July 1, 2012 by imissyu
Chiang Mai was my. absolute. favourite. stop. in Thailand. What is so alluring about the city in the North that does not boast beaches or a crazy nightlife? I found it to be a cozy and friendly community full of cheap delicious eats and great coffee. As a self-proclaimed foodie, this was really one of those spots that could grow on me with its deliciously cheap comfort food. I spent my days exploring the Saturday/Sunday night markets, new/old town, the Wats that dotted the city, as well as the elephant/tiger sanctuaries. We became fast friends with our taxi driver from our airport. He charmed us with his “I am the best” pitch as well as his home-made family photo album complete with city attractions. We hired him for the day to take us around the city and explore the sights that were not as easy to reach, such as the elephant/tiger sanctuaries and Wat that sat atop a mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. He brought us to local eats and dropped us at the most phenomenal food market. The food market is open-air and right smack in the middle of two very busy streets. There are street vendors firing up woks, brewing pots of noodles, or mixing some fresh juices. Typical dishes include Khao Soi - this curry-like noodle, deep fried pig/morning glory/egg on rice, or soup noodles of varying noodle styles and topics. These people really know their comfort foods – great blend of spices/oils/freshness/meat on top of some hearty carbs. I highly recommend getting a local taxi driver to take you to the Wats, tiger/elephant sanctuaries especially if you have a group of people. I was in a group of six and hired his service for the day, $25 CAD inclusive!
We also watched our first Maui Thai boxing match – female boxers and children boxers too! There was one round that had four boxers blindfolded in a ring. Chiang Mai also found a niche in cooking classes; I took a full day one where I went to the markets and learned about different Thai ingredients. During that day, I made pad thai, seafood coconut soup, deep fried fish cake, green curry chicken, and mango with sticky rice. It was one of the highlights of my trip! I just salivated looking at the pictures. I think I would actually make pad thai at home as it was easy and doable. The other dishes required many ingredients, some of which would be too hard to find in Canada! The sticky rice also requires 5 hours of boiling.. Nonetheless, I highly recommend taking a cooking class here in Chiang Mai!
The best: fresh mango shakes made from one whole mango in front of you. THE BEST! Under $1 CAD. Recommend multiple daily intakes.
The people in Chiang Mai were so friendly; we became fast friends with the taxi driver, cooking class instructor, and a shop lady who custom fit a dress I brought from her night market stall. Transportation within the city happens at 20 Baht per person on this commuter/ride-share type red truck – you hop on and the driver picks up additional passengers on the way. Tuk tuks are more expensive here around 100 Baht. Definitely consider hopping on a red truck to the newer section of town that has lots of new fusion food and cute coffee shops!
All in all, I really loved Chiang Mai – I can definitely see myself coming back for the food and community. I would probably come back to do a cooking or meditation retreat as this seems to be the happening place for it.
Side note: I stayed in hostels during my whole trip; there was a bed bug scare as we saw several people who had serious bed bug issues after staying at a hostel we planned to stay at in Bangkok. However, so far so good
Have you visited the North of Thailand? What do you think and would you revisit?