Chiang Mai is a great foodie city, with a wide range of dining options and an even wider range of price points.  It is possible to spend a single dollar on a good meal, and is seemingly difficult to spend $100.

For a guy who could eat Thai food every day for the rest of his life, I am in food heaven.  Noodles, many different curries, tons of fresh tropical fruit, and Thai style tea and coffee are always within an easy walk.

We’ve done our best to explore the breadth in our 10 days and counting.  This is what we’ve enjoyed so far.

Budget Meal

Every evening in the area surrounding the Chiang Mai Gate Market, food vendors come out en masse. Anything you have ever seen on a Thai menu is here somewhere. The environment reminded me a bit of a Taipei night market, but even more chaotic.

Chiang Mai Gate Night Market

Chiang Mai Gate Night Market

Locals and travelers alike savor the wares; you are as likely to dine next to a person from Thailand as from Holland or China or the US.

Buffet Style Thai Delights

Buffet Style Thai Delights

The environment is simple, with food carts, portable tables and plastic stools.  This is reflected in the incredibly low prices.

Most of the food is made to order, as was our example dinner.  It is great fun to watch the food preparation, and to speak with the owners.  Socializing makes everything taste better.

Dinner: Tom Yum Soup & Phad Thai

Dinner: Tom Yum Soup & Phad Thai

Bill for dinner for 2:
Seafood Phad Thai: 35 THD (~$1)
Seafood Tom Yum Soup: 45 THB (~$1.25)
Mango Fruit Smoothie, not shown: 20 THB (~$0.55)

Total: 100 THB (<$3)

For the early risers, Thai style coffee (with condensed milk) is available for 15 THB (<$0.50) in the same location.  For more upscale caffeine sources, check out this list of cafes on Nomadic Notes.

A Gentlemanly Coffee Break

A Gentlemanly Coffee Break

Mid-range Meal

Most restaurants throughout the city offer Thai staples at reasonable prices.  We’ve wandered into several as we explore the city.  One example is the 3 Sis Cafe (also a B&B) across the street from Wat Chedi Luang. Prices were definitely on the high end, but the food was great and it was pretty.

Green Curry with Fresh Roti

Green Curry Chicken with Roti and Mango Shake

Khao Soi with Fresh Coconut

Khao Soi Gai with Fresh Coconut

Lunch for two:
Khao Soi Gai (coconut curry noodle soup with chicken): 150 THB (~$4.25)
Green Curry with Chicken & Roti: 150 THB (~$4.25)
Extra serving of Roti (it was really good!): 60 THB (~$1.75)
Coconut: 60 THB (~$1.75)
Mango Shake: 60 THB (~$1.75)

Total (with tax and service charge): 573 THB (~$16)
Similar meals can be had around town for 400 THB or less (~<$10)

Elsewhere in a random place that I hope we find again, we ordered a serving of Coconut & Thai Tea ice cream with peanuts for 30 THB (<$1.)

Coconut & Thai Tea Ice Cream

Coconut & Thai Tea Ice Cream

Living Large

One of our first meals in Chiang Mai was at the Ruen Tamarind Restaurant in the Tamarind Village Hotel.  The hotel environment is gorgeous, as you would expect with single night rack rates that sometimes exceed our monthly rate of $375.

Fortunately, the restaurant prices are much more reasonable.  And worth every penny.

Tamarind Village Hotel Entrance

Tamarind Village Hotel Entrance

Tamarind Village Hotel Driveway

Tamarind Village Hotel Driveway

The meal

Sawadee Jao & Fried Banana Chips

Sawadee Jao & Fried Banana Chips

Tamarind Glazed Pork Ribs

Tamarind Glazed Pork Ribs

Yellow Curry with Chicken

Yellow Curry with Chicken

Shrimp with Salted Egg Yolk

Shrimp with Salted Egg Yolk

The bill for 2 people:
Goong Pad Kai Kem – Shrimp with Salted Egg Yolk – 580 THB (~$16)
Gaeng Kari Gai – Yellow curry with chicken. Hands down the best curry I’ve ever had – 280 THB (~$8)
Glazed Pork Spare Ribs – fall off the bone tender tamarind glazed baby back ribs – 390 THB (~$11)
Tub Tim Grob – Dessert – Rubies (Red Water Chestnuts) in Coconut Milk – 180 THB (~$5)
Sawadee Jao – Drink – lemongrass & ginger infused vodka and gin, passion fruit, longan honey, lime juice. Heaven in a glass – 280 THB (~$8)

Total with tax & service charge – 2,071.50 THB (~$58 USD)

As you can see, there is a wide range of dining options at every price tag and in every type of environment.

Budget conscious travelers have incredible options for just a few dollars per meal, and high end dining can be enjoyed for less than a trip to the Olive Garden in the United States.

Does this inspire Thai food cravings? Please consider tormenting your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

Happy Dining

Jeremy & Winnie, Go Curry Cracker!

Do you have any Chiang Mai favorites?  Where should we dine next?

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