Like a lot of people, I chose to make a long stop in Chiang Mai, Thailand because it’s cheap, easy to get around, and the food is amazing. I spent a month there in two different neighborhoods–first on Loi Kroh Road, and then in an area called Nimman.
During the first week in Chiang Mai, I had a place on Loi Kroh road, on the Southeastern corner of the city square. I chose it because it’s a busy area within walking distance of the night market, where you can gorge on street food and all the coconuts you could ever want, and there are lots of street food vendors, little shops, and restaurants.
What I didn’t know when booking is that Loi Kroh Street is famous for ‘massage’ parlors and escorts; It’s lined with dozens of massage houses and seedy bars full of women waiting for customers. At the night market here, you’ll start to notice lots of older men with a girl on their arm–usually helping them make sense of all the (probably mysterious and foreign-looking) food dishes and order dinner. I have no problem with sex workers, but I have a major problem with men who pick up girls young enough to be their child.
So, having done a bit more research, I moved outside the city square after a week to an Airbnb at the edge of Nimman, which gets its name from the series of numbered streets by the name ‘Nimmanhaemin’. This neighborhood has a completely different reputation–for artist studios, street art, and coffee shops with character–and it’s just a ten-minute ride to the city center.
If you like the arts and coffee culture, Nimman is the neighborhood for you. It’s popular with expats and digital nomads because it’s walkable and you can cafe-hop your way along the different streets until dinner time, and then get a delicious, inexpensive bowl of Khao Soi, the local specialty noodle curry dish.
I spent three weeks here and got to know and love the area, and I’ve put together this list of some of the best spots to eat, drink, and take care of errands (ah, laundry) in the Nimman neighborhood of Chiang Mai.
Cafes & Coffee Shops
Cottontree Coffee Roasters is a fifteen-minute walk past Maya Shopping Center at the top of the neighborhood. It’s a bright, airy, loft-style space and they take their coffee seriously, judging by the stack of coffee institution memorabilia from brands like Stumptown and Blue Bottle in their back room. They also serve a small food menu focusing on pastry and quality breads. You’ll have to be lucky to get a spot by one of the only two outlets, though, which are at either end of the tall tables at the front. What to get: A fresh croissant with jam and butter for 45B, or a more substantial sandwich for ~100B ($3 USD). (Website)
Dolcetto: A tiny, Italian-influenced cafe serving top-quality, locally roasted Ristr8o beans, with attention to detail. Their latte is on the pricier side, at 75B ($2.30 USD) but it’ll satisfy picky coffee fanatics. (Facebook)
Gallery Seescape: The concrete submarine-shaped building is easy to miss, but it’s a chill spot worth seeking out. Seescape is both a cafe and art gallery, showcasing local artists. The cafe menu is small, artfully made, and focused on quality. There’s also a small shop where you can buy locally made art pieces. Grab a coffee and enjoy the garden in back. (Website)
Healthy B Cafe: Healthy B is a cozy spot focused on clean food in a bungalow-like setting. There’s a sweet little patio with outdoor seating, and lots of outlets in the two indoor spaces, and they carry locally made products. The menu has a long list of breakfast sets that include a smoothie or coffee and choice of bread, and salad and panini options that appeal to the health-conscious crowd. What to get: Banana pancakes, the iced matcha latte, and a homemade cookie loaded with cinnamon and pumpkin seeds. (Facebook)
Nine One Coffee: Easy to miss but worth finding. Enjoy one of the cozy seats inside, or get a spot outside on terrace looking out on the street. What to get: Try the 9-1 Mocha, made with coconut milk. (Facebook)
Ombra Cafe: This is actually just outside of Nimman, tucked down an alley within walking distance. I love the cozy interior, which has multiple rooms and noise levels (library to noisy), shag throws, and Eames chairs that will make any design-lover feel at home. They’re open later than most cafes and serve beer and cocktails in the evening. What to get: The omelette with spinach, ham, and cheese, for 125B ($3.75 USD), or a fresh muesli bowl for 65B ($2 USD). (Facebook)
What to Eat and Where
The first thing I ask locals when I get to a new city is what to eat. Many times, the answer (always with a huge grin) was Khao Soi–a curried egg noodle soup with a rich, spicy, meat-based broth. Think of curry crossed with ramen. It’s topped with crunchy fried noodles and it’s seriously satisfying–a must-try if you’re in Chiang Mai.
Huen Muan Jai: This restaurant serves regional, Lanna cuisine from the Northeast, which is generally less spicy than Isan-style food that’s predominantly served in the rest of Thailand. They make the best Khao Soi I had in Chiang Mai. What to get: Fried beef, pork curry, and chicken Khao Soi (Khao Soi Gai). Expect to spend around 300B pp (~$10 USD). (Tripadvisor)
Khao Soi Nimman is a popular spot in the denser part of the neighborhood. Here, you get a bowl of Khao Soi with sliced pork for 70B (~$2.10 USD). I’m a chili freak and thought theirs was mild, but the broth was good and they turn out a lot of Khao Soi so it’s fresh, and it’s usually packed. (Google Maps)
Mango Sticky Rice sounds like nothing fancy, but it’s addictive! You can get it at most traditional restaurants, in little takeaway trays at the night markets, and at several food stands around Nimman. Mango sticky rice is best if you can find a place that serves it while the rice is still warm and topped with fried mung beans. It costs 25-60B.
Salad Concept: Started by two sisters who are passionate about healthy eating, this restaurant is one of two locations (the other’s in city center). The menu is huge and you can get healthy meals including both western and Thai-influenced salads, and fresh juices. You can also make your own salad by filling in one of the slips provided on the table. What to get: The Northern Thai wrap, made with a spicy herb dressing and Lanna-style Thai sausage, or the fried Dory with cucumber salad (and amazing dill dressing). Dishes range from 75B to 165B ($2.25-$5) on average. (Facebook)
Raw Truckr: Picture a concrete courtyard lined with little shops and salvaged bistro tables, add a food truck, and you’re at Raw Truckr, a tiny outfit that makes wings and fries. You can order your preferred level of spiciness and pair it with a bottle of wine from the wine bar in the same courtyard. An awesome date recipe–turn it up by heading up to the overlook at Doi Suthep afterwards. What to get: Any of their wings and parmesan fries. (Facebook)
Supplies and Lifestyle
Rimping Grocery Store is at the bottom level of the Maya Shopping Center at the North end of Nimman. You can get all kinds of produce (including organic options), fresh meat, seafood, and household items here. It’s surprisingly reasonably priced, and if you’re looking to splurge a little, you can check out the wine shop or eat at the sushi counter, which are both inside the store. There’s a food court just outside the store, but some of the food sits a long time and it’s not the cleanest. Cost: A bunch of bananas is 45B ($1.33 USD), a chicken breast costs 30-55B ($1-1.66 USD) and a pre-packaged herb kit for Tom Yum soup is 18B ($0.55 USD). (Facebook)
GHR – Gym, Hair, Laundry
Go Gym: Not exactly within Nimman, but a short ride North. Be ready to sweat, because there’s no AC, but they have every piece of equipment you need (save for kettlebells), including 3 squat racks. Disclaimer: I always judge a gym by the number of squat racks!
One of the best things about Go Gym is the food stall in the parking lot where you can refuel after your workout with a big plate of chicken (cooked your way with basil, spicy, etc.) and rice for as little as 30B (~$0.95). Cost: A day pass costs 60 Baht, or just under $3 USD. You can buy a banana for 15B if you need a boost, they have a shake counter and a fridge full of bottled water. (Facebook)
Gold Hillside Gym at Hillside Condotel Four: Within walking distance of Nimman, this is a good option if you want AC. They also have a lot of equipment, but only one squat rack (not Smith Machine). They sell high-protein snacks, bananas, and have a shake counter. Cost: A day pass is 80B ($3.50 USD). (Facebook)
New York, NY: You can get a basic haircut at one of the many barber shops and salons around the area, but if you need color or have/want an edgier cut, I recommend this salon. They use Aveda products, and my short haircut was 550B (~$16 USD). Their haircuts range from 500-800 depending on the style and difficulty. (Facebook)
Em’s Laundry 2: I was totally confused when I got to the location on Google Maps. There was a sign for laundry at an unmanned booth. That’s the spot, and it’s brilliant: Put your laundry in one of the provided bags, weigh it and put your money in a baggie in your laundry with your email address, and drop it into the chute. They’ll email you when it’s ready for pickup and if you didn’t have correct change they’ll put it in with your laundry. Cost: Pickup times are twice daily at noon and 5pm, and one-day laundry service costs 50B/kg ($1.30 for 2.2lbs). (Google Maps)
Have you already been to Nimman? What are some of your favorite places?