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It’s no secret I adore Chiang Mai’s coffee scene. It’s mind boggling the number of cafes that have sprung up here over the past several years and the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping. Apparently, my love for Chiang Mai’s cafes and years of research have paid off as I was asked to create an itinerary for the Amazing Thailand’s Trip Planner app showcasing some of my favorite spots.
I decided to put together a 2-day weekend itinerary (although you could do most of it anytime) cafe-hopping through Chiang Mai.
Read on for all the details and be sure to make it to the end for information on how to use Amazing Thailand’s app to plan your one trip and participate in the current Facebook contest for the chance to win prizes for your next Thailand holiday…
First things first, you need to stay somewhere. Below I’ve listed a boutique and budget option for accommodation in three different parts of town: the Old City, just east of the Mae Ping River and in the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood. Each area has its own pros and cons, and plenty of cafes! (Click on the links to see more of the property and make a booking on Agoda.)
Start your day at Overstand Cafe in the Old City on Rachamankha Soi 2. Opening at 8:00 am, this is the place to wake up with your first coffee and a hearty breakfast before wandering north along the moat to Rathvithi Road. Turn left then turn right on the little soi just past the UN Irish Bar. Walk until you can turn right on another little soi and you’ve arrived at Graph Cafe.
Minimalist? Check. Tiny? Check. Customers with hats and cameras? Check? Excellent small batch coffee? Check. Graph Cafe marks all the hipster boxes – packed into a very small space – hidden in the Old City’s tiny sois. They also offer nitro cold brew coffee on tap and make a selection of inventive specialty drinks, like the “Monochrome” made with espresso, activated charcoal, vanilla and milk.
From Graph Cafe, it’s just a short walk west to Ponganes Coffee Roasters – head back out to Rathvithi Road and turn right, then turn left at the light onto Ratchipakinai Road. The shop will soon be on your right.
While I really like the coffee at all the places on this list, I’ve been going to Ponganes Coffee Roasters the longest (over five years!) and always have the perfect cup. Strong and rich but never bitter, I have to say that the beans from Ponganes are my favorite in town and what I use in my own home. Ponganes is now mainly a roastery and supplies beans to other cafes in town (including Overstand Cafe) however there are a few seats in the airy space.
Next, walk west along Rachadamnoen Road until you reach the Old City outlet of Akha Ama, called Akha Ama Coffee La Fattoria. Sourcing its own organic, fair trade coffee beans grown in the hills of an Akha village outside of Chiang Rai, Akha Ama is a social enterprise that grows, process, roasts and brews its coffee from bean to cup. Learn more here.
By now you should be four cups in – time to take a caffeine break!
Continue strolling through the Old City and simply see what you discover. Packed with temples (one of the largest, Wat Phra Singh, is just a few steps away from Akha Ama), boutiques, massage shops and more. I still love walking aimlessly around the Old City and seeing what I come across. Stopping to get a massage after your long morning of coffee tasting is never a bad idea either.
After a bit of a break and in need of your next buzz, make your way to the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood for one more hit of caffeine at Ristr8to Lab , a branch of the highly popular Ristr8to which is known for its elaborate latte art. The open-air Ristr8to Lab also serves booze, so start transitioning into the evening with a different kind of drink then wander the neighborhood.
Nimmanhaemin, or just Nimman for short, is packed with bars, cafes and restaurants so simply walk and find a spot that looks good for you. Some places I usually recommend for people coming in from out of town are Lab Gai Nimman serving small dishes of northern Thai food to share, the tasty vegetarian restaurant Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant or Cafe de Nimman for trendy Thai dishes.
Today we’re heading across the river (if you aren’t staying there already).
Start with the first coffee of the day at Khagee. To find it, cross over Narawat Bridge. Just on the other side of the bridge turn right to walk along the Chiangmai-Lamphun Road and keep an eye out for Khagee on your left after the Chiang Mai Christian School – it’s small!
Duck into the light, simple space for a coffee and little treat. I love the lemon tart.
From there, we’ll make a little detour. Head back toward the bridge (north on Charoenrat Road) and turn right at the bridge intersection onto Charon Muang Road. Walk straight a little ways until you reach Brewing Room on your left. Brewing coffee + living room = Brewing Room and this is where you’ll grab your second cup.
Afterward walk back to the bridge intersection and turn right, walking north along Charoenrat Road until you hit Woo Café on your right-hand side. Along with coffee and drinks, there’s a wide selection of food so stop for your real morning meal. Also make sure to spend some time in the connected home decor shop and art gallery.
After eating, continue wandering north along Charoenrat Road. This area is known as Wat Ket and there are a number of tiny boutiques and galleries around Woo Cafe to stop in at. Slowly make your way up the road, crossing through the four-way intersection until you reach Monsoon Tea.
Give me a choice and 9.9 times out of 10 I’ll choose coffee over tea, but Monsoon Tea is something special. I love the airy, retro-feeling space and the presentation of tea and a little selection of cookies. The shop specializes in offering wild and free-grown teas that come from the hills of northern Thailand and complements its wide selection of brews with a unique menu of both Lanna (northern Thai) and original recipes that often feature tea leaves.
Afterward, make your way back to the Old City. If you have the energy, wander through Wororot Market, which sells everything from fishing nets and live frogs for cooking, to gold chains and Chinese medicine shops, just west of the Mae Ping River.
Jump in a songthaew or tuk tuk and head to the hidden Clay Studio Coffee in the Garden located on a soi behind the Chiang Mai Gate market (at the south gate of the moat).
Linger here with one last coffee before wandering north to hit the main Rachadamnoen Road that runs east-west through the center of town for the Sunday Night Walking Street. I like getting here early around 4:30-5:00 while some stalls are still setting up and there are fewer people – it gets crowded quickly!
Explore the market and grab a bite to eat to end your Chiang Mai weekend.
(Fun fact: I do some work for both of those restaurants and they’re divine.)