Chiang Mai has every type of accommodation and there is plenty of advice out there as to where to stay but, as cyclists, we have a slightly different perspective and here I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on where I think are the best places to stay for those whose main reason for visiting Chiang Mai is the cycling.
The traditional tourist areas are the Old City, Tha Pae Gate, The Night Bazaar and the riverside. My advice would be to stay clear. Yes, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to night life and western food outlets but these are not convenient places from which to start your ride.
Look at the map of meeting points for group rides. Most rides start on Canal Road (Highway 121) and head away from the city to the north or to the south. Getting to those meeting points from the traditional tourist areas will involve crossing the city and dealing with extra traffic at the start and end of your rides. And even if you have no intention of riding with a group, you’ll still end p going past one of those meeting points on the majority of your rides if you are going to be enjoying the best riding Chiang Mai has to offer.
Most temporary visitors seem to stay somewhere close to the junction of Huay Kaew Road and Canal Road. There is a good reason for this. It is convenient for Canal Road and thus the majority of meeting points, the city is accessible by songtaew or tuk tuk and the trendy Nimmanheiman area with it’s fancy restaurants and happening bars is on the doorstep. For first-time visitors, this area (marked green on the map) is where I would generally recommend.
The one drawback with this is that it is a 10 kilometre schlepp along Canal Road to get to Casa Del Cafe, the meeting point for many of the southern rides and even further to the meeting point on the river for rides into the Southern Hills. Quite a few of the ex-pats who live here year round have chosen to live in or around Hang Dong, a suburb 10 kilometres south of the city and close to the southern meeting points. The idea of staying in a suburb probably won’t appeal to many short term visitors and for rides heading north, they have the schlepp, but for anyone who is coming solely for a cycling trip and who is going to head south more frequently than north, it might be worth considering. If you do decide that Hang Dong is the area for you I would highly recommend that you check out Ian Franklin’s place. Ian is well known in the cycling community, a regular rider and a great source of information on rides, routes and all things related to cycling in Chiang Mai and beyond.