31 January 2008

did I mention the food?

Am utterly besotted with Thai food. Arrived in Chiang Mai on Sunday, where I fell in love with the grilled catfish which looks as appealing as dried catfood but is super delish. Am also v partial to mango sticky rice - in fact, any kind of sticky rice (esp banana). Have been sampling all kinds of street eats such as papaya salad with shrimp, rice noodle soup and fried sweet potato and banana and have even ventured into the realm of unidentifiable meat on a stick, though I draw the line at barbecued whole frogs! So far my digestive tract has held up remarkably well.

The food affair got a little heated yesterday as I whisked myself off to a cooking school - a tax deduction I guess, ha! - and learnt how to get the wok flaming. Also learnt to make curry paste and made (and ate) pad thai, fish cakes with a sweet-sour dipping sauce, all manner of curries and the much loved mango sticky rice. Round eggplant goes straight into the category of amazing foods I can't believe I've never tried til now (which also includes roasted salted broad beans - legumes pretending to be potato chips!). Was all pretty simple but loads of fun, though they had to roll me out the door ;) Will upload photos of me at flame once I start downloading pics.

Also did loads of wat wandering in Chiang Mai, had a marathon chat with a monk and exercised uber restraint at various craft markets including the very chilled 'Sunday Walking Street' - where the road is blocked to traffic, divided in two and people walk on the left - except when the national anthem is played and everyone stops! Also saw my first elephant walking down the street in CM!

I hooked up with a Canadian girl in the sawngthaew (little red taxi truck) from the airport and we did most of our sightseeing in CM together. We also met some Melbourne lads and joined them for a scooter ride into the hills of Mae Rim to see a rather opulent wat. The boys (yes, boys! I feel so old!) are pedalling through northern Thailand and biked the summit of the country's highest peak (just shy of 3000 metres). Which made me realise how soft my travelling style is. But their two-wheeled slog is a cooked breakfast compared to
a kiwi lass I met who is travelling solo for eight months on her motorbike through south east Asia, Mongolia and Russia! I have met quite a few lone gals gadding about on extended trips while all the boys seem to stick together. Funny.

Today I got a bus up through the clouds to Pai, a hippy village north of Chiang Mai with thatched bungalows on the river, roosters and rice paddies. Tomorrow I'll head out of town to dip my toes in the hot springs and check out some waterfalls and a Chinese village. (Pai is close to both the Chinese and Burmese borders.) After Pai, I'll head further north east and perhaps do a hilltribe trek (the ones out of Chiang Rai are co-run with communities). I wonder what I'll eat there?!

Til then. x

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