When I first arrived in Chiang Mai, I had no idea where to start in terms of becoming a healthier person (and a well-coiffed one, too). It isn’t difficult to find places which cater to expats or western travelers in Chiang Mai, thanks to its ridiculously huge digital nomad scene, and its unending supply of english teachers.
But, the key is to find the places other expats/travelers recommend.
It took me years of living in Chiang Mai to discover all the city had to offer in terms of health and beauty.
//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsHands down, the best hair stylist in the city for hair (doesn’t matter what type of hair you’ve got) is Vera at New York – New York Hair Salon. This Aveda salon in Nimmanhaemin offers all the gorgeous hair services a person needs, from the generic cut/color to ombre to color dips to digital perms. I love this salon, not only because how super model my hair would come out, but because of the level of pampering you get while in the chair. I’m talking four people highlighting, an incredible (and long) head massage, how towel wrap, hand massage and then a blow-dry with another few people. It’s decadent. And, for the price (around $20 for a cut, more western prices for the color), it’s worth it.
There are more and more gyms popping up in Chiang Mai. In Nimmanhaemin, there is the popular Power House. Near the Night Bazaar is Duangtawan Hotel, which has a smaller gym, but also gives you access to its pool with spectacular views of the city, plus a hot tub and steam room.
Then, there is my gym, Fitness Thailand. It is a little more gritty, housed in an ugly building just across from the Old City. Located on the 8th floor, it’s got floor-to-ceiling windows which deliver some serious views of Doi Suthep and the city below.
While some of the equipment is a bit outdated, and some of the equipment is in need of repair, for 1500 baht a month (cheaper if you purchase bulk months), it’s got what you need to work out. Plus, it offers heaps of classes included in the cost of membership. The instructors are Thai but they do switch up to English. Fitness Thailand is a nice mix of locals, expats and random travelers who purchased a 200 baht day pass to get some fitness on without overheating outside.
It seems that there are yoga studios everywhere in Chiang Mai. And, there are.
My favorite is Yoga Tree, located on the south side of the moat. Set back from the main street, this is a little sanctuary with wooden floors, walls of windows and helpful instructors who speak English. You can pay-as-you-go or purchase a 10-pass for 500 baht.
In the past few years, Chiang Mai’s shopping malls selection has grown rapidly. When I arrived, there were two — Airport Plaza a little outside of the main city, and Kad Suan Kaew, just northwest of the moat, en route to Nimmanhaemin. Then, it was like every developer decided to open up shopping centers and now there are five. For upscale shopping, head to Maya in Nimmanhaemin.
For general western store shopping, my favorite is Central Festival. I could spend hours in this mall, largely because it’s got the only H&M in town. It’s also got Zara, Mango, Uniqlo and others. It isn’t in town, but there are shuttles which take you there, or you can hire a songthaew for around 100 baht or a tuk tuk for a bit more. When leaving Central Festival, there are both options available to transport you home. The songthaews offer a fixed price if you are willing to wait until they fill up to take you home.
Major cosmetic stores exist in Chiang Mai, whether you’re looking for MAC or Bobby Brown or other lines. Head into Central department store to be overwhelmed by the options, or hit up The Body Shop or others at Airport Plaza.
If you’re into organic, natural products, there is a great shop, Good Health Market, southeast of Pantip Plaza. Here you can buy all the supplements, organic teas, health foods and more.
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Because of the laid-back scene in Chiang Mai, there are plenty of opportunities to expand your mind. Facebook groups will post mandala events, meditation events and more. Plus, many of the yoga studios offer meditation and retreats.
If you really want to get into meditation, temples around the city also offer donation-based meditation courses for three, seven, 10 or 28 days.
There are also a couple of book stores which have english-language books. My favorite is Suriwong Book Center, located on the same street as Good Health Market.
Massage shops are easy to find in Chiang Mai, but not all are created equal. My favorite is Green Bamboo, located on Moon Muang Soi 1. This spot is all organic and the team is amazing. If you want to experience the treatments here, make an appointment, especially in high season.
For instant gratification, head to Lila Massage. With numerous locations throughout the city, this spot consistently delivers.
What kind of massage is right for you? The traditional Thai massage is a lot of stretching, elbows and deep tissue work. I personally prefer the head, neck, back and shoulder massage. There is also the oil massage, but be prepared ladies, it isn’t like the western massages you are used to.
For foot massages (and they are incredible) head to Loi Kroh and one of the spots which has seating on the “sidewalk.” An hour is cheap and the ladies there are strong.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive place to stay — either long or short term — check out Smith Residence.
For books on Thailand, check out my favorites:
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