15.2.17 Chang Mai – local food

This morning was a repeat of Monday, yoga for me, peace and quiet for Guy.

Lunch was at a restaurant across town, it had opening hours of 10 -2. I would love to work in that kitchen. It is a small street stall selling 2 items; Khao Soi, a Chiang Mai curried coup, and Tom Yum. We order one of each and wait. Every table is full, the turnover is quick, you sit, order, eat and go. Someone takes your place straight away. The sign of a good street stall.

The Khao Soi was creamy from the coconut, spicy with chilli, rich from the crushed peanuts, it is accompanied by a wedge of lime, pickled green and raw red onion. Only the raw onion remained a few minutes later. The Tom Yum is equally well balanced, sour and spicy and we do our usual photographing and sharing of food. It doesn’t take long to eat and we make room for the next clients.

Slow meander back through town, and we take it easy for the rest of the afternoon. 

Evening meal is at a Lanna restaurant, near the student area of Chang Mai, about 3km from our hostel. 3km at home is usually walked in 40 mins or less. Here is takes longer due to obstacles, trip hazards and generally walking at a slow pace due to heat and the fact we are both so chilled out we cannot get above 2nd gear. 

We walk slow enough to view restaurants and bars at our leisure, and notice a Writer’s and Wine bar… Wine!!! It is out of a box, but at this stage of the trip we don’t care. Half litre of their finest red is ordered and we are happy. We WhatsApp mates to inform them, they are all really happy for us, as they are all at work on a dull Thursday in February, apart from Paula and Dave who are poolside in Vietnam, drinking cocktails and having massages……

We continue our walk to the restaurant, it is ‘bird bed time’, the birds are noisily chattering away in the line of trees we are walking under, the noise is incredible. I can’t believe we didn’t get one bird pooping on us.

The restaurant has the usual queue outside it. We are given a number and menu and wait for about 40 mins for a table. Lanna food is from the north of Thailand and Burma area, it is made up of lots of vegetables, and a heavy hand of fish sauce. We are adventurous in our choices and order Burmese pork curry which is tasty and delicous, similar to a mussaman curry, ant egg and herb soup which is fiery, ants egg’s are tiny (unsurprisingly) and taste of the soup, green chilli Nam Priik, which is a chilli paste dip eaten with steamed vegetables, young jackfruit salad which is spicy, hot, sour and good. Finally we have the local BBQ sausage, we can’t resist them, it is pork and lemongrass and fab. It is an interesting experience, the heavy use of fish sauce reminds us of Burmese food, which we struggled with. But it is just the right side of fishy to not be revolting. Isaan or Southern Thai food is still preferable.

I have a massive blister on my foot so we treat ourselves to a tuktuk back to the night market near us. We negotiate the price, have the usual feeling of being ripped off, then zip along the roads feeling like you are being driven along by a hair dryer. 

The market is full of tourists looking for a bargain buying patterned clothes. I do wonder what Thai people think of our dress sense, all the ‘ferang’ loll around the country in tie dye, brightly coloured clown trousers, hippy bags and gaudy tops. I hobbled around, then pleaded to go home, we had a beer in our garden. The hostel owner was sat with two friends enjoying their second bottle of johnny walker and a german family were enjoying a bottle of Thai rum, so we decided it was time to fit in. Guy went out and purchased a small bottle of Thai rum and we chatted away under the stars, putting the world to rights.

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. 

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.

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.