Chaing Mai, Thailand

After a few steamy days traipsing around Bangkok in the smog of people and roar of tuk tuks, we were off once more to Don Muang local airport to catch our Air Asia flight to Chiang Mai, a small “hippy town”  in the northern part of Thailand. Everyone told us that Chiang Mai was going to be our favorite stop since it is a lot more laid back and accessible than Bangkok, so we arrived with high expectations.

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The heat in the North was just as oppressive as in the big city. We arrived to gray smog produced from the Burmese and Northern Thailanders burning their forests to make way for  flatland. We arrived at our cute little Airbnb and began to explore.

While we were in Chiang Mai we set up a few activities, but primarily we wanted to explore Northern Thai food. Our Airbnb host family owned a small cafe and art gallery  and gave us a food/culture tour that acted as a wonderful introduction to Northern Thailand. We explored some of the Chiang Mai Wats, which weren’t stone like Cambodia or guilded plaster like Bangkok; instead they were all made of teak. We were told that teak is a particularly hard and resilient wood that was imported specifically to withstand the wet season and insects in Chaing Mai.

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temple

Shrines

As we walked through Chiang Mai we also were finally properly introduced to northen foods: Northern Khao Soi a curry noodle dish made with coconut milk, chicken or pork, and egg noodles; Som Tam, a spicy green papaya salad that is absolutely refreshing on a hot day; Northern spicy sausage, Sai Ua; and of course, Mango Sticky Rice. We sampled all, between walking to the local market and taking note of the many Western faces in harem pants and tanks.

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Ingredients

Lucky we did the food tour, because the following day we took a half day cooking class with Asia Scenic Cooking. It wasn’t exactly what Ken and I were expecting, and we were slightly disappointed that there was less history and explanation and more “add more oyster sauce” ” add sugar” “now it’s too sweet, add more fish sauce,” but it was also pretty cool making our own red curry paste and hacking vegetables with cleavers. We had the option to make three dishes from the categories of noodles, curry and soup. I ended up making some of my favorite Thai dishes from our adventure thus far: Tom Yum Goong shrimp soup, Khao Soi, and a flat noodle fried dish with Thai broccoli. Good thing we only took the half day course because we ate all three of our dishes at the end of our class – a hefty lunch for 100 degree weather, plus I didn’t do a very good job at making my Tom Yum Goong which turned out to be pretty inedible!

Cooking

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CookingGarden

Curry

A lot later in the afternoon I treated myself to a thai massage. All I can say is, these ladies have strong hands…and feet, and elbows. I don’t know if I liked it and my back was sore for a day afterwards, but it was definitely an interesting experience.

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The following day, we travelled into the mountains to an Elephant Rescue farm where we acted as Mahouts for a day. Ken was pretty skeptical at first, and then we were both taken aback by how large and strong all the elephants are, which then turned into a little anxiety that we’d fall off of our elephants. We first changed into our Mahout clothing to feed the elephants sugar cane and bananas. Its sweet how they hold out their trunks to grab food from your hands. Then it was time to take our elephant for a walk. Ken and I shared a big sweet old elephant who spent the entire walk picking the leaves off of the trees, rubbing against tree trunks and pooping.

We rode the elephants bare-back but it didn’t even seem that they noticed us, we were so light! You sit on their shoulder blades in order not to fall off, but that means that with each step, one of your butt cheeks rises and falls. It was not a well-balanced ride, and I’m glad that we only walked around the loop twice. By the end of our ride, Ken was totally into it and eagerly volunteered to bathe our elephant. By the time we showered and got on the bus to get home, we were all pooped and off to another hotel for our last two days in Chiang Mai.

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We spent the rest of our time walking through the markets, exploring the shops and doing as little as possible. We went to the Night Bazaar one night, which was filled with all the same general tschotschkes and trinkets – singha tanks, wooden frogs and the sort. We also explored the food section of the Night Bazaar while trying to snag street food only to get attacked by flying ants. One dive bombed up my nose and got stuck in there, and I ended up with a sinus infection for three days afterwards. We walked through the beautiful cut-flower market, where there were piles upon piles of jasmine for the temples and floral arrangements getting made for numerous events.

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SpiritHouse

On Saturday we went to the Saturday night street market, which was just way too many people crowded around mostly the same things. We had thought it was supposed to be a street food paradise, and did discover yet again some completely new and strange bites, but it wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped. By the end of our time in Chiang Mai, I was done with the grey skies, endless flyers for this and that activity and tourists in harem pants. We were off to Ko Samui to lay on the beach.