Cool Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the second largest city after Bangkok yet it doesn’t have a ‘city’ feel to it – smooth traffic, fairly low rise buildings and a gentrified night life appears to be hallmark of this little city.  Don’t be misled into thinking it plays second cousin to Bangkok – it has its share of good food, an abundance of golf courses, interesting shopping and cool markets.  I’m beginning to wonder why I visit Bangkok more instead of this well-laid out city, especially when I can get away from being stuck in a jam! This short trip was with three friends and the hubby with the aim of playing good golf and partaking in spicy Thai food.

Chiang Mai didn’t disappoint – from the minute we checked into the d2 Dusit to the golf games, massages and Thai food, all went well.  Let’s start with the hotel. It’s amazing what this Thai hotel chain has laid out for the traveller – wi-fi in the hotel’s public places, comfortable and modern designed rooms as well as a fantastic coffee house.  Oh, the bar is also superb (and quite reasonably priced) where the d2 mixologists mix magic and spin chill music every night. Last but not least, they have great staff 🙂  By the way, d2 didn’t pay me to say all those things – they really are nice.  Since I’m still onto the hotel, I’m putting up pics of the good food we indulged in at Moxie, d2’s spacious cafe:

Spicy Chiangmai Sausage with Spaghetti (note the sinful fried pork rind garnish)

Pad Thai with Prawns (Thai staple!)

Red Duck Curry with Pineapple and Lychee (first time I had this dish with fruit but nonetheless, very good!)

Lucky for us the d2 is centrally located, so we didn’t have to walk far to the Wororot Market, the one that the locals frequent. It’s just across a street from the Tourist Night Market, Kalare Bazaar.  We didn’t take the package with breakfast that the d2 offered so we were free to eat whatever breakfast street food there was:

This piping hot Pork ‘Chok’ (rice porridge) with Egg was sold across the street from the hotel.  Other stalls included Yu Char Kway and Thai Toast and coffee.  Simply delicious and the best way to start your day.

On another day, we treated ourselves to Thai-styled waffles which included fillings such as coconut, sausage, corn and raisins.  This delicious breakfast dish cost us only 10 baht (S$0.40) a waffle!  Talk about value for money.

This particular Yu Char Kway (dough fritters) stall on a side street of the Woronot Market was pretty popular with the locals.  Unconventionally shaped best describes the Yu Char Kway.  They were being washed down with Soya Bean milk.  Prices of these cute Yu Char Kway ranged from 10 – 20 Baht (S$0.40 – S$0.80)

Get lost in the maze of little streets and the market itself to get a feel of what the locals go for.  The sights remind me of what the markets in Singapore was like when I was a little girl – full of activity, stall holders peeling off veggie leaves and just a general cacophony of sight and sound.  These are activities which children these days do not see and grow up with.  All very sedate, efficient and clean at home which isn’t quite the way Asia is.

Prepping veggies for sale

Thai Chin Chalok

Freshly fried Larvae (you DON’t get this in Singapore!)

As you can see, the northern Thais are pretty fond of protein!  In fact, the night before visiting the market, we were at a restaurant that served such specialities.  We tried both the fried Larvae (eaten with a dab of salt) and the bee larvae which was fried to resemble an egg omelette.  We survived and friends of ours asked if we were auditioning for ‘Survivor’! I have to admit, the bee larvae wasn’t too bad – tasted a little like honeyed corn 🙂  We brought home stuff that was tourist friendly and wouldn’t get us into trouble with customs – wonderful fried pork skin, dried lychee and longan, chrysantheneum tea and Nam Prik Pao for when we’re craving for hot Thai food 🙂

Next to Wororot Market stands the flower market which bustles with activity, both day and night.  Many of the flowers are grown in the north and find its way to the wholesalers who distribute them for both domestic and export.  The flowers were so appealing but alas, I didn’t buy any as I was afraid they’d die by the time I got back to Singapore.

If you’re a keen photographer, temples are also another must visit attraction in Chiang Mai.  You never know what you will see when you visit.  Take this ‘halo’ that kind of enveloped Wat Kan Thom when were were there!

There are a number of ancient ruins as well as well preserved temples just outside of the city area.  We took in the sights of Doi Suthep as well as a number of other ‘Wats’.  Apart from Doi Suthep, the other temples weren’t crowded which accorded us a lot of nice space to wander round on our own and take pictures.

Caught these monks at Doi Suthep

(taken with a film camera, Yashica 124G)

Poor hill tribe little girl at Doi Suthep – taking a break from her singing!

Wat Chedilum – women aren’t allowed to go into this particular structure!

Wat Kan Thom – taken with a film camera, Yashica 124G

When night falls, head off to the row of hawker stalls near the Chiang Mai Gate.  The hawkers specialise in one-dish meals and we had an especially good ‘Ter Kah’ (Stewed Pork Leg) here.  This stall is near the Ford Motor car showroom – hawker stalls do not have addresses so this is the best landmark to look out for. We also indulged in some Or Luak (Oyster Omelette) and Satay – all very yummy!  An interesting observation and that many of the female stallholders wear makeup and dress up, even though they’re hawkers!  We don’t get this in Singapore or the hawkers lining the streets along a moat.  Go there for the atmosphere and a little night market activity as well.

Ter Ka Stall Holder – notice the makeup!

Ter ka galore!

Or Luak Stallholder in action

Completed dish (left) and Semi-raw (right) state of Or Luak

This trip was good re-acquaitance with Chiang Mai.  Definitely on my list to re-visit again to sample the other activities I missed out – the elephant and tiger sanctuaries, the botanic gardens, more temples and more massage 🙂