Solo Trip to Chiang Mai: My 2 1/2 Days Itinerary

Authored By:

Lauren S.

I am an introvert. I always have been and always will be. When I was younger, people would underestimate me, my intelligence, and my competence just because I was quiet. When people thought poorly of me, I began to feel that way about myself. I tried to run from my introverted behaviors and force myself into extroversion. However, I learned that you cannot change who you are, and that's a good thing! You are who you are meant to be. The world needs introverts, and thus the world needs people like me.

By leaning into my introversion, I felt less guilty about enjoying time alone and started going on amazing solo adventures in Thailand. Most recently, I spent three magical days in Chiang Mai. Here's how it went, what I did, and my tips for traveling!

a young woman in a blue outfit poses in front of a waterfall

I get to leave school at 4:30 Mon-Fri, so the second the minute hand on the clock hit 30, I was out the door. I caught a Grab (Thai Uber) to Bangkok, where I hopped on my night bus. Night buses are a great way to travel for quick trips because they save time and money. They are not always the comfiest, but sometimes the experience is worth a rough night's sleep. Somehow, I lucked into my own seat, so I had more room to spread out and actually got some rest.

I arrived in Chiang Mai 11 hours later and SPRINTED to the nearest McDonald's. I never eat at McDonald's in the US, but here, it is my comfort food. After breakfast, I caught another ride to my hostel, where I dropped off my bags and got ANOTHER ride to my first excursion. Luckily, this ride came included in the cost of the ticket. I was going ziplining! I work at a zipline/adventure ropes course in North Carolina, so when I found out the tallest and longest zipline in Asia is in Chiang Mai, I HAD to go. The cost of your ticket includes transportation to and from your hotel/hostel, which came in clutch because the sight is 1 and 1/2 hours away from the city center up a mountain! Doing touristy group trips like this can be cringey, but group tours can save you time, money, and a headache trying to find transportation to some of these out-of-the-way locations.

The zipline is called King Kong Smile, and it was one of the best times of my life! I cannot say enough good things about my experience there. It is 1200 meters high over the most beautiful mountains. I wasn't scared because I'm used to heights from my job back home, but if you are scared of heights, there is no time to be. The guides hook you up, tell you to pick up your feet, and push you down the zipline in a matter of seconds- no time for hesitation, no time for turning back. Without realizing it, you are suddenly gliding over a breathtaking view, wind in your hair, butterflies in your stomach, and without a care in the world.

a young woman in a green tie-dye outfit poses as she zips down a zipline

After our time in the sky, which took about two hours, the other visitors and I ate a buffet lunch and got dropped off at our hotels. In total, this excursion took about 7-8 hours. We arrived in the city center around 4 pm, and I headed to the Saturday Night Market. I LOVE the Chiang Mai markets. The food is elite, the clothes are cheap, and there's music and good vibes everywhere you turn. I spent too much money on clothes and trinkets but left with a full stomach and a happy heart.

I stayed in Dozy House. It was the cheapest hostel I could find with a decent rating. The location and the staff were spectacular, but the beds did not have curtains. Therefore, everyone could see you sleeping in bed, which made me very uncomfortable. However, I spent so little time at my hostel that it was worth it for the low cost I paid. I chose the cheapest transport and accommodations, so I could spend more on activities. If you're traveling on a budget as well, I would recommend making a list of priorities and ranking them based on value, so you can decide how you want to divvy up your money. Do you want to stay in a nicer place and eat fancier food? Do you want more convenient transportation or hop on a night bus? Souvenirs or experiences? An idea of what is most important to you can help you decide how to budget for travel.

The next day, I woke up super early for another excursion. Thankfully, they picked me up from my hostel again for the long drive to Doi Inthanon National Park. There, we took a long hike through the beautiful mountains, stopping to take pictures at waterfalls and admire giant spiders. We arrived at a small village and ate lunch with the locals. Then, we were treated to a coffee and tea tasting. Northern Thailand used to be ridden with an opioid crisis. One of the small villages' main sources of income came from growing and selling opioid plants. However, the opioids destroyed the soil and robbed it of its nutrients. A few decades ago, they took a risk by planting thousands of pine trees and coffee bean trees in an attempt to renourish the soil. It worked! Now, the local villages sell the coffee and tea they grow from the new trees. After hearing their story, I spent soooo much money buying their coffee and tea to take home. No regrets though because it was so delicious!

Purple pagoda in the background of a lush garden with purple and red flowers and a wooden bridge over a small creek

After some much-needed food, we moved on to the Twin Pagodas. This was one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen. It is two pagodas on top of a mountain, one for the king and one for the queen. Because these structures are for the royal family, they are extremely well-manicured and absolutely stunning. I could barely believe my eyes!

Then, it was time for the elephants. Elephants may be the national animal of Thailand, but that does not mean all elephants are treated ethically. Only 8,000 elephants remain in Thailand and many are exploited for tourism. I felt hesitant to go to the elephant sanctuary because some "sanctuaries" use the name to create the idea that the elephants are well taken care of when, in reality, they are not. However, the excursion partnered with the Living Green Elephant Sanctuary, which has one of the highest ratings for its elephants' quality of life. I will be writing another blog on elephants in Thailand and how to pick the best, most ethical ways to see them, so stay tuned for that!

Spending time with elephants feels so spiritual. The elephants at Living Green are 40-50 years old! I didn't even know elephants lived that long! We fed them sugar cane and bananas, then walked with them to a nearby creek to bathe them. I definitely had elephant poo in my hair, but it was so worth it!

big elephants in a dusty field

Exhausted from the long, active day, we took the 1 1/2-hour drive back to the city center. Tired as I was, I still walked around the Sunday Night Market because I wanted to make the most of my last night in Chiang Mai.

The next morning, I got another early start. I ate some fried bananas for breakfast (you must try these when you come to Thailand) and wandered to the Annual Chiang Mai Flower Festival. I did not know the flower festival was happening until I got there and am so glad to have stumbled upon it. A park in Old Town blossomed with gorgeous flowers. Orchids, sunflowers, hydrangeas, lilies, you name it! The whole block smelled amazing! After that, I caught a motorbike to Chiang Mai University's Fine Arts building. I majored in Art History in college, so I was curious to see a Thai university. To my surprise, their campus looked very similar to the one I graduated from, the University of Arkansas. Their art building had a very similar vibe to my own. It felt weird to be back on a college campus having graduated only nine months ago!

Time for lunch! I found a super cute coffee where I journaled for a while before walking around the malls and shops on the west side of the city. I even accidentally walked up a clock tower!

view of Chiang Mai from an airplane

Before I knew it, it was time to head to the airport for my flight. This trip was only three days, but I felt like a different person coming back to school. I accomplished so much for myself in that short time frame, ziplining on the TALLEST ZIPLINE IN ASIA, riding a night bus by myself, bathing elephants, the list could go on and on. My confidence and trust in myself grew exponentially. Solo traveling can be scary and lonely, but I enjoyed my time with myself, took care of myself, and had once-in-a-lifetime adventures along the way.

All of this to say, if there is something you want to do- DO IT! Even if you can't find somebody who wants to join your travels, let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals. You know yourself best, you can take care of yourself best. Being alone does not mean being lonely. Be your own best friend and explore this magical, wonderful world we're living in. 


Have a blessed day and safe travels!