Thursday, 5 May 2016

chiang mai odds and ends: food, markets, temples, more food

A temple in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai... where do I start?

Fresh off the plane, we grabbed a taxi. 200 baht and 20 minutes later, we arrived in our guesthouse, situated in a tambon (sub-district) a moderate walk away from the popular old city area.

Upon our arrival, the guesthouse owner, Boyd, immediately made us feel at home, giving us various ideas for things that we could do in Chiang Mai. Very helpfully, he suggested a place nearby where we could have lunch, and it didn't take us long to make our way there!

A nice pad grapow - coarsely minced meat (pork or chicken) stir-fried with basil and chilli, 35 baht per plate.

It was a great first meal in Chiang Mai - the classic dish of pad grapow, stir-fried meat with chilli and basil. We shared a pad grapow moo (pork) and pad grapow gai (chicken) between us for a total cost of 70 baht. This is our favourite kind of meal: cheap and cheerful!

Over the next few weeks - in between our jaunts to other parts of North Thailand - we had a lot of fun exploring Chiang Mai, and I'll be dissecting all that, post by post. Anything else that doesn't quite fit into a specific topic? They'll go into this general introductory post.

This dog, for example.

Seriously. Is this even a dog? Perhaps it's some kind of hyena-dog hybrid? I NEED TO KNOW. We saw quite a few interesting dogs in Thailand, but this one takes the cake.

A hyena-dog mix? Yes? No? Maybe?

Chiang Mai is known for its night markets (and I'll get to that another time), but there is also no shortage of markets that are open during the day - Somphet market, Muang Mai market, Warorot market - and to be honest, I can't remember which ones we went to.

But anyway, here are a few shots I took from our market wanderings.

Assorted fish products at a market stall.

Look at all these neatly-arranged fishies!

Impressively arranged fish at the market.

Fruits galore, too.

Purple corn and assorted fruits.

We're not very much into temple-hopping, but we did check out Wat Chedi Luang one day. This ancient structure was interesting to look at, and the temple grounds here made for a nice stroll.

Wat Chedi Luang.

Also on the temple grounds are two viharns, which are assembly halls or worship halls where Buddhist ceremonies take place. The viharns are much newer and shinier in comparison to the chedi.

The black viharn at the Wat Chedi Luang temple grounds.

Such exquisite details!

The gold viharn at the Wat Chedi Luang temple grounds.

We ate regularly and frequently.

Fish cakes for breakfast? Hell yes!

Gimme the fish cakes.

Noodle soup for lunch? Bring it on!

Noodle soup.

Green curry chicken with rice for dinner? More times than we can count!

Green curry chicken.

Of course, we continue to make friends with cats, even during mealtimes. Especially during mealtimes.

You have to love a place where you can pat a cat while you eat your dinner.

About this particular food shack. I don't know the name - actually, I don't think it had an English name at all, and I don't read Thai, so... but anyway, it was recommended to me by a nice woman who gave me a massage. We had a pleasant chat, and of course,  it made sense that I would seize the opportunity to ask her for suggestions on where to eat.

Moving along, the stir-fried pork with Chinese broccoli here was pretty tasty.

Stir-fried pork with gailan. And rice, of course.

But this was the dish that I was really after: goong chae nam pla, raw prawns in a dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic and chilli, garnished with coriander leaves and bitter melon. If you haven't had this dish before, it may seem slightly daunting, but if you like sashimi or ceviche, and you're cool with the sassy flavour hit that the Thais do so well, you'll probably enjoy goong chae nam pla, too.

This is only the second time I've had goong chae nam pla in my life, and I have to say, it's not as sensational as the one I had the first time around (very, very fresh prawns or shrimp are key), but it was still good to revisit the dish again. My search for awesome goong chae nam pla continues, or maybe I'll try my hand at preparing it for myself someday!

Goong chae nam pla - a ceviche-like dish of raw shrimp or prawns in a tangy, spicy, pungent dressing.

Finally, before I wrap this post up - let's not forget about dessert. After filling ourselves up with snacks from the night market one evening, I decided to have just one more treat when we walked past some street stalls during the stroll back to our guesthouse. I grew up with this dessert - soft, tender tofu in a brown sugar and ginger syrup. The version here had a little surprise for me: a packet of super-crunchy deep-fried dough on the side, with a lovely hint of aroma from black sesame seeds. I threw it all into the bowl, and I loved it.

Tao huai nam khing - bean curd in ginger syrup, 10 baht for a serving.

So this concludes my haphazard first post on Chiang Mai. Stay tuned for the more structured posts to come in the following weeks, which includes pictures and thoughts on subjects as diverse as night markets, restaurants, a cat cafe, a day trip to Lamphun, plus the stunning festival of lights in Thailand!


  1. Love love love Chiang Mai! Thank you for this post :)

    1. Thank you for reading! There will be more to come! :D

  2. This is the food capital, not surprising how delicious the food looks. Love your inclusion of animal pics. That dog!!! What the hell?

    1. Indeed, so much good food in Chiang Mai, and not just Thai cuisine! I love taking pictures of animals, it can be so amusing. We were so captivated by that spotted dog!

  3. that dog looks kinda scary - so I preferred to look at the pretty flowers bordering the water. they looked like canna lilies.
    all the food looks so fresh!

    1. Oh yes, the flowers are pretty! And I enjoyed the food so much. More of that to come! :)


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