13.2.2017 Chang Mai – Warorot Market

I had a vinyassa yoga class at Freedom Yoga at 10am. It was sweaty, very sweaty, I haven’t don’t that much sweating since we had yoga class in Kenilworth in 30 degree heat last summer. I loved it. The instructor, Nick, was really good, talking you through all the moves and very encouraging. He made my downward dog much better.

Guy enjoyed sometime on his own in the garden of our hostel. I think he enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the yoga…..

We had brunch in bland tourist restaurant, whole-wheat pancakes and fruit for me, lemongrass chicken salad for Guy.

We walked 3km to train station to buy overnight train tickets to get us back to Bangkok. The walk took us down motor mechanic street, not many other tourists were doing this walk. But as usual it was interesting to see life outside of the tourist bubble which is the Old Quarter. The bridge out of town had beautiful flowers, mainly petunias, at nose level as you crossed the traffic congested bottle neck.

Dinner was at Warorot night market, near China town. It was a small market and not particularly great. Guy indulged in sausages….for a change. 

We then had some curries from a stall run by a Thai woman who spoke good English, her son lives on Isle of Wight. She has had the stall for 25 years, her coconut fish curry was really good. We also at a pork curry and green chicken curry, they were small portions, which is why we had 3. 30 Baht each, less than a £1.

As we were close to the 7/11 which sold Tiramasu Magnum. I indulged again, Guy had an Oreo Corneto. 

12.2.2017 Chang Mai

We are in Chang Mai for food and health, so set off to find Freedom Yoga so I can be flexible again. MapsMe said it was down the back streets 10 mins away from our place, but we managed to take closer to 30mins to get there! The menu is so tempting we stop for smoothies and breakfast of perfectly poached eggs on smashed arvo and sourdough bread. It is delicious, first soft poached egg for months, Guy is deliriously happy about smashed arvo.

We then walk, slowly, across town to Yoga Tree, another place which does Qi Gong, as well as dance meditation, 3 day swirling courses and of course, yoga.

We had researched SP Chicken as a place to go for moist, tasty, BBQ chickens, although we weren’t starving, we were near the stall so went there for lunch. The chickens are small and perfectly cooked, with a garlic baste that repeated on us all afternoon. The Som Tam that accompied it was spicy with chilli and sour with plenty of lime and a good dash of fish sauce for umami. 

It was like being back in China, with a 30 mins queue outside the restaurant, and amusingly for us, the Thai staff telling the Chinese tourists to get in line, no queue jumping. Guy spent the 30 mins taking photos of the chickens being slowly roasted, a lot of photos.

An amble back across town, stopping at Wat  Phra Singh on the way. The protruding gold elephants are a new sight for us!

We walk down the main street, stall holders are setting up for the Saturday Night market. We set off after dark to tackle it.

It is a shuffle-a-thon. Throngs of people everywhere, stalls full of ethnic goods, and lots of things you don’t need as a backpacker. Guy bought some fancy fisherman trousers….

The food section of the market was set up in a Buddhist temple grounds, we did a circuit and listed about 8 things we wanted…. whittled it down to 3 and ordered a Nham Klug, stewed pork with pickles over rice, mango sticky rice and a bonus dish of coconut pancakes. They were all delicous, and eaten in seconds.

Bonus Post – Music

When we were planning our trip we were inspired by the fabulous book The Idle Traveller by Dan Kieran

It reminded me of a song by one of the best bands in our lifetime.

The Tourist

It barks at no one else but me
Like it’s seen a ghost
I guess it seen the sparks a-flowing
No one else would know
Hey man slow down, slow down
Idiot, slow down, slow down

Sometimes I get overcharged
That’s when you see sparks
You ask me where the hell I’m going
At a thousand feet per second
Hey man slow down, slow down
Idiot slow down, slow down
Hey man slow down, slow down
Idiot slow down, slow down

11.2.17 Chang Mai

Chang Mai is the foodie paradise of Thailand, and it is a mystery to us as to why we have never come here before, loving Thailand and it’s food as we do. Still we are here now, slightly regretting never doing it before as it seems to be full of vegan cafes, single origin coffee houses, organic juice bars and lots, I mean lots, of avocados. The Thai food has got somehow lost in the westernisation of the city. But with the help of various blogs and websites we will try and get some Thai food, with a few avocados thrown to ensure our omega 3 intake is healthy.

Arriving at 8am was so much better than the advertised 6am giving us a 2 hour lie in on an uncomfortable bus.

We decided to forgo waiting around with about 100 more westerners for a free songthaw ride to our hostel and walk the 500m ourselves. It was with a small leap of joy I realised we were around the corner from a Boots store……Guys heart sank, along with our budget.

Our rooms weren’t ready so we had a complimentary coffee and got on the wi-fi to catch up with everything that had happened in the last 12 hours. Very little…..but you never know……

Our hostel, Stay With Me, is absolutely fab, more like a boutique hotel, clean, beautiful little garden, bar, fresh rooms. Only complaint is the amount of mossies, there are loads. We cover ourselves in citronella.

After a while the caffeine kicks in and we are off to explore. The streets are slowly waking up, street vendors are coming out and setting up. We see mango and sticky rice on offer, we perch on the tiny stools and snack. It is sweet, sticky and delicious. The blue rice is dyed with morning glory flower, all natural.

We then see a Lanna cuisine restaurant. We order 2 dishes that are practically identical, pork and peanut curry and pork in spicy peanut sauce, both tasty and good. The requested coconut shake appears as a lime shake, but is still refreshing.

There are loads of yoga, tai chi, chi gong etc schools here, we are looking for some chi gong on the advice of our tai chi master (yes, we are those kind of people now, who have a tai chi master 😎), it is harder to find than yoga. We find one, and also a yoga course. Our week of healthy living has begun!!

It is a little cooler here, less humid, so wandering around the streets is still a slow process but less sweaty than Bangkok. There are simply hundreds of cafes, restaurants, bars to choose from. 

We get back to ours and eventually check in, desperate for a shower I dive in. 1 min later I had killed at least 10 mossies. 2 in one go. Wow! A quick (!) shower later and I am out of there, leaving Guy to it. He comes back saying he only saw 1. 

Note to self: always go in shower after Guy here…

Saturday nights in Chang Mai have a night bazaar on close to our place. We wander around, following other westerners, to see it. A sanitised, western looking market is spotted, selling burritos, sushi, pancakes, and some Thai food, it feels like we are at a food festival in Leamington. We walk out and find the real night bazaar, still pretty western but has more Thai food so we start snacking.

First up is a pork platter. A Chang Mai sausage flavoured with lemongrass, milk pork, both of which are delicous. But the fermented pork divides us, it is sour tasting, Guy loves it. I don’t.

I chose a salmon with lemongrass salad, Som Tam salad made with green mango instead of papaya. Spicy and delicious.

Guy has another Chang Mai sausage, with a side of raw cabbage, cabbage was not eaten.

Guy finishes off with Khao Dong the local peanut coconut soup with chicken, fried noodle topping, this was quite sweet.

As if we weren’t full enough, Guy went and spotted a Tiramasu magnum in the 7/11. We couldn’t say no. It was fab. Obviously.

Bonus Post – Toothpaste

Another toothpaste update!!! Yep, this could go on, and on….for as long as we clean our teeth….

After the jasmine flavour, then the lemon and lime flavour we hit rock bottom with thyme and longjing (Google translate) flavour.

It tasted of warm, milky tea and made me gag and heave everytime I used it. Needless to say I needed to get new toothpaste as I was getting tired of morning (and evening) sickness.

I decided to go old school with a minty flavour, what a relief, although the amount of foam produced is quite alarming!

But then Paula came to the rescue with good old Colgate……what a refreshing change, it was a lovely few days of refresh, clean teeth with little foam.

So, in conclusion, mint is classic flavour for toothpaste, although many of you probably knew that already and didn’t need to travel half the world to discover that. 

BTW…..Guy still reeks of thyme and longjing.

10.2.17 Leaving Bangkok on an overnight bus.

Tonight, at 7pm, we head to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, so we pack, shower and checkout at the last minute. The hostel charges us 11p to store our bags all day.

We walk round the corner onto Pra Athit past ‘fresh orange’ lady who never failed to shout at us whenever we passed her in the last week. Past Jaywalk cafe, the beef noodle bar, the pork on rice street stall, the coffee stand, seamstress number 1 working away on her old singer sewing machine that is familiar to us as pub tables. Past the Malay curry house, the barbers, the wonton noodle shop, the quaint coffee shop, the mobile papaya salad lady and her constant queue of customers. Past 7/11, KC Guesthouse and seamstress number 2 who is always chatting to the duck blood soup stall holder  on the other side of the pavement. Finally, 200 metres later, we arrive at our breakfast destination, the chicken on rice stall. On the way we have avoided pot holes, open drains, steep curbs and uneven concrete despite being distracted by endless interesting diversions, more than my memory has listed above. This city is so vibrant, with so much going on which is why it enthuses me and I love it so much.

Al has  boiled chicken on rice and I have fried. We perch on small plastic stools and on the metal table are bowls of chopped chilli and ginger and an urn of sauce. It tastes of soy, ginger, chilli, garlic, fish sauce and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I apply it liberally over my chicken and munch away. I’m not quite sure how a dish as simple as chicken on rice can taste so good but it does.

We have a coffee at the quaint shop and watch mobile papaya lady carefully make up her dish in a huge mortar. She carefully tastes it, adjusting the flavour to her customers requirements which is maybe why she has so many.

We wander about, giving up on shopping as we normally do and focusing on food which we always do. We end up in a cafe where falafel and hummus is ordered with coconut shakes. Tamarind and coconut for me and chai Indian spices and coconut for Al. The shakes are very good.

We are just killing time and we know it, so we go back to the hostel and sit in the cafe and blog and write diaries all afternoon.

We decide to eat before the overnight bus but somewhere familiar where no unwanted after affects have occured so I have a pork noodle soup and Al has mataback.

We sit in the park opposite and watch the sun go down over the Chaopraya until a fitness class with very powerful speakers moves us on.

 We go to the travel office at 7pm and wait for the normal minivan to pick us up. Times have changed though and around 7.30 the Pied Piper of tourists turns up and he gives us a sticker each and we follow him on foot as he gathers more and more people from various accommodations. There are dozens following him by the time we arrive at a coach park, where in the darkness, we can see dozens of people already waiting. We stand around for about an hour watching bats swooping around nearby trees. At 8.30pm two full coaches take people south and at 9pm its our turn. Its a semi-organized bun fight as we try to board three coaches. We manage to get assigned the last two seats on the posh looking double decker and are amazed to find they are fairly near the front.

We leave, the lights go out and I read till 11pm. At 1am we stop for food but we only share a drink and we head north into the night.

9.2.17 Bangkok Seafood Market

Our last full day in Bangkok and we went on a mission for seafood in the steps of Rick Stein.

Coffee required first at our lovely little coffee shop.

We watch woman with the papaya salad ‘shop’ making papaya salad for her clients. She tastes each salad she makes, sometimes the clients taste too and adjust accordingly.

And see tuk tuk drivers waiting for their next client.

A 2 hour journey across Bangkok last, via river boat and sky train. This city is big and not easy to get across unless you get a taxi or tuk tuk and the usually involved tough haggling and being ripped off!!!!

You can’t miss this seafood place, especially when lit up at night. But it was 1.15pm and we were the only people in this massive restaurant. It must be ace to come at night when it is full.

The deal is you pick your fish and seafood, vegetables if you want them, pay for it, then have to pay more for the cooking style, then more for the beer, then more for the hand towel. It is not cheap. But we had the biggest and sweetest prawns ever, two types -king and freshwater, black pepper crab which was superb, and the best tasting tom yum with prawns so far. It was proper messy, get your fingers sticky food, and we loved it. 

The Asahi beer was a palette cleanser….

We then were supposed to Skype home, but were stuck miles from hostile wi-fi so went to Starbucks with the excuse of using their wi-fi, Guy had an iced chocolate which was lush, I had an iced milky tea which was disgusting. I keep forgetting to ask for hot tea with no milk!!!! Their wi-fi didn’t work so we made our way home to try again via skytrain and river boat, passing a Wat with fireworks going off creating an atmospheric photo opportunity.

Snacks for tea as we were still full from lunch. Guy’s was personalised by me 😋

8.2.17 Bangkok Farewell & Food

Rudely awoken by the alarm at 6.30 and we dress and walk round to see Paula and Dave before their flight to Singapore. We have breakfast at New Siam guesthouse and before you know it we’re hugging and saying farewell. We hope to see them for a few hours on the 19th so it wasn’t a sad parting.

Back to bed for a morning siesta. We re-emerge sometime later and go for a second breakfast. Salmon sandwich for Alison at a modern coffee shop and I have spicy chicken with holy basil at a street stall.

After that we indulge in some retail therapy and browse the many, many Khao San stalls. Vests, t-shirts, shorts, skirts, dresses, hats, sarongs, hammocks, beads, silver jewellery, bags, wallets, flip flops, CDs, books, everything a tourist needs, even if they don’t know it. Al buys a silver gecko ring.

Hunger kicks in again, so we head to a small but great smelling Malay curry house. We have chicken massaman on biriyani rice and a fish and herb mataback which comes with sweet crisp pickles. It’s sweet, savoury and spicy. Fabulous.

We then wander friendless and on autopilot to Rambuttri where we have a few beers. Our mates have left but our habits haven’t.

 For beer snacks we visit the many food stalls at the bottom of the road and eat fried things on sticks.

Its not the most dynamic day but its one 95% of backpackers in Banglampu will recognise.

05.2 – 07.2.17 Bangkok with Paula and Big Dave

So, the day I had been waiting for had finally arrived, my phone appeared accompanied by our friends Paula and Big Dave!!! They were coming for a night, or three, in Bangkok, it is probably just as well this hasn’t happened before as a night out in Bangkok can be quite messy. Previously we have ended up in ping pong bars, a NASA space dome nightclub miles away or, a mess after one too many Mekong whiskey buckets in Ko San. Now we are more mature.

Day One and we met them at 9.30am on a Sunday morning and had a beer.

We spent some time catching up and having a drink or two.

We all had foot massages.

Dave fell asleep.

We ate excellant seafood at Magic Max’s restaurant and Dave was Max’s Debbie Magee.

Day 2 and we had wonton soup for breakfast.

We then went on the river boat and skytrain and eventually found the MBK shopping centre for food (and phone accessories for my new phone Paula had kindly couriered out for me…..thanks again, Paula).

Britney met Dave.

We ate some lush Thai food.

We got a taxi back and had a beer in a posh bar.

Paula and I had a pedicure.

The boys had a beer and discussed politics, world peace, cars etc, the usual man chat.

We all drank more beer.

We ate food.

We hugged a lot.

Day 3 and we have coffee.

Dave is shaved by this Thai lady whilst Paula sleeps.

Breakfast is Thai style, egg fried rice or Tom Yum soup.

We attempt some tourism. Honestly, we wanted to see the museum, but it was closed on Tuesdays so we took a photo for the blog….

…..and had a drink…..

We all had a Thai massage, Dave’s masseuse had to get very physical with him.

We had another beer or cocktail……. at least it was now happy hour!

The boys had a pedicure and we had another massage.

We ate some food…..

We drank some cocktails…….

The world is a much better place when you can have a beer and a laugh with your mates and put the world to rights instead of just sitting around, ignoring everyone, playing with your smart phone because you have WiFi.

We loved catching up with them and hope the rest of their trip goes brilliantly. …whatever they decide to do!

04.2.17 Bangkok – Isaan Cuisine

Food tourism today, my favourite type. Breakfast was beef noodle or meatball soup. Healthy and delicious, Guy claimed the entrails in his were the best bit….. he is more adventurous than me now!

We had read about this Isaan restaurant, Som Tam Boo Maa, so got the river taxi across the river, walked for about 2 hours through new areas, including over rail tracks, to get to this place. It was worth it.

We had grilled fish stuffed with herbs, catfish larb, green papaya salad. It was all really well balanced, fresh and very, very tasty.

A walk and river boat back, past delicious looking chickens, and picked up a few mossie bites in the market.

A reviving coconut shake saw us through to football on TV time.

We watched some of Arsenal vs Chelsea, accompanied by Penang curry and spring rolls.

Result wasn’t going our way, so we had a cool refreshing drink on the way home.