Wandering Chiang Mai

Friday and Saturday kind of blurred together. I re-visited Wat Chedi Luang – and was happy I did, as I was there on the annual day of offerings. It was great to see all the school kids in uniforms showing up with their gifts to the temple.

Had a wander one morning through Warorot Market. Enjoyed seeing all the flowers. Lots of food for sale too, though I didn’t indulge.

I had a couple of visits to Fah Lanna Spa – oh, wait – it was actually three, since on Saturday I had treatment at their main facility in Old Town and then after walking the entirety of the Saturday Walking Market, I popped into their satellite branch near my hotel for a brief one-hour foot massage…

ANYHOO, the Fah Lanna Spa in Old Town is gorgeous. So beautiful and relaxing, with prices that are still quite reasonable. My first massage there was a little overly intense. The fellow doing the massage seemed to think that I really needed medium pressure rather than the deep I’d requested – and he was not wrong, as my hamstring is still effed – but he continued to use super deep pressure, eliciting yelps from me periodically. I think he was actually quite skilled in terms of knowing the various “points” within the musculature, but not so much modulating pressure to suit his client. I even had a bruise on my calf the next day.

Nevertheless, I felt pretty good afterwards (well, except for that bruise), so I didn’t have a hard time convincing myself to return the next day. This time I went with three-hour body scrub, oil massage and Thai herbal ball massage (not what you’re thinking, pervs! It’s this.). Oh man, super amazing and relaxing. I even dozed for a bit. Felt like a million bucks afterwards – especially when, in addition to the usual post-treatment sweet tea and crispy rice cakes, I was also served mango and sticky rice – my first time having this Thai specialty. And, unsurprisingly, it was absolutely delicious – though TBH, coconut ice cream is still my favorite.

I think it was on Friday that I had some great khao soi. We’d had some on the night food tour I’d done on Monday, but it not only wasn’t all that impressive, they were out of crunchy noodles to go on top! What an outrage… Anyway, I’d gotten a recommendation from Chowhound about one local’s favorite place for khao soi. I found it easily enough – and it was great. Spicy, but also smooth and rich with coconut milk, the noodles firm yet tender – plus the appropriate toppings! It’s about two hundred meters north of Chang Phueak Gate – here’s the location on a map. Right across from a Hilkoff Coffee stand.

Friday night’s dinner was at Tong Tem Toh, an apparently trendy Northern Thai place that also has great food. I gather it’s popular with tourists and locals alike, though I was the only farang in the place on this particular evening.

Had nam prik poom, a sort of relish made from banana peppers and served with steamed veg for dipping; sai oua, the traditional and super-tasty lemongrass sausage of Northern Thailand; and a Burmese pork curry, which was rich, spicy and meaty. This was probably my favorite dinner in CM – I wish I’d had time to go back, since some of the other plates I saw at other tables looked fantastic.

Stopped on the way to the hotel at my favorite coconut ice cream cart –  because why the hell not? – and picked up a few tchotchkes to bring home. And slept well again! I haven’t taken a single Ambien this trip and I’m getting a better night’s sleep every night than I do at home.

Saturday I tuk-tuk’d over to the Saturday Walking Market. I was frankly leery, given that the Night Bazaar that’s on every night by my hotel is, for the most part. complete shite and every third vendor is selling the same crappy tank tops and elephant pants. But the Saturday Market turned out to be a pleasant surprise – well, pleasant insofar as a lot of the goods on sale were interesting and not the same old crap. It did get quite crowded as the evening progressed, so if you’re claustrophobic, maybe stick to Amazon… Picked up a couple of cool t-shirts and was dying to buy some sneakers with elaborately embroidered floral designs all over, but of course the largest size was still a bit small for my ladies size 13 feet. Frankly, I entered a bit of shopping fugue state, nearly convincing myself that I’m the kind of guy who wears elephant pants, Chang beer tank tops and lots of bracelets and an anklet. Maybe I can dread my beard..? Luckily, I snapped out of it, thanks in large part to seeing THAT GUY all over Chiang Mai and rolling my eyes.

Besides all the crafty stuff, there were tons of different food vendors. I didn’t get too adventurous, sticking with tom yum tai and gyoza – but they were really good and it was fun having tom yum made to order. The proprietor offers customers a taste of the salad during prep so she can adjust to your liking. She was surprised when I requested three chiles – it was pretty spicy, but not too spicy for me!

I also had to get the freshly made chocolate-banana waffles because the smell of them cooking was making me drool. Sadly, it was just OK – much cakier than a typical waffle. I should’ve gotten coconut ice cream…

Oh, and here’s a tip if you’re visiting the Saturday (or Sunday) Walking Market in CM. If you see something you like, just fucking buy it! Chances are it’s inexpensive – and having to fight your way back through the throngs (especially in this heat!) will not put a smile on your face.

So, getting close to wrapping up my time in Chiang Mai. Tomorrow – cooking class!

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