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We immediately liked Chiang Mai. It is a very laid back, interesting city with lots going on and great food. Not being by the sea, it’s just got a different vibe to it. Very little hassle from anyone and it’s the second largest city in Bangkok (though it’s small by most city comparisons) so it has an identity/life of it’s own without just tourism. On the first day I saw a bunch of VW beetles which was a good sign – there are loads of them here it seems – always happy news?
The first few weeks are not very interesting to report on. We picked something up on the bus I think. I’ve been pretty healthy since traveling compared to constantly having every ailment going back at work. Then 13 hours on a bus stuck with people in air con & I get sick! Anyhow, that wasn’t fun we weren’t up to much for a fair while which was frustrating. After that we tentatively explored the nearby areas as took ages to feel properly better.
Then we took the opportunity of good consistent wifi to get some work done. Koh Phangan and Hua Hin had been a nightmare with connection just dropping all the time. We managed to get our site finished (www.feelgoodyouknowthatyoushould.com to get the plug in – anyone who wants some great relaxation music, or music to run to or cute music for kids and other ‘feel good’ things in the future) and so that has been a big block of our time in Chiang Mai – slogging away at our very own table and chairs – see below.
Na Inn – our home for most of the month was a revelation for the tired travelers. We had a table and chairs – our own table and chairs – oh yeah! You have no idea what a treat that was. A big fridge, lots of space and slap bang in the middle of the old city. Perfect. Plus it has it’s big light up sign right out our window which I’ve grown very fond of. 7pm every evening our room gets all Hulk-esque.
The most exciting thing was that we… bought a kettle. Oh yes – rock and roll – i know! And look at the label – you can make coffee AND tea! Silly as this seems being able to have a cup of tea whenever you want makes such a difference. Plus it meant we could do the closest we’ve come to cooking since Oz. OK so it was only Thai style pot noodle (for Mark) and plain noodles for me – but was handy to have a stock of stuff so not having to go out.
On the first few days we found the Topps supermarket out near the airport, after we’d had a very early morning and lots of waiting around to extend our visas, down the road. I got ridiculously excited that they sold some products from Waitrose and that I could get decent tea bags and cheese! They were the cost of gold of course, but sooo worth it.
Food in general was great for international food in Chiang Mai. You could get the usual Thai food, though nowhere ever seemed quite as good as our food down south. The local specialty Khao Soi was prevalent and a great cheap eat. This was a coconuty soup with soft noodles and crispy noodles on top – usually with chicken though weirdly the tofu ones were my favourite. Having been a vegetarian for 14 years, I never encountered a decent mouthful of tofu, but here it’s delicious. There are quite a few vegetarian restaurants here and healthy food style too. I had brown rice for the first time since leaving home so that was a treat (yes i know, most folk don’t like that but I love it). One of our fave nearby restaurants did the most amazing healthy juices too.
Best restaurant which was an absolute treat and delight was ‘Ginger & Kafe’. A gorgeous relaxing, sumptuously decorated place with just stunning but quite hearty food.
We indulged in lots of street food. Particularly on Sunday nights when the nearby streets would close to cars for a walking market. Huge sprawling market which included filling up the grounds of several Wats (temples). Some of our fave foods were Roti (egg n banana pancake with a yummy burnt butter taste), Sausage on stick, Goyoza, Corn on kob
- * from Mark – just wanted to mention that you could buy pork crackling at the street markets. It was amazing! bye.
The Ant egg omelette was a mistake though – see lowlights!
In several places along the market they had rows of blind singers/musicians lined up along the centre of the street to perform. They were really rather amazing. Mark was in awe. There was also a little band that played outside one of the Wats with a very old, white haired lady singing – I was in awe of her, she had a real kind of glamour and grace which was quite entrancing amongst the hustle and bustle.
Along with Ginger & Kafe the other highlight, I hate to say was finding a lovely roast dinner. I know it’s very ‘Brit abroad’ of us, but so many months away it was the thing we dreamed of the most. ‘The Pub’ was a fair way out of town but close to a more residential but cool district of the city so easy enough to get to.
It was nice also as was set back in some grounds – all trees and peaceful. This is rare in Chiang Mai which has v little green space. It’s one park is incy. It’s a shame as it’s expanded, no-one had the forethought to leave open spaces for public use. It’s the biggest downside of the place I think. Anyway, we had a lamb roast and a pint of Kilkenny each. They were both very, very good and we were a little dewey eyed. The beer was as expensive as the roast – which was expensive for Thailand – but so worth it.
There was a little bar we were quite fond of which often played Spanish or some other kind of unusual, smooth music and the guy who ran it was a sweetie.
One night we were drinking there and he had to ask mark to drink his beer out of a paper cup. It was because elections were on. It turns out it is compulsory to vote and drinking is banned during this time. I think mainly to stop political disagreement to get over heated. Strangely my wine glass was ok, which made me think the rule was designed mostly for local men.
We took a trip one day out to one of the huge Tesco Lotus hypermarkets outside of town. That was fascinating to see some things familiar and some things totally different but in the familiar environment of a Tesco style shop. The fish and meat counters were amazing. The thing that stunned us most was the big open tray of mince (pork I think) – they would just scoop into it. It seemed out of place with the shop and I’m not squeamish but it did seem the thing most likely to be unhygienic – with everyone picking up the scoops and dipping in and out, but I guess it works!
One of the little stores in the Tesco complex was selling some desert type things for birthdays which were cute but wasn’t sure what they were… blamange? jelly?
Dogs with pony tails or bunches
Mark found someone to play snooker with and went off to this massive snooker hall where you paid virtually nothing to pay on great quality tables. He was very happy (I was happy for the peace and quiet!!)
High kicking sport
On our visit to the park we came across this game where a net with 3 or 4 baskets was put high up in the air and they had to high kick the ball in. Was very impressive.
They are so retro here – they are very cool.
All that glitters
There is so much gorgeous gold with so many wats every few metres in the old city. Lots of amazing statues and of course great portraiture of the royal family.
There were always monks milling about and probably helps give Chiang Mai it’s chilled out vibe.
The statue that lost it’s body
A urinal with some kind of… gherkin(???) in it
Being a city it has some nice modern, arty touches which I’d found I was missing in the places I’d been to for a while.
We saw a group of them the other day hanging outside a little cafe. Seriously – full on, huge Mohican, stud necklace Thai punks – just didn’t expect it.
Ant egg omelette
I think it was actually the omelette himself that tasted foul – was kind of like a custard tart consistency – just tasted wrong. Mark insisted that the ant eggs popped in his mouth but I think it was just his mind running away with him, big baby!
Rock n roll troll
The tiny, tiny, little older Thai woman we saw with a slip knot t-shirt. She was wrong.
We went to this Englishy pub when we were recovering from being really ill and we couldn’t face Thai food and didn’t want to walk far. It’s harmless enough but inside it’s got some grim old men who seem to have a nice deal of not getting off their backsides much when they have Thai girls who will do it for them. Not a big deal really (although more common in the Southern beach resorts than in Chiang Mai I must say). It was the old guy sat in there who suddenly put up an umbrella over his lap, did a bit of grappling around (alarmingly) and then after taking it down, a disinfected kind of smell wafted over. Was he really too lazy to go to the bathroom to apply some medication – DOWN THERE??? I shudder at the memory.
We’d intended to get some language lessons but we never got around to it and our Thai has not improved much at all. Must try harder!