Chiang Mai Day 3 – markets galore

Chiang Mai Day 3

A pretty decent storm hit Chiang Mai last night with plenty of heavy rain well into the night – great for sleeping and no air con or fans were needed. It certainly cheered the birds up judging by the enthusiasm of their morning twittering. It’s light here by 6am and above the chirping I could hear neighbours sweeping leaves and dispatching puddles of water.

I often get a bit disappointed that I can’t sleep in when I’m tired but my mind soon turns to tea and the contents of my fridge and I jump out of bed in anticipation of market snacks and fresh fruit. I plated myself up a fabulous feast of sticky rice sweets plus pawpaw, banana, and passionfruit. The Wi-Fi was working well so I indulged in breakfast in bed checking the overnight news and social media posts, careful to spread a towel under my plates so as not to spill crumbs.

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Saturday is hair-washing day for me normally so no need to disrupt the routine. A good scrub up and I was ready to walk by 8.30, although I wasn’t sure if much would be open yet. I decided to mark off a few more blocks of the Old City map to explore and wander out for an or so before the main excursion of the day. One problem of walking long distances and eating heaps in a foreign city is the need for public amenities at a certain point in the morning. Bodily functions do not always time themselves conveniently! So, a walk around the block and back to the hotel/flat is often a useful exercise.

I headed up to cover the north-west part of the old city and it was lovely out at that time of morning with the streets washed clean and people relaxing in weekend mode. I was soon drawn towards food carts on the opposite side of the road where small queues were gathering – always a good sign. I love how such simple and portable set ups can create fast food for passers-by. This one was in two parts. A grill set up to heat up and finish off partially cooked selections of meats; and a couple of woks to whip up self-customised omelettes.

I watched for a while to get the gist of how it worked, then chatted to a woman with her young son about how to order. I was given a cup in which to put my ingredients chosen from containers on the table. You help yourself to as much or as little carrot, onion, sweet corn, local fern, chilli (and a few different meaty bits) as desired then what ever condiments – soy, oyster, chilli sauces etc.; an egg or two is cracked into the cup, mixed and tossed into the wok for cooking. Then served on rice for less than $1. And so much nicer than the one I had at 6 times the price in Coffee Lovers yesterday. Thankfully I always have room for a second breakfast!

Continuing towards the North wall of the city I happily snapped away at trees in flower, colourful characters, creative electric wiring, cats on tables and dogs stretched out in doorways. I really should have some photography lessons one day to learn to use my camera better. Taking photos is not my strong point but spotting intriguing subject matter is. I need to marry those two activities up better to avoid the frustration of deleting so many shots when I download the memory card.

Heading for home I arrived not a moment too soon to accomplish my awaited call of nature. Everything was now in order for the longish walk west over to Warorot Market. Crossing the moat and the main road to get out of the Old City I was surprised by how different the area I was passing through was. Proper footpaths and fancier shops, taxi touts and well-dressed tourists indicated a different clientele to where I was staying. I was immediately glad of advice by friend Jane Clarke to stay in the Old City.

The area surrounding the market reminded me a little of Pratunam market in Bangkok where a whole shopping industry sets up outside the market complex. I was a little disappointed by this market having read that this is where the locals go to buy everything they could possibly need. There were some special moments – mostly involving the discovery of more varieties of sticky rice sweets! I eat more incidental sugar on a trip like this in a week than I would in a year back home. I bought a bag of veg salad in a bag that looked good – kind of like a green papaya salad but with wombok instead of papaya, and looked out for some other savoury prepared foods that might be good for lunch.

I was growing tired of Warorot market – the atmosphere was missing of my local Bumrung Buri road market so I decided to head back that way and circum-navigate some more of the old city boundary in the process. By the time I arrived back it was nearly closing time. These markets start early and most of the stalls pack up by around mid-day. But there was enough open to scratch together a feed. Some delicious looking bamboo shoots with egg; another whole grilled fish; and some roasted peanuts bought from a 5-year-old girl sang out “good morning” to me from behind her mother stall even though it was well past morning.  I think I’ll make this a daily stop from now on as it’s much more relaxed and friendly than other markets I’ve been to here so far.

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I was home by 1pm and emptied my bag of the 4 packets of sticky rice cakes, the bags of veg and fish and laid me out some lunch. The salad from Warorot was awful! It had so much sugar in the sauce and no sour, salt, or chilli to balance it – so that went straight in the bin. However, the bamboo shoots and fish were awesome followed by a few passionfruit. (I have a kilo of passionfruit and must consume at least 6 per day to have any hope of getting through them before I leave!)

Rested up from the heat of the day I thought I’d fill in another hour by exploring the centre-north of the old city. My map is slowly being covered with pink highlighter as I colour in the streets I’ve walked down. Half way up the first road I was locked in by a fleet of tuk-tuks ferrying a crowd of over-dressed Japanese tourists. I squeezed on past and soon ran into them again. It seemed they were heading the same way I was but by vehicle, with a total of exactly 90 seconds at each land mark for a photo and a selfie before squeezing back into the passenger seat and moving on. Interesting way to see the sights – for some I suppose.

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Chiang Mai is full of temples, or wats. Having spent half a life time looking at temples on the subcontinent I have no passion for them these days except to admire the handicraft of those who built them. I haven’t entered of photographed any on this trip but I came almost face to face with a very large Buddha as I turned a corner on this walk and felt the need to take his picture. Unfortunately, the best shot would be from in the middle of a very busy road. I wonder how many people have stepped out into the traffic to get a better angle?

That walk filled in the late afternoon before the second main event of the day – the Saturday Night walking market on Wua Lai Rd to the south of the old city wall. Knowing I needed some small change for sundry purchases I bought a couple of beers for the fridge from my lovely landlady with a very large note (sorry) to fill my wallet with small stuff again. The market supposedly gets active at around 6pm so headed off at 5.30 for the half hour walk there.

It’s a bustling place and stretches out for at least a kilometre along a road closed off to traffic for the evening. Crafts, food stuffs, clothes, buskers, dodgy salesmen selling the latest fads, locals, tourists kids and dogs – it has the lot. And plenty of hawker carts and tables to sit at along the way. Definitely worth a visit. I stopped at a food stall selling vegetarian rice noodles with fried mushrooms and just as I was about to ask for some an announcement came over the PA system. “Please stop what you are doing and be upstanding to honour king and listen to the national anthem” was explained in both English and Thai. I’m not sure if this happens every night at 6 o’clock or maybe only on Saturday nights or in public places – better investigate that one.

Anyway, formalities taken care of, I could buy my noodles and pulled up a stool on the street to eat. By the time I’d finished it was starting to get dark and the crowds were building. It was getting difficult to walk unobstructed through the market by now and stalls started to get repetitive. I made my way to the end of the market, tossing loose change into the buskers’ baskets as I went to lighten the weight in my pockets. Some of them were quite good, especially the Traffic Police country music band raising funds for kids’ education and the blind boy-band seated in a row on the ground.

There was so much more to see on the way home. Hawker stalls had set along the footpaths I’d walked earlier in the day but I was knackered so barely glanced at the offerings. There were crowds of people out enjoying the evening but I was done for the day. Although I did stop to examine the egg roti cart in my side street that I hadn’t seen before. Perhaps tomorrow night if he’s still there!

 

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