Our apartment was to the west of the city, just north of Nimmanhaemin Road. A mix of students and expats, we enjoyed the atmosphere and vibrancy of the area. The East of the city, where a lot of backpacker hostels and hotels are located, by contrast felt a bit like a tourist ghetto with the same bars and farang friendly restaurants. By contrast, we sat with locals where we lived. Here is our pick of Nimmanhaemin Road restaurants and bars that we love…
Think Park is a cute little cobbled courtyard opposite Maya Mall and reminds me a bit of Shoreditch in London. Home to a number of pop-up boutiques and bars, it has a great atmosphere – particularly at night – and some cute little restaurants. We loved Hamburg which is nestled in the centre of the complex and, as the name suggests, served hamburgers. And damn good they are too. Great for popping to before heading to the cinema at Maya mall.
Guu Roti is on the corner of Nimmanhaemin Road and Soi 3. A cheap, fast food joint that sells the most amazing filled rotis until 10pm at night. You can choose from savoury Thai-inspired fillings, or go sweet. You could also take a leaf out of our book and just order ALL the rotis. Try and grab the outside table by the chefs – they are proper show-offs and will put on a good show!
The Coffee Cottage at Soi 7 was our favourite place to eat in Chiang Mai and did amazing Northern Thai food. I would walk miles for another Khao Soi like that. The welcome is as pleasant as the food, and on our return trip we got presented with free Thai tea and orange slices (which go together surprisingly well!). The owner will help perfect your Thai and also makes a delicious salad dressing which she sells for 50 baht if you are self catering! Look for the sign with a photo of a lady on!
Tucked away down Suk Kasane Road, Cherng Doi Roast Chicken does a simple but well executed menu. As well as the chicken namesake, it does a mouthwatering crispy pork and a tear-inducing spicy papaya salad. Magic. Portions are on the small side, so feel free to order more than one dish each!
In the mood for a curry one evening, we stumbled upon Accha Fusion Indian lurking down Soi 9 amongst the Starbucks complex. Expectations weren’t high, but we were pleasantly surprised; the small but filling curries tasted freshly cooked with a good level of spice and none of that nasty oiliness that plagues mediocre Indian food. Give the combo dishes a go; they offer delicious samples of two curries to try.
Lab Kai sits between Soi 15 and Soi 17. Slightly slow service eventually reveals tasty Thai dishes not found everywhere. The spicy winter melon soup is a delicious umami broth of chicken and large chunks of melon. The deep fried tofu chunks are a tasty way to occupy yourself until the mains turn up.
I couldn’t finish without mentioning our favourite naughty-snack lady, who served coconut ice cream out of the back of a pick up truck on Nimmanhaemin Road. In the dusty heat, it was a perfect end to a meal. You could even add 3 toppings; I went sweet with chocolate sprinkles, jelly balls and Dolly Mixture. Craig went a bit more adventurous with bread (yes, it works!), lychee and coconut jelly.
Bars of Nimmanhaemin Road
Back to Think Place again, the Basic Bar lives up to its name. Boxes and crates form the tables, and you sit outdoors people watching and soaking up the atmosphere. Just what Thailand’s street side bars have been for years, but more yuppified.
Also residing at the end of Think Place is Dogaholic, where beer is a pleasing 50 baht a bottle. They often have life music playing, and the seats sprawl out into the open air.
Heading further down Nimmanhaemin Road, the Kamrai bottle shop is an off license with a street side terrace outside for you to enjoy your purchases. The crowd is a mix of locals, expats and travellers, and with a range of drinks from Asian lager to Prosecco, I can see why. Beers start from 55 baht.
A little further up the road, the “Starbucks complex” (head for the sign) is a maze of little bars that come alive after dark, with tasty food stalls open just outside as well.
Looking to flash a little more cash? Mix Bar on Soi 1 does inventive molecular cocktails in a sophisticated garden setting. The food isn’t bad either, although the 12 page menu is a bit overwhelming.
A big trend in Thailand at the moment among the trendy young things is European beers. If you are really missing your favourite English ale or Italian lager, there’s a good chance you can find it at House of Beer (Nimmanhaemin Road) or Beer Republic (Soi 11) for a mere £6 a pint. Thankfully we aren’t that homesick…
If you need waking up or sobering up, Nimmanhaemin Road is a veritable strip of coffee bars – several are 24 hours just in case you need that caffeine fix at 4am…Not being big coffee drinkers, we needed some entertainment with our caffeine. If you need the same, head to Catmosphere! A short songtheaw from Maya mall, Catmosphere is home to 17 cats who will happily provide amusement all afternoon long. Take some paper – their Most Favourite Thing is a ball made of scrunched up paper, and chaos ensues when you innocently throw one into the mix. I eeked out two coffees for about three hours – impressively slow drinking by anyones standards.
Be careful though – some are shameless drinks stealers…
Smoothie joints are also ten a penny. We liked the smoothies at Salad Concept (the salads are ok too) for a much needed fruit hit!