4 unusual experiences in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is a small bustling city that lies in the hills of Northern Thailand. An exciting place with lots of things to do. People fall in love with this place and end up staying longer than anticipated and for good reason, from cooking classes, jungle trekking, meditation, and yoga retreat to elephant sanctuaries. As much as these are all fun and amazing experiences to walk away with from your time in Chiang Mai, there are some things that you can only experience there that certainly need to be on your Northern Thailand Itinerary.

So get ready to leave with some amazing and unique memories with these 3 unusual things to do.

Ladyboy cabaret show

It ‘s no secret that Thailand is famous for ‘ladyboys’. It is refreshing to see how widely accepted it is there, compared to other countries. It is one of the many wonderful things about the country…no one is judged for who they are.

For a breathtaking evening, the cabaret show is based at the Anusarn Market, part of Chiang Mai’s famous night bazaar.

Colors, sequins, feathers, and moving stories about their day to day struggle of being born in the wrong body is told through music and dance and will no doubt will leave you in utter amazement.

This is a fun night and a great way to experience and understand another part of this fascinating culture. Everyone is very friendly at the show and no one is out to scam you. Just be prepared to give a small tip for the waiting service.

The show starts around 9:30 pm every night but go early to get a good seat as it does fill up fast.

Tickets cost around 250 baht, which also includes a drink in the price. A great bargain for a fabulous night.

Visit a hill tribe

In the far North, deep in the mountains live traditional hill tribes. The Karen long neck tribes originate from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) but fled to Thailand due to political unrest. They are settled on the Thai side of the border, which is easily reachable from Chiang Mai. They are best recognized for the elongated necks where the women of the tribe wear brass rings usually from birth to “stretch” their necks. The brass rings actually push their shoulders and rib cage down which makes the neck appear longer. The biggest reason why the next lengthening is still happening today is simply to keep hold of their traditional heritage. The brass rings were not just seen as a staple beauty item, but the real purpose of them was to originally protect them from tigers.

To visit the unique villages in Northern Thailand, you will need to scout out a tour guide. Ask for more information at your accommodation.

Take the time to get to know the tribes and their rich history by staying overnight at a homestay in the village and come away with a unique experience like no other.

Get a massage at a women’s prison

There are massage parlours everywhere in Thailand and Chiang Mai is no exception. All offering the same package, at the same price just like anywhere else.

In Chiang Mai, there is an opportunity to have an out of the ordinary experience and not put a dent in your wallet.

A visit to The Vocational Training Center of the Women’s Correctional Institute offers fantastic massages for around 150baht. The female inmates that are due to be released within 6 months perform the massages. The prisoners are participating in the prison’s job training rehabilitation program that is designed to teach these ladies a new trade that they could use once they are released. The idea of the program is to help the inmates turn their lives around and prepare for life outside. The money they earn is all theirs to keep and will help them once they are released.

So you can feel like a brand new person for the massage but also feel good about helping others. All in all, everyone wins.

You can find the Women’s Correctional Institute at 100 Th Ratwithi, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Can’t book far in advance. It is advised to book around an hour before. Foot/Traditional massages cost around 200-250Baht.

Get your crazy on at Art in Paradise 

On a rainy day, there is no better place to go to than Art with paradise, a 3D art museum which allows you to take pictures within 3D paintings. So you become the object within the piece of art. Some places will tell the story of Thailands history, others will have just plain right funny pieces for you to get involved in (like this one of me sitting on the toilet). It’s a great day, with friends, or family and it is especially a lot of fun for kids. Go photo crazy just like the Thais do.

You can find Art in Paradise 199/9 Changklan Rd. Changklan, Muang Chiangmai Thailand 50200

Have you been to Chiang Mai? What things have you experienced? 

This Guide is now available as a GPS Walking tour guide. Download here

11 Comment

  1. I love your images! I’ve always wanted to visit a hill tribe, there necks are incredible! Thankyou for sharing.

    1. Thanks, yes the hill tribes are quite special. Did you know the start the neck stretching from birth? Crazy!!

  2. Wow those are some very unique experiences. Which one was your favorite! Saved for later. Definitely makes me want to try some of them such as visiting the hill tribe. Also Art Paradise looks like great photo ops! So funny!

    – Hanna

    1. Art in paradise is certainly an experience.

  3. Interesting, I didn’t realize you could do a homestay in the hill tribe villages near Chiang Mai. When I did a jungle trek my guide brought me to one of these villages, but it was a super-negative, human-zoo type of experience that I definitely wouldn’t recommend. Glad to hear there are others operating on more sustainable models.

    1. Yeah, I really don’t like the human zoo thing and massive tourist traps. You just have to do your own research into it because tour companies and hotels will just put you with the company that gives them something great in return. Most of the time they’re just tourist traps, like the whole elephant argument. I got into quite a heated discussion lets say last time I was in Thailand with a tour agent about finding an elephant experience where riding is NOT an option and they aren’t chained up and she was not happy and was adamant the tour she was trying to sell didn’t do that but she didn’t have a leg to stand on when there was photographic evidence right next to her. So I guess sometimes going on your own and arranging things is much better.

  4. Cool post. I loved Chiang Mai and even though we didn’t visit the vocational training center itself, we got foot massages at one of the outposts that only employs ex-prisoners. It was a great massage!

    1. I think it’s so great that they give people chances in Thailand and help them learn a new skill after they have served time. so much kindness in a country that is so misunderstood in the media.

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