Chiang Mai

After breakfast we had time to pack and say our goodbyes to Jane as we headed to the bus station. Our mid-morning journey to Chiang Mai was uneventful, and after we arrived we got a Grab to our hotel. We had got checked in and unpacked properly for our 6 nights at the White Boutique Hotel which was a lovely place, and not far from the old town boundary walls and had its own small pool, not that we used it though.

Chiang Mai is larger than Chiang Rai, and is definitely geared up to tourists more, and therefore we had a list of things we wanted to see and do during our time here. Most of the main tourist parts are within the old city walls, which is a huge square surrounded by a moat on all 4 sides, where there are endless temples, tour shops, bars and markets.


Sadly, we only did about ½ of the things we wanted to see and do as we took the opportunity to unwind and chill out a bit more after the hectic previous 2 weeks where we only had a couple of days in places. Well that and we also discovered Black Rat Cider and Toni’s bar…which ended up messy on a few nights of our stay.

Our first night in CM we went out about 6pm to take in the atmosphere and get our bearings. We headed into the old town and despite the manic traffic happening on the outside of the walls, the comparison inside was amazing, with little or no traffic to deal with. The place is full of little lanes and backstreets lined with bars etc and we soon find a place to stop for a quick drink. Then we head to get some food and found a great place on spec called Shirley’s who were also advertising a Sunday Roast (so we noted that for the weekend!). What was even more remarkable is they were advertising Black Rat Cider, which took me by surprise as I like it and it’s far better than the usual Strongbow you find all over SE Asia. I didn’t bother having one at that moment though, as we just walked around a bit more plus they were not cheap at around £4 for a 500ml can!
We then took a walk down one of the busier areas out-with the old city walls, which was full of bars with neon lights, blaring music and bar girls. Finding one that had decent music called Power Bar, we stopped for a quick drink and they also had Black Rat, so we ordered one each. These types of bars are not normally aimed at ‘couples’, but the girls were friendly, and we got a bit of banter with them. It also had a great choice of music, from which you could choose what you wanted on from a whole load of counterfeit CD’s from behind the bar that you used a pool cue to point at.


These girls try to drag all the single males/groups of males in to spend money (same as a lot of bars here in CM), and it’s a good laugh watching this.
But we only stayed for one drink, then went around the corner to another bar called Carnival where the same same happens.

By now it was getting late at around midnight, so a quick check on Google Maps and we found a little side street that took us back to the hotel. Except it took us past a half-shut bar (which we later found out was called Toni’s Place), and we decided to stop in and ask if they were open for a quick drink before bed. It turns out the place is owned by a Thai lady called Toi and her ex-pat Aussie partner called Malcom. We got chatting to them both and the others in the bar and had a good chat and laugh with them all. Malcom would sit with his tablet taking requests and playing some right good music, there was a pool table, bar girls and buy 3 get 1 free beer offers... what was not to like!
Before we knew it, it was now 2am and time to go via the 7-Eleven for some toasties and then to bed a bit drunk.

Needless to say, the next morning was a right off, and we didn’t leave the hotel till about 12pm, found an amazing place for breakfast and then went to find the office of the cooking class we had booked for a few days’ time. Then we wandered to one of the markets before returning to the hotel to chill out. At night it was a lot quieter evening than the previous one, with just a long walk to a nice place for dinner then a beer and back to the hotel for an early night.


As we felt fresh the next morning, we got up nice and early and found a great bakery for breakfast and then it was time to take in some of the 300 temples here in CM. We had both picked out a few we wanted to see within the city walls, so we headed in to find them.
The ones we went to see were Wat Jedlin, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao, Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan, Three Kings Monument and Wat Chiang Man. By the time we had seen them it was far too hot to walk around plus we were feeling a bit ‘Templed’ out again, so after a quick soft drink at a lovely Vegan café called Free Bird we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.

 

An afternoon of research and sorting out the blog/photos awaited, plus a bit of a power nap as it was Saturday today and with a trip to the market planned, we thought it might have been a late one again. The Saturday Walking Street Market in CM takes place along Wua Lai Road, which lies on the outside of the city walls on the south side, so not far from our hotel. It takes up the whole length of the street at around 1km long and has a good mix of goods on sale plus a few street food areas. We gorged on a few snacks from there such as sushi, a weird cheese roll thing, fried chicken plus other bits and bobs. We declined the chance to eat cockroaches, beetles, water bugs and grubs, and although we have seen similar stuff on our travels, we haven’t seen quite a big selection as there was here… am sure in Bangkok in a few weeks we will see a lot more of it!


Sadie had managed to get a few gifts for her family here and with the market getting more and more crowded in this narrow street, we called it and headed to another little street nearby that has a few bars on it. First stop was a little cheap bar called Lost Hut, a mix of music and travellers/locals kept this small bar busy.
After that, it was a repeat of 2 nights ago, where we went to Power Bar and had more cider and a laugh there with the girls and then back to Toni’s Place where Changs seem to flow well and time seems to fly, plus Sadie even met a fellow Trekkie!
And yet again it suddenly was 2am and another trip for more drunken toastie eating then bed!


The following morning, we felt even worse than we did the previous day (there was a bit of a pattern forming here in CM!) and we didn’t even have the energy to get up for food. Luckily, I had discovered that here McDonalds offer a delivery service, and with a slight inconvenient website where it took me ages to register the hotels address, it wasn’t long before we had some breakfast McMuffins and Hash Browns winging its way over to us. Sadie woke up just as I came into the room from collecting them from the delivery driver, probably for the best as I might have scoffed the lot!
We didn’t leave the hotel till about 6pm that evening (yeah pretty much another day wasted!) and again it was time to go to another night market. The Sunday Walking Street Market is even bigger than the previous night’s one and takes place this time inside the old city walls, based along Rachadamnoen Road and its surrounding side streets.


Most of the same traders are here again, but this time I managed to buy a pair of fisherman’s trousers that I had been looking to get, and the lovely Jane had even given Sadie money to get them for me 😊
Thankfully we had decided to have a quiet one this evening, as we had an early pick up the following day for our full day cooking class, so it was back to the hotel after dinner this time!

The cooking class we had booked was from a recommendation from someone we met on the Elephant day out we had in Chiang Rai and has great reviews online too. It is called Thai Farm Cooking School, and the itinerary sounded good plus the menu on offer alternates throughout the week, so we obviously picked the day that suited our tastes the most.
The days itinerary was that they pick you up from the hotel, then we would go to a local market to shop for some ingredients we needed. Then we would head to their farm, about 17km outside of CM where we would be shown the organic produce we would be using and to pick some of that from their fields that we would use in our cooking. After that, we would begin making 5 dishes from that day’s menu and eating them as we went along. Then they would take you back to the hotel around 4pm. At £30 each for the full day, it wasn’t cheap, but we hoped we would learn enough about Thai cooking to hopefully take that back to the UK and use.


Our lift arrived on time, and our guide and chef for the day was a lovely young girl called Wass who was very enthusiastic and smiled the whole day, whilst attempting some humour too. We were first to get picked up and then we went around a few more hotels to collect some others and we soon had a group of 9 of us. We then headed out of town a bit to a local market, where we would spend 20-30 minutes. Firstly, Wass took us round a few of the stalls, explained some of the produce that we would use, showed us different rice types and a few other things and it was interesting to learn. Then we got about 15 minutes to look around on our own before we got back into the minivan to take us out to the farm. It took around 30 minutes to get there and was right out in the countryside and set in a beautiful location. They had a brilliant setup, and everyone has their own station to do it all yourself, unlike the one in Hoi An - Vietnam we did where we all shared making the dishes.


We had a full kitchen to our group of 9, and there was another 2 or 3 groups there too each with their own little area. Surrounding these kitchens was lots of lovely greenery and we quickly spotted all the various fruits, vegetables and herbs we would be using.
But first up was a welcome drink and a quick hello from everyone to introduce ourselves, before we ran through the menu we would be preparing and creating today, which was
  • Red, Green or Yellow Curry (including making the paste)
  • Jasmine Rice and Sticky Rice
  • Tom Yam Soup or Coconut Milk Soup
  • Fried Spring Rolls
  • Stir Fry with Cashew Nut
  • Mango Sticky Rice
We also had the option to use meat or vegetarian for the main dishes, and we planned our menu when picking it at the office previously, so we made different curries and soups.

Then we got shown round the gardens and picked a few things we would be using, while Wass explained things to us and answered any questions the group had. Then it was back out of the heat of the sun and into the heat of the kitchen!


First up was making the paste, which was hard work using the pestle and mortar to smash up the ingredients to make it into our chosen flavoured curry.
Then it was learning about the different types of rice and how to cook them for our dishes later, so we did a lot of Jasmine Rice and Sticky Rice.


We then got on with making our soups, which were simple and should be easy enough to do back home. They also supply a full colour recipe book of everything we will make so that will also help, plus Wass gave us a list of some alternative ingredients should we find them hard to source in the UK. After making our soups, we sat down for a break and enjoyed them as a group, which would happen throughout the day. This was a far better approach too than the one we did in Hoi An where we made everything and ate it all at the end. It just meant we got lots of breaks to eat food… win-win!

 

We then made our spring rolls, which were also easy to do, then fried them and quickly stuffed them into our gobs. Next was to make our curry from scratch and the stir-fry and these were both ready to eat at the same time. Finally, it was time to make the Mango Sticky Rice, which was delicious and after all that, we felt so full it was uncomfortable!
Wass was a brilliant guide and chef and we had a good group to get along with and am sure we all learned from the experience. And then it was time to head back to the hotel and after getting in around 4pm, we were so full we had a little nap.

 

Around 7pm we headed back out again, not hungry so we went for a few beers first. Fatal mistake as we ended up going to see Malcom, but he wasn’t there, so had a couple there then went to Power Bar again for more cider, before bumping into Malcom on the street and saying we would go to his bar and wait there for him to come back for a few drinks to say goodbye. It will come as no surprise at this turned into yet another messy night, Sadie was even up dancing with the local bar girls and I’ve no idea where the time went to, but this time it was nearly 3am and am sure we had outstayed our welcome, so went back to our hotel worse for wear!


Our last full day in CM was meant to be spent hiring a motorbike or getting a taxi to take us to a few temples we wanted to see outside of the city. Needless to say, this never happened, we spent the whole day in the hotel room just relaxing and researching, before heading out for a lovely curry and then having a very early night as we had a morning minivan to catch to our next destination, Pai.


Link To Chiang Mai Photos

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