Thailand's most glamorous city
03.11.2013 - 07.11.2013 30 °C
The city of Chiang Mai is a bit like a steaming bowl of pad thai; a lot going on, exotic but perfectly suited to westerners. We arrived in the northern Thailand city after an overnight bus from Bangkok. Our timing was perfect; it was Sunday which meant market day. The Chiang Mai night market had to be one of the best markets I’ve ever been to. It was artsy, atmospheric, full of great stuff and huge! Brayden conked out after a couple hours but me, the champion shopper, stayed for double that. The best bit? The street food! We were always eating street food in Latin America but while in India, we took a leave of absence of the “Ooh what do you reckon that is? Dunno, let’s get one” club. But here in Thailand the street food looks fresh and healthy and we made up for lost time, tucking into noodles, exotic fruits, sushi and dumplings.
— Jewellery, paintings, touristy trinkets, clothes…there’s plenty on offer at the markets on Ratchadamneon Rd.
— Traditional dancing.
— Tired of shopping? Stop in for a foot massage for about $3 an hour.
Chiang Mai is a magnet for expats and tourists who come to suck up the cosmopolitan vibe, history and culture. Most of the action happens in the old part of the city. The area is centuries old and you can still see sections of the ancient wall that once protected it. Nestled amongst the guesthouses, boutiques and restaurants are more than thirty glittering Buddhist temples. We took ourselves on a temple crawl, attempting to see as many as possible but wound up with a temple hangover after about the seventh one. As beautiful as they are with their huge gold buddhas, mirror work, carvings and murals, they can get a bit same same (as the Thais say).
The most famous temple is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which is perched up on a mountain overlooking the city. To get there, you’ve got to sit in the back of a truck for 45 minutes along the most winding, I-think-I’m-going to-vomit-road. But it’s well worth it once you see the view and the shimmering golden pagoda. I even got blessed by a monk (purifying me after my very un-Buddhist like language muttered on the way there).
—That's me on the far right.
Rivalling temples in number, Chiang Mai’s cooking schools are famous. I enrolled in a half-day course and learnt how to cook three dishes. The course started with a tour of a local market. There I learnt how to tell your ginseng from your ginger and watched men and women furiously grating coconut to make milk. Back at the kitchen I selected my dishes – hot and creamy soup, pad thai and red curry with pumpkin. In no time all those delicious Thai smells were wafting through the kitchen like basil, lime, peanut and coconut as we busied ourselved cutting, crushing and cooking the ingredients. After each dish was completed, it was time to sample. The result? Best Thai of my life! I took some back for Bray who agreed. Now the big question: can I replicate back home, without a coach and the 20+ ingredients all laid out in front of me?
— Teacher Uii was so impressed with my pad thai she closed her eyes and thought ‘mmmmm’….or she blinked when the photo was taken. I think the first.
— I was so happy I didn't choose this dish...not sure my travel insurance covers pad eke mao or 'drunken noodles'.
— On tour at the market.
So far we’re loving Thailand. After India it’s a breath of fresh air. A happier vibe, room to breathe and a new and exciting culture.