My week in Chiang Mai is coming to a close and I am sad to say goodbye. I think Chiang Mai is to Bangkok what Portland is to Vegas:it’s slower, the weather is cooler & the vibe is more relaxed. CM is in northern Thailand & set in a lush green valley along the Mae Ping river. It is notable for it’s crafts, trekking and it’s signature dish, khao soi. The “old city” is in the center of town & although very little of the old wall remains, the moat surrounding old city is intact. The old city is easily navigable by foot, and even the most casual of strolls will reveal a “wat” or temple. Some wats I had all to myself, well, me the monks & the dogs. If you don’t feel like walking there is always easy transport to be found. Tuk tuks are the most expensive way to get around so I have been relying on the red song taos that roam the streets looking for passengers. They are essentially a red pickup truck with a cover & seats in the back. You flag one down, tell the driver where you want to go & they say “kah” (yes) if they are going that way & otherwise “mai” (no) if not. Anywhere in the old city will cost 20 baht.
I started my week by strolling the saturday night market. It is a crush of Falang & locals alike. Food, crafts, massages it’s all there.
Taking a cooking class was a great way to start the week. It was fun to meet other travelers & learn how to make some of thailand’s familiar & favorite foods.
The evening after cooking school I met up with a couple of Canadians for a “fancy” dinner on the river. All of us consider ourselves adventurous eaters but when Chris suggested we order fried serpents head (with cashews & chilies no less), I was a bit, well, scared. We also ordered some noodles & other snacks just in case the serpent was inedible. I was delighted & surprised that “serpents head” was an ordinary catfish. It was the highlight of the meal. Light & crispy and the accompanying chilies & cashews with slivers of kaffir lime leaves were the perfect foil to the rich & crispy fish. Live and learn: things are not always (usually) as they seem.
Another activity that I have been enjoying while in Chiang Mai is the prevalence of Thai massage. They vary from pure relaxation to just short of torture. When I went to get my most recent massage the proprietor asked “you ok with lady boy?” uh, sure. no problem. I was secretly hoping for a lovely Thai tranny or drag queen. But in walked a sweet, ordinary gay boy and despite that fact that he spent the entire time on the phone (how did he do that, anyhow?) he gave a pretty good massage. Again, things are not always what they seem.
Today I made my way out of town to the Doi Sutep wat. It is one of the most revered wats in Chiang mai & a lasting tribute to the lanna kingdom. Legend has it that one of Buddhas bones (a clavicle to be specific) was found by a priest after he was given a clue (divine intervention) as to where to dig. Said bone was then placed upon a white elephant & the place where the elephant stopped to rest was the deemed the spot where the temple would be built. Kooky legend, or not, Doi Sutep is definitely worth the journey out of town and the 300 step climb to the top.
This beef noodle soup was soooo good. I got it at a little sidewalk joint where they only serve beef & pork noodle soup. The broth was rich & had that yummy silky texture that’s only accomplished by making stock from scratch with bones. It had an aroma of star anise & lemon grass. You choose your noodles (wide or thin fresh rice noodles or egg noodles) you also choose your cut of beef. I chose the stewed beef & it was melt in your mouth tender. I may go back today………
So other than the mosquitos, I am having a grand time. I have been bitten so many times I look like I have some sort of pox. I spray myself 3 times daily with eau de DEET, to no avail. I just hope none of the little bastards are carrying dengue or malaria. I am getting into the traveler routine of taking each day as it comes… which is sort of hard for a control freak.
I’m off tomorrow to hang with the elephants for a week at the elephant nature park……