Our next stop is Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. A couple years ago we enjoyed the beaches of Thailand and visited Bangkok, but never made it to the north. Chiang Mai is a great little city. The main part of Chiang Mai is the “old city” which has a moat around it and big wooden gate doors at each of the entrances. It has lots of one way streets, which makes driving quite interesting. We arrived Friday evening and chatted with the very charming owner of the hotel who helped us plan our itinerary for the next few days.
People here say, you haven’t seen Chiang Mai unless you have done three things: 1) Visit the temple on the hill 2) Eat Khao Soi and 3) Go to the Sunday night market. So, we decided we were going to do each of the things on that list. We hired a scooter to get around and see the temple and palace in the hills. We took off from the hotel staying on the left, following the detailed directions from the hotel and made no wrong turns getting to the road up the hill! Heading up the mountain there were lots of fun corners to cruise around. Our first stop was a waterfall… that you had to pay for! We decided it would be worth it and we could do a little hiking as well. So we parked our moto and “hiked” about 4 minutes to the waterfall. Probably not the best money we’ve ever spent, but it was pretty. We visited the Doi Suthep Temple and the Bhubing Palace. The palace is still used today by the Thai Royal Family when they visit Chiang Mai. We did a walking tour of the palace grounds where there are beautiful gardens. The Queen’s favorite flower is the rose, so there is a beautiful rose garden with hundreds of different types of roses. There are all sorts of other beautiful flowers here and they even grow their own royal organic strawberries.
As we drove back down the mountain, we could feel the change of temperature. At the top it was cool and as we went down it just kept getting warmer and warmer. We stopped by a tailor to get Adam measured for a suit and decided to visit one more palace. There were more beautiful gardens here, including a bonsai garden and orchid garden. It was starting to get dark, so we headed back to the hotel so we wouldn’t have to navigate the roads in the dark. We got close to the city and headed it the direction we thought was home… But after driving round and round, up and down every road about 10 times, we confirmed that we were lost. We stopped a few times to ask for directions and each time, they would point us in the same direction we had been trying. So we continued to drive around some more and finally stop at an Internet café. And all we can say, is thank goodness for Google street view! We got a detailed view of the other shops on our street, got on the moto again, down the same streets we had driven many, many, many times, and what do you know… after more than 2 hours of searching, there was our hotel! We had passed it at least 10 times, the sign is just hidden more than we thought!
The next day we did a Thai cooking class. We visited the market where our instructor, Ann, taught us about all the different things at the market that we would be using in our cooking that day. We drove out to their farm, where they grow a lot of the fresh produce as well. It was a lovely outdoor setting for a cooking class. Over the course of the day, we each cooked 6 dishes, including our own homemade curry paste, ground using a mortar and pestle. I also learned how to make the dish of Chiang Mai, which is Khao Soi. It’s a noodle soup made with lots of veggies and spices and of course, coconut milk! It was so much fun and interesting how many of the exact same ingredients are used in most of the dishes. And yes Dad, when we get home, we’ll cook you up a homemade Thai dinner!
We wandered around the Sunday night market, visited some more wats, and had a lovely dinner on the river. We also enjoyed an hour long, very cheap Thai massage!