Chiang Mai culinary secrets

The Twin Peaks is an 8-storey (2 wings) condo with a good sized outdoor swimming pool. Our timeshare facilitates us to book one of two bedroom units here. The smaller units are usually very much in demand. To add to our challenge, we can only book 60 days ahead!

Partly due to the fact that there are only 4 apartments available for members. The rest of the apartments in this well located condo are leased out or sold.

Finally able to exchange for a 1-bedroom apartment, we came back to the city of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. In most part the focus was to explore the parts of the city missed out in our trip in 2014, we were able to savour more of the city’s culinary delights this time round!

18th September
A morning flight out that took just 2.5 hours for us reach Lanna. Then it was off to our first lunch adventure and coffee, even with the rain mercilessly pelting us!
Touching down, we headed to the exit of the domestic side of the terminal.Airport Taxi Our downtown ride costs Bht160. Remember to walk towards the domestic terminal section of the airport. The licensed taxis are all located at that end and are fixed price. Taxis in Chiang Mai are well regulated. Airport Taxi stand1A fixed rate is charged for the approximate 12-minute ride.
Today we took the local jeepney to Wat Phra Sing – where we had lunch at SP chicken.
Watch out for the yellow sign. Tip: get the Thai name written or downloaded on your phone to show to the driver.
SP Chicken 1The restaurant is not very conspicuous and was hard to spot. SP Chicken 8Normally said to be very packed, today we were lucky to be there ahead of the lunch crowd.
SP Chicken 3Lunch was a simple fare and we had a half chicken + vermicelli cooked with minced meat. The local morning glory – spinach as it is called elsewhere accompanied the lunch. We found the chicken to be rather dry for our taste. Definitely not as savoury considering it was roasted over charcoal. The portion of vermicelli was rather pathetic.
Our conclusion was that the Trip Advisor reviews over-hyped this restaurant. You can probably get better value elsewhere. Might be the reason why the restaurant was not all that crowded. Cost us only bht 220 though…
SP Chicken 7SP Chicken 6
It was raining quite heavily most of the day as we walked to the Akha coffee house along Samlan road. Opened by a member of the Akha tribe, coffee that is cultivated in the highlands of Northern Thailand is used.Akha Cafe3
It is said that the man who opened this cafe had decided that they would not just cultivate the beans and let middle men reap the profitable coffee trade. Thus, a new kid on the block came to the market offering produce direct from the cultivators of the beans! This is also our first time to use the local red jeepneys (songthaews).
Songthaew ride3They are designated by colors to ply only in specific parts of Chiang Mai. Remember to bargain and agree on a price (per person) for the trip to your destination. Check that the driver knows where you want to go!
Night market Leather store1Leather ware is one new area of interest for Suan in this trip. As ritual, we proceeded to walk the permanent night markets along Changklan road in the evening after dropping off our things back at the apartment.
We were looking for sketch painting to be made, but decided that it was too pricey. Photos will do!
Suan found a leather shop here that retails genuine crocodile and stingray leather. There were replicas of world famous brands here and they are priced rather attractively too! Just as a teaser, a replica of He*mes cost just bht9000 (US$260? in Sep-15).
However it is too early in the trip to make any purchase and today’s walkabout was more about reconnaissance…

As it was the first day, we typically take it easy. Lunch was a disappointment and we retreated back the “safety” of demonstrated eats at the night market near our apartment. Suan’s rather picky with shopping here, and we will come back to the same shop repeatedly over the next few days…

19th September
A morning lunch at Huen Phen followed by browsing a 2nd hand book store. We walked the moat this time! The afternoon and evening was spent at the Wualai market area – a regular feature of Chiang Mai every Saturday.
Took we the Songthaew to Ratchamakka road to lunch at Huen Phen. They offer northern Thai cuisine and are a local haunt.
It can be really busy at peak hours or so we were told! We had our lunch at 12pm (11am Thai) before the purported crowd will begin to stream in.
Huen Phen lunch2 Huen Phen lunch3You can either pick off the takeaway spread or order.
We had the signature dishes of pork and local made sausages.Huen Phen lunch7 They were delicious! The egg plant had herbs in its preparation and tasted very nice in its “shredded” form.
←The fish cake “Otah” is highly recommended! The roasted pork was not too fatty and complements the sticky rice well!
Huen Phen lunch8We made ourselves a promise to come back for dinner.
Total bill for 4 dishes, bht230. So not too bad! No wonder there are so many websites advertising Thailand to be a low cost retirement destination. Only if you like the weather and food!Huen Phen lunch12
Aside from the lunch servings, the restaurant sells a range of Thai snacks. One of them is Pork skin. Fried to a crisp, it retails for bht50 and seems to be a popular casual snack item.
 

We continued walking along the cafes and small shops along Ratchamakka and came to the Lost book store. Well, we did get lost in there for nearly 2 hours. Lots of old selection of off prints retailing anything from bht100-400. Here Melvin bought a few books (would have bought more if there was more luggage space).

A short walk down the road and we reach the moat of the old city.  Old City Moat11This moat forms a square around the old town area. We took a walk along the moat to enjoy the cool air in the mid day.

Not decorative, the moats were defensive in nature and also served to provide water if the city was siege. One thing about the old town is that only the bastions at the corners of the square city remains intact. These bastions hail from 1296 when the city was first built! Today, the roads along the moats form one-direction only traffic, the reason the Songthaews seem to take circuitous routes!

Old City - Bastion1Old City - Bastion9
 The afternoon was spent initially observing the stall owners begin their set up of stalls. There are many shops selling Silver along the road, quite some of them with their own craftsmen working.At 4pm the road is still open and the owners of the stall are streaming into the area. You can observe the setting up process – the tent that are being put together to shield the wares from the elements.
Wualai market setting up5 Wualai market setting up4 Wualai market setting up1
Wualai night market12 See how the stall looks different between set up and when it is ready to meet the customer? At exactly 4pm the road is sealed and no vehicle traffic can flow through. The stalls begin to take shape and readied for the flow of tourist that will come in the next few hours. Wualai night market10
We decided to try out the grilled squid at one of the stalls for Bht50. This as we found out, will be the cheapest grill that we have in the entire trip! Remember this is the Saturday market. A wide choice of local fare is available. Wualai night market4 At various points along Wualai road there are many food points set up to cater to the crowds coming in the evening. These, unlike the ones in Thapae road are usually hosted in an open area rather than within the temple complexes.
Wualai night market3↑Exotic grills are also offered – such as pig’s stomach. You’d need a strong stomach to eat this! As the evening approaches the lights come on and the wares are lighted up.
For the most part, the wares on sale are repeated ever so often as you walk along. However, some gems do appear from time-to-time. For example, it was not easy to find these sponges on sales!
Wualai night market18
Wualai night market14 Wualai night market15 Wualai night market19
Open space seating at some of the temples :Wualai night market21 We walked to the Silver Temple where there was a martial arts display on-going. The main temple here is adorned with silver. It is also off limits to women and only men may enter the temple. Well, the girls may walk around the temple grounds though. Quirky stuff are also on sale such as caricature T-shirts of super heroes .Wualai night market20
The reason for not allowing women to enter the temple is that are supposedly many precious things, incantations, amulets and other holy objects were buried 500 years ago. A woman entering the place may “deteriorate” the place! Not sure how many women can accept this.Silver Temple 1 Silver Temple 4Wat Sri Suphan was first founded in 1501. In 2004, the temple began to renovate using Silver making techniques. It is not that all of the building are silver. Most are alloy and zinc and silver is only used for holy images.Silver Temple 2

The Saturday market at Wualai should really be a stop on your itinerary in Chiang Mai. There is so much to see here. Some of these vendors turn up at the Sunday market too! And if you are into jewelry then Wualai road has one of the largest stretch of silvermaking and retailing shops in the country. Be enthralled with the intricately made works of local art!

20th September
We explore a new area today – Nimmanahaeminda (northwest part of Chiang Mai) before making it to the Sunday night market. 
An early morning drive to the northwest part of the city- Ninmanhaemin where lots of café and small shops. Our first stop was to seek out lunch. Could not find the one Suan identified and we eventually settled for a small “coffee shop” at the corner of Soi 11/13.Nimmanhaeminda Soi 11 lunch7 Nimmanhaeminda Soi 11 lunch2The eatery is like an old coffee shop from Singapore’s 1960s.Nimmanhaeminda Soi 11 lunch3 We had yellow wanton noodle with beef tenderloin in broth that tastes great! Suan had pork slices and innards with her broad flat noodles.

All these come in Small / Medium / Large portions – and at tiered prices of baht 60/100/180.

Googling the restaurant’s Thai reviews, the business was said to have started >50 years ago. Seems that the business only moved here 7 years ago before this part of the city crawl of tourists! Lots of locals frequent this small restaurant and the flow is fast at this lunch hour.

Nimmanhaeminda shopping1 Nimmanhaeminda shopping3 Nimmanhaeminda shopping4
Nimmanhaemin’s many “Soi” (lanes) is home to a lot of specialty shops. We also found handicrafts and accessories.Nimmanhaeminda shopping6 Nimmanhaeminda Wawee coffee1Suan found a bounty of buys here ranging from hats to clothing. Our next stop was at Wawee café, a chain store that has built up quite a following with the local university students. We had rainbow cake with our coffee as we rested our tired legs after the morning walk.
At 6pm, we turned up at the Thapae gate for the Sunday market. It was already thronged with people! Today is food sampling day – as we stopped at each temple to check out the food stalls.

First up was some local samosa and spring roll to fill our hungry stomachs. We washed it down with some fish maw soup which cost 25 baht for a small portion.

Thapae night market6 You can take a seat in the make-shift eating area behind the stalls.Thapae night market10
Thapae night market11There was even Chicken rice here! The meat is tender and the rice tastes well against what we have in Singapore! Spring rolls Thai style, along with lots of spicy sauces! It was all delicious! Total spend, probably <300 baht…Thapae night market15 Thapae night market1Pork slices could be had for a mere 40 baht! Our close was some vegetable “Jwee kway” filled with yam or chives.
Thapae night market12 ← We finally got to try out the Thai sausages, opting for the northern Thai version. Eaten with spicy sauce, it tasted heavenly! And at 20 baht per piece, it was a pittance! Then it was off along the very long Thapae road. Thapae night market18We never made it to the end of the night market, but it was enough!
As the night wear on, the Tuk Tuk drivers are out in force looking for tired night market wonderers to take a ride home. Costs can escalate at this late hour to 50-60 baht for the ride back to the Twin Peaks. It’s about demand and supply! Look for Songthaews that are already partially filled to get a better price. Thapae night market19 Thapae night market22
Thapae night market26 The bargaining never ends. Bring enough cash with you though. No plastic payments at these pop up stalls. If you are still hungry after trying out all the stall food, there are restaurants all along the way for you to take a drink and eat your fill. Not easy to get seating as they always seem to be full! Sunday’s sure a great time to be out and about here at Thapae.Thapae night market24

The Sunday market at the Thapae gate is a must. Location of Thapae

You will miss do much if you do not get there. No worries about time, they open till probably midnight (we were there till 10pm). And lots of Tuk² and jeepneys waiting to cart you home.

21st September
After a congee lunch, we spend time at Warorot market buying an assortment of dried goods and food.
It was a 15 minute ride in the Songthaew to the northern moat of the old town, at a busy intersection where Jok Somphet is located. It serves quite a fair selection of congee options though other traditional Thai dishes of noodles can be had. Jok Somphet lunch18 Jok Somphet lunch3
Jok Somphet lunch4 Accompanying our congee we had a dish of braised pork with Kai Lan vegetables. Congee is usually a breakfast food (as with the Chinese), but today it is a lunch we are having! Jok Somphet has a reputation in the internet circles about bad service and about being overpriced.Our personal experience is that the service was adequate (probably because we were there early with no crowd) and the total of 237 baht was not too much of the high side unless compared to roadside stalls.

The congee is very fine and the rice virtually “melted”. Mixed in with meat, it tasted more liquid than solid. This probably also means that we will be hungry soon thereafter! That is why it is important to have a number of accompanying dishes (we had pork and vegetables) to make it filling!

Warorot market7Then it was off to Warorot market, which is a mix of wet and dry markets. It is open every day and some of the stuff you see at the night markets could have been sourced here! Warorot market6Close to the river Pin, you will find all things here for sale from dried goods to fresh meats.
The shops here cater to the locals and usually do not bargain down the prices. We bought incense, fish maw, pepper seeds, pork rind and an assortment of other produce here to bring home.
 Warorot market5
Warorot market10 Warorot market11 Warorot market12
The wet market is mostly closed as they usually are most active before noon. It is said that similar wares offered at the night markets may be found here cheaper and of better quality.
Changklan road in the day We found fruit stalls facing the river. The last time we came it was strawberries (February) and this time we saw large jackfruits.

← The drive back to Twin Peaks passes by the night market along Chang-Klan road. You can see that the stalls for the night are already being set up for the → stallholders.

Songthaew ride7
Huen Phen Dinner8 Huen Phen Dinner3 We had dinner at the Huen Phen today, in the rustic corner of the restaurant. The atmosphere of the restaurant is enjoyable, and it is surprising how many people come here!
The selection for dinner is almost the same as for lunch, notably the dish of stir fried “morning glory” is only available for dinner.
 Huen Phen Dinner4 Huen Phen Dinner5 Huen Phen Dinner6
Huen Phen Dinner11 The sampling for dinner for us was different from lunch except for the roasted pork which we ordered again as it is so nice!
Do not go for the fried rice, the portion is small and for the price (100 baht) the Huen Phen special should be avoided in favor of just sticky rice.
Huen Phen Dinner10
When you arrive, you may think that the restaurant is closed. And yes, the section that is opened in the day is closed out. Look out for the other entrance! Due to the peak timing at night, our trip from Ratchamakka back to Changklan road via a songthaew costs Bht30pp.

Very fun day as we went the lengths and breadths of the old city and markets. Dinner was a near heart stopper, as there will be no other restaurants around along a seemingly dark stretch of road after the Songthaew dropped us and dashed off!

22nd September
Exploring the Thapae area more thoroughly today through lunch and bookstore hunting, we spent an easy going day rummaging through books and all shops at Thapae road before heading back to our apartment.
Today we went to a local restaurant not far from our apartment. It is called “Sukho Thai” though we cannot make it out from the Thai words.
It is not easy to spot and located in the Soi next to the Art at Paradise studio. You need to walk into the Soi to find the place. Lots of local people come here for lunch and it fills up quick.
Sukhothai local restaurant lunch7 Sukhothai local restaurant lunch8
Sukhothai local restaurant lunch5It rotates fast too and many just come to pick up a takeaway. It is also very cheap and the meal comes up only to 145 baht for two! The portion though is not large though sufficient to cover us till dinner time! Sukhothai local restaurant lunch6This is but one of the many smaller eateries along Changklan road further away from the night market. You will find lots of places to eat here. Not sure if anyone cooks at home! Sukhothai local restaurant lunch4Then it was off to Thapae gate to explore the shopping around this parts. We were also looking for book stores.
Book Zone along ThapaeWe explored the lanes around Thapae road before the gate to the old town browsing through a few used book store here and great selections to be had.Backstreet Bookstore1
It is a pity that we cannot buy more, since it will be too heavy to carry the books home! Book Zone is great for SEA history titles.Tip to ourselves: come with an empty luggage.
ChiangMai Design wholesale store3We also found a Silver wholesaler along Thapae road selling jewelry by the weight. It seems a lot of people come to Chiang Mai to purchase bulk for resale back home. We saw in that 15-20 minutes quite a few folks come in to inquire about bulk prices… online business huh?ChiangMai Design wholesale store2
But it you were to explore the permanent night market along Changklan road, you will come up to a tiny “mall” with loads of little stores.
Many of them retail silver jewelry or ornaments. Some of them can be really large, such as fruit punch bowls!
Kalare dinner8 In the evening, we went back to the Anusarn night market to finish up shopping.Kalare dinner6 First stop was dinner at the eateries behind the Anusarn night market. Noted that many of the restaurants here are halal – ie opened by folks from Pakistan or the middle east. Good place for Muslim friends to take your meals.Kalare dinner4
You will find many “touristy” restaurants in the night markets as well. This occasion we decided to try out the burgers of Aussie Boys. Costing 209 baht for a double, it was so full of meat and cheese it was well worth it! They set up shop at a lane in the night market and a must try.
Aussie Boyz burger at Anusarn Anusarn night market2 Anusarn night market1Suan was looking for an elephant tissue cover all over the night markets along Changklan road. We had bought this last year.
She finally found her favorite vendor at the Anusarn market,; she was late in setting up… Suan bought five of the tissue covers at once!

You can say that our timeshare apartment’s backyard is the permanent night market. And it has its advantages. For one, it is a short 5-7 minute walk. So, no need to do any self catering. Not that you need to since the area we stayed seems to boast of an eatery or convenience store every 50m!

23rd September
It is time to head home! We packed some breakfast at a café near our apartment and headed to the airport. Our 2nd Chiang Mai adventure has ended!
Nice evenings were spent having drinks while enjoying the pool view from our apartment. Melvin did some running at the gym while Suan had her massage and spa. All around nice days!
We also had guests that bunked in on the aircon ventilators at the balcony. These guys had to put up with us for the whole week!

And so ends our five nights in Chiang Mai. This occasion was more of a culinary expedition rather than a explorative one. But then we have the privilege of coming back whenever we like since we have the timeshare.

Only that it is limited to the equivalent of 7 nights per year!

And so we told ourselves we will have to wait for another year. Some things are worth waiting for. Watch for more as we journey yet again to Chiang Mai in 2017.

September 2015

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