Last February, I took a long study leave to eat and study my way through Chiang Mai. Well mostly to eat. Dad, my brother and Chefs Toto and Lawrence of Cafe Ysabel headed to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. The weather was nice and cool, the food is cheap, the beer was good. Here is a summary of my top 5 experiences:
1. The Dunkel Beer on Tap in O’Malley’s at the Night Bazaar. On our first night, I learned how beer temperature does wonders to the beer’s taste. That night, temperature, mix and companions were all perfect. I love dark beer, and this dunkel, wasn’t that dark (like black, more of chocolate brown), but it had that significant fruit taste (of raspberries) I’ve been looking for in dark beers. Why, i could drink a liter of it if our beer drinking sessions weren’t pre-laden with tons of Thai food. I heard there was another microbrewery somewhere in Chiang Mai, but we just couldn’t help but come back every single night for the fresh beer on tap. I love this BEEER!
2. Huen Phen. We walked a thousand kilometers to find this place. And I was starting to wonder if it was worth the walk ad the pain. But there’s a funny thing about good restaurants: it’s always packed full of locals. And yes, at 2:00pm, Huemn Phen was packed with locals, we even wondered where we were going to sit! But it was much like a “turo-turo” in the Philippines, except the salads were freshly made. What I love about Chiang Mai Cuisine was the fact that it seemed like they ate everything…I got to try gooseberries, acacia sprigs, and all sorts of weird fresh greens that came with the food. The flavor was fantastic..this place was a local’s haven and it was really really cheap. Apparently, it has come out in several travel magazines and channels, a lot of those “authentic thai food” searches came across this Chiang Mai Food Mecca. For a table of 4 voracious men and 1 lady with a man’s appetite, we overordered at a whopping 600 baht (about $10). We were literally to the point of vomiting. We kept eating there for lunch till we left chiang mai. The food was absolutely mind-blowing (and i still dream about going back to this day).
3. Sompon Nabnian’s Master Thai Cuisine Course. All this fun wouldn’t be complete without getting the best of Thai cuisine from a real Pro. Sompon Nabnian is a master Thai chef, with a funny English accent because he lived in England for several years to work as a chef. He set up his school in a posh neighborhood in the outskirts of Chiang Mai. The place is beautiful, he acquired a nice lot with a big space for his herb garden behind the school. The dishes we learned were all delicious! Good thing I had quick note-taking skills since some of the things were pretty confusing. But, because we cooked Thai food, we still ate it after class. We cooked so much food we didn’t even want to take it back home anymore! Anyway it was a fantastic worthwhile activity having his class. Kap Khun Kraa. Hehe!
4. The Elephant Tour and Riding the Elephant! Sure this seems like a tourist trap, but I’ve never ridden an elephant before, what more Thai style elephant riding! And I’ve never seen an elephant upclose. And now I can say I have. The funny thing is that they were even bigger than I expected! A lot of the monster mammoths had saddles on their backs and i was actually getting the jitters that I might have to ride one of the big ones. Good thing we got a medium sized Elephant. It took me about 10 minutes to stop grabbing onto the seat and just let things go. It was fun not to have control of your life for an hour. And it was fun to think of scenerios of Elephants going wild like the ones you see on Tv. It was a good experience. Got me less paranoid about the wondrful pacaderms. 🙂
5. The Sunday Night Market in the Walled City (or Walking Street). This was more like..walking while eating street. Oh my. We never even got to finish this. Walking street comes to life on Sundays, when vendors bring out blankets and put up make-shift stores on the road in the walled city. As you know, the walled city is pretty huge, I’m not sure that a whole night’s walking got us to half.
The Walled city is closed to traffic and all roads are dedicated to stores. All temples (which are about 1 for every kilometer) contain all the food stalls. And i think we visited about 7 temples…all ordering and munching on whatever stall looks interesting and then moving on to the next temple. How wonderful it is to be able to eat in the temples. You get a doubly-whammy of culture. Yum!