In December we went to Thailand for two weeks to meet up with my sister, who has been backpacking around India and Asia for the last few months. We flew into Chiang Mai from Ottawa (with stops in New York City and Guangzhou), and immediately loved the city. There is so much to do in this city, and it doesn't feel as touristy as I expected it to. I'd read that Bangkok was a bit overwhelming so we decided to make Chiang Mai our only big city stop in Thailand. Obviously since I didn't go to Bangkok I can't compare, but my sister went to both and claims Bangkok is not nearly as nice.
We stayed at a hotel called "Ben Nimman", which was a lovely little hotel just outside of the walled town of Chiang Mai, on the way from the airport. They had the most amazing breakfast I've ever had included in a room. Seriously, I would go back and spend a month here in a heartbeat. The first two days we spent around Chiang Mai, eating all the food and seeing lots of temples. Doi Suthep and the Royal Palace on the way up the mountain was a really nice way to spend the day, but bring a sweater and cover up appropriately so that you don't have to rent the silly clothes like we did ;) We hired a 'public bus' for the day and our driver took us to our destinations and waited for us to take us on to the next one. The people are so friendly, I really recommend doing this instead of taking some sort of organized tour. You get a local driver to talk to which was our favourite part, and they can take you to places that are a bit less touristy.
On our way back down from Doi Suthep we asked if we had time to see one of the many waterfalls, and our guide took us to this spot. We were pretty much the only people there, and it would have been really hard to find if we were looking for it, but our driver dropped us off just at the trail head. I imagine there are many beautiful waterfalls, but unfortunately I don't know the name of this one.
I have so many photos that these are just a few of the highlights, and I had to split them into many posts, but if you have any questions about where we went please feel free to ask in the comments! Next post will be Chiang Mai Part II.