At just over a month, Thailand was the second longest stop we had after our stay in Paris! This was a chance to settle in for a while and for Nick to get some good work done – one of his employees stopped thru for 2 weeks so they could catch up on work while eating tasty Thai food 🙂 We had been to Thailand before during our honeymoon in 2015 but had not been thru Northern Thailand yet! Chiang Mai is the 4th largest city in Thailand but even with that ranking, only has a population just under 200,000. So it felt small, manageable and hyper local – the reason many westerners like us choose to visit! Famous for its many, many temples, the beautiful mountains nearby and its amazing food scene, it did not disappoint.
We took our time in Thailand to start at the elephant reserve (see last post!) and then slowly explore Chiang Mai for a good 3 weeks. Here are some highlights of our 3 weeks in Chiang Mai!
We signed up for an amazing cooking class thru Airbnb experiences and it was probably the best cooking class we’ve done on this trip so far. We went to a local market with our class instructor to learn about the ingredients and got a real taste of where the locals shop. Then we cooked a LOT of food. Spring rolls, mango sticky rice, our own fresh curry pastes, coconut chicken soup and pad thai were among them and we ate sooooo much. Having this class was really enlightening when it comes to Thai food – we’ve been enjoying Thai food back home for years and of course, loved it while in Thailand, but really understanding what goes into each dish, what those base flavor components are and how to best prepare things made Thai food even more special to us.
ALL OF THE FOOD
No surprise here if you’ve been reading any of our posts…we like to eat. Being in a place like Chiang Mai for 3 weeks was one of our more interesting food stops, to be honest…Chiang Mai itself feels very much like it caters to westerners and because of that, there seem to be just as many western-style restaurants as there are Thai restaurants. So we followed suit and tried many of the Thai places as well as many of the non-Thai places. We ended up having our BEST meals at the Thai places but we also ate delicious Italian food, beautifully fresh salads packed with veggies and some of the juiciest burgers you can imagine. We learned, in researching before we came to Thailand again, that unfortunately, a lot of the Thai restaurants in Thailand don’t cook authentic Thai food well anymore and that that skill has been lost to many. Don’t worry, we still had very, very good food…
Our favorite two savory dishes were a northern Thai dish called Khao Soi and (just trust us) the most incredible roasted chicken with tamarind sauce. Khao Soi is this magical noodle curry soup…typically it comes with pork but it has the perfect balance of cooked noodles, tender meat, flavorful broth and a topping of crunchy, fried noodles. It was. So. Good. The roast chicken is a big dish in northern Thailand and all I can say is that it’s literally *the* most perfectly cooked chicken we’ve ever experienced in our lives. Crispy outside, juicy inside and a tangy tamarind sauce. We liked it so much we bought an extra order to go. Yummmm.
Our favorite sweet dish came from this seriously cool old man running a roadside cart in the evenings – an Indian inspired dish, now popular in Thailand, called roti or rotee. How do you describe roti…it’s basically a thin dough fried in oil to a perfect crisp and then topped with your choice of chocolate, honey, etc. It was addictive. We went two days in a row…
That Rooftop Pool, Though…
Since we were going to be living in Chiang Mai for 3 weeks, we wanted to live comfortably…so we picked a condo with a gym in the building and obviously, a rooftop pool. We spent many an afternoon just going for a quick dip and enjoying the beautiful views from the 16th floor. Not a bad place to relax for a bit.
The Night Markets
Night markets are a BIG thing in Chiang Mai. The street we were staying on has a night market – the night bazaar – every single night. You can find all sorts of gifts, Thai crafts, clothes, etc. and an endless assortment of magical street food. Every Sunday night – we went twice! – there is one MASSIVE Sunday night market that runs almost the entire length of the street from the east to west gates of the Old City. The whole street is shut down to cars and is pedestrian only. You can really find some gems here and we stuffed ourselves with as much good food as we could manage.
Temple Tour & Doi Suthep
As Chiang Mai is famous for its many temples, we wanted to hit some of the highlights and do so with a guide! So we took a 4 hour tour with a wonderful local woman to see some of the biggest and most beautiful. The most noteworthy was Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – literally above the clouds, at the top of a mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. Pictures don’t do it justice!
The Jungle Muay Thai Tournament
At the end of our time in Sukhothai, we were invited to come back for a local muay thai tournament and food festival about a week later. So we hiked it on a 4 hour bus ride and spent all evening with our local friends watching our first muay thai fights ever. No one will be surprised to hear that all the locals were looking at us like “who in the hell are these white people!?” but once they realized we knew some locals of our own and weren’t, in fact, lost westerners, it was game on. All the Thai men wanted to comment on NIck’s size and suggest he take his turn in the ring. We drank local Thai whisky (a LOT of it), ate street foods, watched tons of muay thai (our trainer from our class WON!!) and danced to some DJ tunes. It was an amazing overnight trip to say the very very least.
Elephant Nature Park Visit
No such thing as too many elephants, right? One day while Nick was hard at work, I took a day trip to visit Elephant Nature Park. After having been to another elephant sanctuary (twice!) prior to this one, it was really interesting to see notable differences in how sanctuaries operate and how they treat their elephants. This sanctuary had almost 100 elephants to watch which was so special!! The day itself was really fun – it involved tons of elephant interactions like walking with them, watching them bathe in the river, feeding them tasty fruits and veggies, etc. Would totally suggest to anyone visiting Chiang Mai!