old City – hipster coffee shop that offers nondairy milk options. limited seating, but very trendy.
Pure Vegan Heaven Chiang Mai – tip: make sure to wear extra bug repellent because the mosquitos here are particularly thirsty here
Ginger Farm Kitchen – beautiful restaurant, great food options, plus healthy juices
Rustic and Blue The Farm Shop – one of the pricier options but they have very healthy smoothies, juices, desserts, and even kombucha!
Asa Vegan Kitchen and Studio – strong wifi if you’re looking for somewhere to work
Musashi (if you’re looking for the best sushi!)
Khunkae’s Juice & Smoothie Bar – we had the best green juices here! they also do health shots and prepare everything fresh to order
Smile Organic Farm Cooking School – not exactly “healthy” but it was eye opening to see how much oil and sugar go into most Thai dishes (and learn the basics to adapt healthier versions once I’m back at home). I highly recommend doing a cooking class while in Chiang Mai because it’s a great way to understand the culture behind the food, and this place in particular teaches you about the Thai ingredients by walking you through their organic farm.
For when you want to indulge, because you’re human and on vacation:
Kanom Krok (Thai coconut pancakes) @ Anusarn Night Market
Dash – a trendy restaurant offering delicious food in a beautiful ambience. recommend going early or making a reservation because spots fill up fast. try to eat at their floor seats for a traditional dining experience.
Khao Soi Nimman – you can’t leave Chiang Mai without trying Khao Soi, their signature noodle dish! we had the most amazing Khao Soi in Nimman.
Namanema Coconut Sea Salt Ice Cream – nondairy, coconut ice cream made fresh, a worthy indulgence.
Anusarn Night Market street food – We had the best pad see ew here at the cheapest price. One thing definitely worth checking out – Kanom Krok, delicious Thai coconut pancakes that are made fresh and are insanely addictive (pictured above).
Have any healthy recommendations for Chiang Mai that I missed? Feel free share them below!