March 30, 2012

Chiang Mai, Thailand Meals - Part One

After my conference in Singapore, my sister Genevieve and I traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for four days of "real" vacation time. We didn't want to take too much time off because of all the schoolwork that would be waiting for us when we got home. But after experiencing a taste of Thailand, we wish we could have stayed much longer and seen a lot more of what the country has to offer - I'll have to go back one day!

As I did with Singapore, I wanted to share with you some of the delicious food and drinks I enjoyed during my short trip to Chiang Mai.

Since we arrived after midnight on Saturday, our first meal was breakfast at the hotel the next morning. I was thrilled to see that pad thai was one of the buffet offerings, so I grabbed some, along with some glass noodles with cabbage, roasted potatoes, coconut yogurt, muesli, and fresh carrot juice. An odd breakfast, but everything was so good (except for the carrot juice, which I switched to pineapple or watermelon for the rest of my breakfasts)!

On our first morning, we walked around to explore the beautiful old city and lots of temples. We were sweating buckets (it was over 30°C every day and we had to be fairly covered up for going into temples) so we stopped in a cafe for some air conditioning and cool drinks:

I ordered two drinks because I couldn't decide between the two, but I didn't realize how big they would be! The first was an iced coffee frappe, which was so much better than the usual Starbucks frappucinos I get here in the summer, and the second was a pineapple shake that was also amazing. It took me a while to finish them but I savoured every sip and every second of air conditioning!

I think I've already mentioned how in Singapore, freshly squeezed fruit juices and smoothies were everywhere, and the same seemed to be the case in Chiang Mai. I couldn't help ordering a different fruit drink every time I passed by a stall because they're all so fresh and delicious, and in Thailand the prices were WAY better (30 THB is about 1 Canadian dollar):

The drink above was the pineapple, papaya, and coconut smoothie, which was good but was a little too heavy on the papaya, which I realized I'm not a big fan of.

After a long and hot afternoon of walking around, we took a tuk tuk (so fun!) back to our hotel to sit by the pool for a couple hours. It felt so nice to rest our feet in the water, and when happy hour began, we ordered some Mai Tais to celebrate our first day in Thailand!

I realize Mai Tais are more of a Caribbean drink, but since they sound like "Thai", we thought they were appropriate! Regardless of their origin, they were still quite tasty!

That night, we went to the Sunday walking market, which is a long street that closes down to traffic and is filled with entertainers, street food, and vendors selling handicraft products like jewelry, clothes, bags, and various souvenirs. It was insanely busy but such a great experience, and we got some great deals on things like clothes, spices, natural bug spray, rings, and food!

Above and below are just a couple pictures showing some food stalls in the market. Everything looked so good, except for the fried crickets!

We didn't want to eat too much because we were going to a restaurant later, but I couldn't resist trying a couple things. First was a simple stir-fried noodle dish with chilis, scallions, and peanuts, served in a banana leaf:

For a simple dish, it still had lots of flavour, and you really can't go wrong with food that's under a dollar!

At another stall, my sister and I decided to split some Thai pancakes:

We expected them to be like a dessert, but they were actually savoury, with a gooey center filled with onions (and possibly a couple other things I can't remember). The sugar on top seemed odd once we realized what was inside, but it actually worked together in a strange way. I'm not sure I loved the texture enough to say I'd get them again, but they were still a good snack!

After walking around for a while, we stopped at a restaurant and stared out at all the shoppers while enjoying a refreshing Singha beer (which is produced in Thailand).

The meal we had that night (at a place called Hot Chilli, for anyone that's ever going there) was the best thing I ate on the whole trip. I had a Thai green curry with chicken, pumpkin, and coconut milk:

It was served in a beautifully carved pumpkin (notice the detail on the top), and though it was pretty spicy, every spoonful of the rich soup was just bursting with flavour. The restaurant had a really nice atmosphere (my sister got to sit in a big basket chair with pillows) so I tried to eat my curry as slowly as possible to enjoy the setting as long as we could (and because I didn't want my food to end!)

The next day was the day we'd been looking forward to the whole trip - going to Patara Elephant Farm to be elephant owners for a day! Patara is classified as a learning experience in Thailand Guide books, compared to the 55 other elephant places there that are classified under places to ride elephants. Patara is all about caring for elephants and breeding them to help restore the rapidly diminishing elephant population in Thailand. In their 11 years of operation, they've had zero mortalities, 15 babies born, and another 5 are on the way. The elephants are all happy and healthy, compared to other places where they are forced to do tricks, or places that only take in abused elephants (which is also nice but just a different goal because they won't live long or help restore the population). They have less visitors per day than number of elephants, and visitors learn how to care for an elephant for a day, and ride them barebacked so no harmful equipment is put on them (and elephants need to do lots of walking around to file their nails to prevent infection). I'd highly, highly recommend them if you ever go to Thailand, the people there are amazing and treat the elephants so well, and the experience itself was absolutely incredible and one I'll remember for the rest of my life!

Above is me meeting my elephant, Me Kwan, and her baby, "Bad Boy". I learned how to check to see if she was healthy, then fed her, brushed her, bathed her in the river, rode her through the beautiful surrounding land and forest, and played in the water with her for a bit. It was amazing!

Below is a picture of the lunch they gave us:

We were given a huge array of food all made by local people, and all wrapped in banana leafs, which we got to feed to our elephants after! We each received four packages of different sticky rice, then shared a wide assortment of other treats that were all delicious - I wish I'd had enough room in my stomach to try it all!

Even though Gen and I were exhausted at the end of the day, we still returned to the night market for more shopping and dinner at a great vegetarian restaurant. I ordered khao soi, which I'd read is a popular dish in Northern Thailand:

If I can borrow Wikipedia's description of the dish, Khao soi is "a soup-like dish made with deep fried crispy egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, ground chillies fried in oil ... in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk". It would typically contain meat, but mine had tofu as it was served in a vegetarian restaurant. It was really spicy but really good, and different from any other dish I'd tried recently.

I wanted to fit this all into one post so you guys wouldn't get sick of these travel posts, but I realize that this is getting really long, so I'll have to finish Part Two in a couple days. Then I promise I'll be back to regular recipes soon! Hopefully you can at least find some inspiration for your own home cooking in the pictures I've been sharing, and if you know any recipes for the dishes I mentioned, feel free to let me know!


  1. I can't get enough of these posts; they are so fascinating.  I love the picture of you with the elephants.  Thanks for sharing your trip with everyone!

  2. Just found your blog the other day & came back to read about your trip to Thailand. We've been to Chiang Mai twice & plan to spend next winter there again (we're retired). We fell in love with the place, and as vegetarians, found it's the perfect place to eat a huge variety of delicious food, never getting bored - so  many wonderful vegetarian places around! I was drooling by the time I got to Khao Soi, it's hard to recreate & we can't wait to have some again! We also had a wonderful elephant experience & I was fascinated to read about yours! Thanks for sharing your travels.

  3. This makes me want to learn how to cook real authentic thai food even more than I already do!

  4. Thanks Julie, I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying these posts, I was worried that people would get bored of them!

  5. That's amazing that you'll be going there for a third time, good for you!  I can definitely understand its appeal, it seemed like a very laid back place, with so much to see, do, and eat!  I would love to go back one day and also be able to explore a bit more of Thailand because every city seems so different.   I forgot to mention that Chiang Mai is a great place for vegetarians, thanks for reminding me!  My sister is vegetarian and she had no problems finding food to eat (and all at such great prices too!)

  6. Me too!  Unfortunately I didn't take back any useful tips or recipes .. There were lots of Thai cooking classes available but I didn't have time to fit one in!

  7. So this trip looks so fun! How awesome you got to experience it with your sis!

    My aunt is from Thailand (she married my moms brother), and she always says she wants to take us, I think I might have to take her up on it someday now! Looks beautiful.

  8. You definitely should!!  Chiang Mai was awesome and I'm dying to go back now and see more of the country (at least Phuket and Bangkok)!

  9. I should share my blog with you - it's mostly about Chiang Mai (& some about home, Fairbanks, AK). It's not very complete, but I had fun writing & posting tons of pics.   I love going back to it to relive our trips! Your blog is great - can't wait to read more!

  10.  I'll definitely check it out!  I'm back home now so there won't be any more posts about Thailand or traveling for a while now sadly .. But hopefully I'll make it back there one day!


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