So Sunday (14th Sept) we arrived in Chiang Mai, the hotel was lovely and not too far out of the centre. So once settled we went for a meander around the Sunday “Walking Market” which basically closes off the main road in the city and becomes tourist central (think Camden Market but 10 times bigger).
Two things came to mind when we were walking around 1) the amount of English/American accents we were hearing apart from the standard French & German we had been hearing the past week, and 2) just how comfortable we both felt wander around the market eating some great food from the food stalls lining the streets.
We spent Monday & Tuesday sightseeing the temples that are scattered around the old city. Tuesday evening we decided (on very good recommendation) that we both should go spend 2 hrs and have a proper Thai massage. It was fabulous and so worth it. The ladies that were running the centre have less than 6 months left on their prison sentences and they use this to learn new skills so that they can get a job once released.
I even took the plunge and went for a hair cut at the salon across the road from the hotel. Communication was easy, I just showed them how much I wanted to have cut off, and once the lady realised I was serious when I said half to go she didn’t stop. I must admit I did wonder when she was still cutting my hair that her idea of half and my idea of half were not quite the same!
We felt at home in Chiang Mai within hours of being there. A more laid back pace of life, a great hotel and finding that there’s a great coffee and local food culture really made us fall in love with the place. We booked for 3 days but ended up staying for 5 and probably could have stayed longer. The hotel (Sri Pat) helped – THB 100 per night for massive comfy beds, helpful staff and a nice pool to cool off in.
It was the first time we really got to grips with eating like the locals do. We met up with a Welsh ex-pat called Paul whilst we were there, he’s the brother of a friend from London and was happy to meet up for a beer or 5 and show us some of the town and the local food. He introduced us to Khao Soi, a gorgeous spicy coconut milk-based noodle curry with chicken or pork served with crispy fried noodles on top. We found a locals place that sold it for THB 40 (80p) a bowl – and it’s fair to say I’m addicted to it now. There’s also a fabulous northern Thai spicy sausage, loaded with chillies and lemongrass. Mmmmmmmmm.
Inspired by the local food we booked onto an all-day class at a local cooking school. Starting with a trip to the local market where they explained the local ingredients, we then went back to the school and over the course of the day prepared (and ate!) 6 dishes
- Pad Thai noodles
- Spring rolls & Fish cakes
- Coconut milk soup with chicken
- Red curry paste
- Khao Soi
- Banana fritters
Instructors were great and even the guys on the course that didn’t usually cook much were amazed by how simple and rewarding it was. Must admit that gave me a massive buzz as they’ll go home and hopefully start cooking more for themselves now.
And so on to the far North of Thailand – Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle is out next stop before heading onto Laos.