We first landed in Chiang Mai after traveling for almost 24 hours. We have a jetlag theory. If you pull an all-nighter before your morning flight, stay awake for as long as you can, and then try to sleep during the “night” on the plane you’ll adjust much more quickly. We’re usually exhausted the first day, but ultimately we’ve found that we suffer less jetlag this way. All the same, the name of the game for the first day was just keep moving. And so, after dropping our bags off at the hotel we immediately headed out to explore the city.
First up on the list was the wats. A wat is a monastery temple, and there are over two hundred of them in and around Chiang Mai. Which means that you can’t turn a corner without stumbling across a wat. Now I know I’m biased (how could I not be after all the amazing churches I’ve seen in Europe), but I kind of felt like once I’d seen one wat I’d pretty much seen them all. Is that horrible?
This wat, Wat Chedi Luang, was my favorite of the bunch. Construction started in the mid-14th century and was finally completed mid-15th century. A hundred years later an earthquake destroyed the top 30 metres. The temple then basically stayed untouched for over 400 years until in the early ’90s UNESCO and the Japanese government helped fund the reconstruction.
After an afternoon spent exploring the wats we were in need of some serious sustenance. Thai food is one of our favorite types of food. When we lived in Los Angeles it was not uncommon for the delivery man at Wirin Thai (the best Thai food place in LA) to drop by a couple of times a week. So to say we were excited to dive into the Thai street food scene would be an understatement, and the best place to do it is the night market. After grabbing a few pre-dinner drinks we made our way to the markets and woah.
The night markets in Chiang Mai are not for the faint of heart. The street is lined with stands peddling their wares, food carts offering everything from roasted meats to fried bugs, entertainment, and every person in the city. These markets are packed and they seemed to go on for miles. We saw quite a few massage shops along the “route”. My first thought was how odd, but after walking for what felt like 20 miles, I completely understood. But back to what really matters: the food. The first stall we happened upon had little meat balls essentially threaded together to make a meat necklace. A delicious, delicious meat necklace. We were two fat kids in the market: pad thai, chicken skewers, gyoza, sausages, fried rice, glass noodles, and mango sticky rice. After we were sufficiently stuffed, we waddled through the rest of the market and on our way back to the hotel.
Our last adventure in Chiang Mai before heading on the infamous Thai beaches was a cooking class. This was another one those things that nearly everyone recommended we do. As avid eaters of Thai food, it made sense that we try our handing and making Thai food. We each got to select 6 dishes to make. In order to make the most of it, we agreed on no repeats with the exception of dessert: mango sticky rice (because you can never have too much). The cooking school we went to grows their own produce, so on our tour of the farm we got to see where our ingredients came from as well as sample some of the goods straight from the tree. It was a hot, hot day but the class was wonderful. We learned that most Thai recipes are deceptively simple despite the complex looking recipes, and we learned that making curry is damn hard work, but the result is well worth the effort. And now, with our new cooking skills we can make authentic spicy Thai food whenever the craving hits.