After our amazing chartered flight into Thailand, we landed with a thud. Not due to the pilots landing abilities, but we had been without the bright lights of the tourist trail for the last three weeks in Myanmar. We had been to Thailand before – Bangkok, and the Southern islands, so were expecting a tourist driven town, but we had pictured Chiang Mai to be a little quieter. It is definitely a lot less chaotic then Bangkok, but it still has the sunburnt westerners in dirty Singha Beer singlet’s on scooters.
We are not saying we don’t like the chaos, in fact, we absolutely love Bangkok. Getting away from Khao San Road and the standard tourist markets, it is a gritty city with complicated roads that actually makes it quite charming – in a Soi Cowboy kind of way? And it has amazing food.
Chiang Mai, however seemed, at first, to offer Burger King, Subway, Italian Restaurants, western café’s and a McDonalds. We were here for the food and the food alone, so were slightly disappointed. Okay, we confess, we did have a cheeky cheeseburger at one point… but these things happen.
After an hour of wandering the streets of picture menu restaurants (we hate that) and massage parlours, we remembered our friend back home had eaten somewhere here and raved about it. We found the email from dear old Batesy and headed to Aroon Rai. It’s in all the guidebooks, which can be a bad thing, but has been serving up meals for 35+ years so has to be doing something right. And they definitely do Green Thai Curry very well. Great, in fact. The Tom Yum on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. The flavours incredible, with the right amount of heat to awaken our taste buds just enough that they wanted needed to be quenched with an ice-cold Singha beer. Satisfied that we were in the right place for food, we called it to night.
The next day was one of those nothing days that just need to be fitted into the travel itinerary. We woke late at our great hotel, The An-Teak and wandered the street in search of, if nothing else, a new cap for Wade.
Yes, this is the second cap lost on this trip. If you look back through our blog, you will see when this occurred – okay, it was just before Inle Lake, and a very good saleswoman noticed my skin tone predicament and sold me a local number. We would soon discover, it was a hat preferred by the ladies…
Back to the point. At first glance, all we saw were the same shops you see everywhere in SE Asia. Hundreds of shops selling exactly the same products, “handmade” items that are actually mass-produced in China. But as we walked further and dug a little deeper, we found some unique little places that filled in our time well. A small shop where everything seemed handmade, including the chairs and table where you sat for a coffee out of a handmade cup, as well as some shops selling wares for the minority tribes people. Actually, if we had more time, we would of spent a bit of time in the mountains trekking, but money was also short. It seems if you actually want to visit an area that is authentic, you have pay quite a bit more than the standard tours offered around town.
We stopped for a nice lunch at a very nice organic restaurant and hit the streets again. By this stage, the heat was ridiculous, so we stopped of at one of the “Bubble” drink stalls. We have had these before, but with more traditional flavours, that we liked, but would not seek out. This one, however, we would seek out, as it contained everything we wanted. The drink, a fruit juice, was laced with sugar and then added to the bottom of the drink were bubbles of, not seaweed as one expects, but sugar again. So not only were we getting, one of our five a day, but we were also getting an (over) dose of one of important food groups from that Pyramid we learnt in school. We do like to stay healthy!
Finishing up with a non-descriptive meal from a nearby street stall, we headed of to bed.
The next day, we did something completely out of the blue, and booked into a Cooking Class. We booked into Siam Rice and were picked up in the early afternoon. It turned out to be just us two in the class, so we piled into the back of the Ute and headed to the market. It was only a small market, but it was out of the way enough that we were the only tourists there. Nancy went through some ingredients. At first she thought we had never cooked before, but in the end, she was building up to a joke about each one, throwing in the innuendo that Thai Ladies seemed to have mastered. After ten minutes of wandering the market eating pork scratchings and trying the famous Northern Thai Sausage Sai Ua. It was delicious, basically, a pork red thai curry in the form of a sausage and cooked on a bbq. We headed back to the house where we began to cook. The owner was halfway through a bbq of his own and when we inquired what he was cooking, Nancy responded bluntly with “Dog”. It was venison, but you have to love a sense of humour like that.
There were some definite highlights with the food. Some more than others. The Hot and Sour Soup (Tom Yum) was, again, delicious, the Pumpkin Curry was a fresh change and the Sticky Rice with Mango managed to change our mind on Mangoes. It was delicious. The Drunken noodles were slightly bland, but watching Sarah make it with a four-foot flame, was quite entertaining. The class itself, was really enjoyable, and finishing of the meal discussing traditional food like cobra and tarantula was quite interesting. He shared with us his bbq Venison ribs, which were incredible.
The following morning and we were on the beginning of our 18-hour, multiple bus journey to Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai. A few hours in we had the pleasure, or misfortune, of stopping in Chiang Rai at the White Temple. We had overheard people describing it as incredible. Our description is:
WHAT THE F….??
At first glance, it was quite a beautiful sight. But then you look at the details and it becomes bizarre. It is fairly new, but already falling apart (So, we have just worked out that it was hit by an earthquake in May 2014). So, that aside, it was weird. The thing that really threw it for us was when we entered the main area and turned to leave. On the back wall is a mural that included the following images:
Neo from the Matrix
The Twin Towers in Flames
A Mignon from Despicable Me
We hopped in the car very confused. Perhaps one day it will all make sense. Maybe when Buddha is reincarnated he can explain? There are probably so many things wrong with that statement, but as I said, we are confused.