Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

I love Thailand. It is like a second home to me. I spent ridiculous amount of time travelling this country and I still feel I haven’t covered most of it. If I had to choose my favourite region it would definitely be the northern Thailand. I love the beaches and mad partying the south offers, but my ultimate favourite is the serene north. As a part of my Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand series, I would like to cover my favourite haunts in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai etc. Also, don’t forget to check out Foodie Heaven Bangkok article, to know where the best eats in Bangkok are at

Chiang Mai

My first stop for this blog would be Chiang Mai, Thailand. A location surrounded by beautiful temples on the top of the mountains and filled with friendly people. I absolutely love the architecture, the culture, the temples and the Food. The one-stop eating zone that will fill you up and not lighten your wallet is the nightmarket in Chiang Mai. There are many night markets in Chiang Mai and one of my favourite is the market opposite to Chiang Mai gate. Eat ai ua (Chiang Mai sausage), nam prik ong (chilli tomato pork dip) and kaeng khanun (jackfruit curry) and Khao Soi. As cheap as 30 baht will fill your tummy up.

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

From melt in the mouth pork to sushi, from bite sized icecream to quail egg omelette, you get everything. If you have more than two days, be sure to check out Waorat market, Cooking love, Mr.Kai restaurant. Literally, every street is filled with food. It is a pity that Thailand’s government banned street food stalls recently.

Chiang Rai

This is a gem in Thailand. Quaint little town filled with beautiful temples and a perfect stop to explore nearby mountains and the tribes. Chiang Rai market is again the go to choice for food but there are also many restaurants opposite to this market which serve up delicious food. I had a little adventure here, where I drove almost 100 kms to a place called Doi Mae Salong. On route to this place, we stopped at Choi Fong Tea Factory. What a beautiful place, tea served up right next to the gardens is one of the best experience one can have.

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Doi Mae Salong is little tibetan community right on the border. The  beauty of the place has to be experienced.

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Apart from the rich local cuisine, there are many more things to explore in Northern Thailand. The hippie community of Pai, The border community of Mae Sot, beautiful local tribes and hot water baths. One cannot spend enough time here.

Foodie Heaven Bangkok, Thailand – 1

Traditional Thai Blue rice and curry, Bangkok Food Thailand

Travelling encompasses of many experiences. Whether I choose an adventure, experience a local tradition or eat my heart out, It is always beautiful. The best way to travel is to eat. One can understand a country and its people a whole lot more with their cuisine and eating habits. I am here to speak about one such “eat like the locals” experience. I am speaking about Foodie Heaven Bangkok, Thailand, in this series of oncoming posts.

Thailand is a true delight for the senses. Their culture is unique and the people amicable and the places breathtaking. The one word I would use to describe are that they are pure-pledged businessmen. Owing it to the vast tourism sector, Bangkok or Thailand in general would have the largest number of street food vendors. Bangkok, The Thai capital is a foodie delight which offers world-class gastronomy and diverse cuisines. I would like to divide this series into Food in Bangkok, Food in northern Thailand, food in Southern Thailand. Later on, I will post about my 10 absolute favourite items to eat, when in Thailand.

Thai Milk Iced Tea

My favourite routine when in Bangkok is to get a chanom in the morning. Chanom or Thai Milk iced tea is a delicious concoction of condensed milk, Thai Tea and ice. One cannot not love this beauty.  Bangkok Cafe at the Suvarnabhumi airport is my absolute favourite but this can be found at the numerous street cart vendors.

Bangkok Food Thailand Bangkok Food Thailand

Another one of their delicacies is the salted fried fish. This yummy melt in your mouth deliciousness from the sea is an easy find. Go to any of the numerous markets, be it Chatuchak market or the patong market or even pratunam, you will street vendors grilling away to glory.

Boat Noodle Alley, Victory Monument

Bangkok Food Thailand, Boat Noodle Alley

Slurp, thats the word for one of Bangkok’s iconic boat noodles. After going to the victory monument, it is right under the sky train station. The boats noodles are as cheap as 8 baht per bowl. Here, you can see locals competing on who will build highest boat noodle cup tower.

Traditional Thai Blue rice and curry, Bangkok Food Thailand

If you haven’t tried thai blue rice with thai curry, you are missing out. Traditionally thai, the food in the above picture will tickle your palate. All in all, here are the things you should definitely not give a miss when in Bangkok. Go to asiatique water front, and try out their food court. From Peking Duck to the most amazing sushi, this place is a Foodie haven. Try out the food courts at the malls in Bangkok. Definitely sip on burned coconut, chrysanthemum tea, eat the amazing pork belly at the chatuchak market on the weekends. Try massaman curry, Som Tam, Pad Thai, Khao Pat and more.

Pad Thai, Bangkok Food Thailand Som Tam, Bangkok Food Thailand

Finally, try out sukhumvit Soi 38 for the night snacks and korean plaza, arabic lane, India lane for diverse cuisines.

Foodie Heaven Bangkok, Thailand

Do you have a favourite place or food to eat in Bangkok? Drop me a comment with what it is and I will definitely try out the next time I am in town.

Songkran Festival Thailand – Where to go!

Thailand has been a traveller’s paradise for over 30 years now. Years of tourism has left its toll on this beautiful country. The beaches, once pristine are riddled with plastic and paper from the tourists. The humongous forests have become thinner by the year. However, this country has the charm to attract over half a million tourists for their annual water festival combined with Thai new year. Yes, I am speaking about Songkran Festival Thailand.

For those who don’t know about Songkran, here is a small excerpt. Songkran is celebrated during the traditional Thai new year. It is important to know where to go during this festival so you can enjoy it to the maximum. Below are some of the places this beloved water festival is celebrated in all its glory.

Chiang Mai

I think Songkran in Chiang Mai is definitely the best and the wettest in Thailand. Tens and thousands of men, women and children flood the streets with their squirt guns. I wish I was here every year as a child. The buckets of ice cold water from them is a welcome respite to the summer heat in April. The never ending flow of water on each and everyone, endless party on the streets, loud blaring music and street dance makes Chiang Mai one of the best places to enjoy this festival.

Phuket

Songkran in Phuket is an ultimate street dance party with tons of ice cold water and what more, the beach is right next to it. Patong beach is already well known for its night life and raucous scene. It doesn’t take a back seat when it comes to one of Thailand’s favourite festivals. Well, If you want to try and have a look at one of the beauty pageants in Thailand, head to patong beach. Experience their miss songkran beauty pageant along with a beautiful water parade and crazy party scenes.

Ayutthaya

Thailand’s previous capital has its own royal style to celebrate this traditional festival. You can experience the traditional alms giving ceremony to 999 monks at the Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit to water splashing with none other than the mighty elephants. Finally, Thailand’s culture is truly experienced in this old heritage city.

Koh Samui

If you are heading to the south, other than Phuket you can also visit Koh Samui during the festival. The people here are quite serious about their water fights. With a mix of natives and tourists, this place is all in all fun to be.

Bangkok

Of course, the current Thailand capital is not going to take a backseat when it comes to their national festival. It has street parades to water fights to crazy parties all day and all night long.

Sometimes road chooses the traveller

Sometimes Road Chooses Traveller, A picture from a random ride to Choi Fong Tea Factory in Chiang Rai, Thailand

In the typical human fashion, I believed that most things are controlled by me. Are they? Are we really the person who’s making the choice?

Sometimes I have this crazy thought that there is a world out there in which there are living beings who play a virtual game. They created this world called earth and each of them has an avatar/ game personality which transcends to being humans. So they play this game and all the decisions we make, incidents that happen to us, situations that were created. Am I thinking too much? Definitely but then the question remains the same.. Are we really the ones who are choosing the road..

Didn’t you ever just make an itinerary for one destination but totally changed it in the last minute because you cannot just, not take the other way? I did many a times, be it scuba diving in hua Hin instead of ko Tao, spending time in kep and kampot over sihanoukville, going to cinque terre   Or Seville or Strasbourg or Barcelona during August? It’s not planned but randomly happened and a choice made over other destinations because I cannot just not go! Have you experienced this as well? If so let’s have a chat..

You learn to “JUGAAD” – Travelling Asia

Travelling Asia

 

We don’t see the things as they are, we see them as we are. While traveling Asia, there are many things you would learn, experience, create and explore. These things teach you something beyond words and beyond imagination. These are mine.

1. Patience.. (tuk tuk miss?!..)

You wake up, take your satchel and set out to discover that new city/town/village. Everything is perfect until you constantly hear “Do you want tuk-tuk miss?, Motodrop lady?. one dollar only and please give me some money. You cannot move/take your next step/ or breathe without saying “No, Thank you”.

Initially, you keep feeling like the king/queen (well we are all suffering from Attention seeking disorder in various measures you see!), then you start feeling claustrophobic and wish they will let you enjoy your peace in Angkor Wat or the waves in Koh Samui. After a period of time, you become patient, smile and say “No, Thank you” to everyone, may be speak to them, ask them where the best Som Tam shop is. You don’t feel like a king/queen, you wouldn’t feel like yelling at them or asking them to back off, you will learn to handle it, be patient with it and understand they are just doing their job.

2. Genuine vs. Fake

Whether it is that “Thai smile” you do not comprehend or the tuk tuk driver who is overtly helpful or that old lady who sells you awesome coconut pancakes for less than 40 cents you learn to distinguish people. You learn to understand the body language of a person, whether you can trust him/her for a moment.

People love privacy, just because they are smiling at you every time you are trying to buy from them or hanging out with them(be it another backpacker) or taking a picture of them doesn’t mean they have to like you. There is that genuine passerby who will take the pain to walk all the way with you just so you will find the right subway station or that person who pretends to be nice to you and expects a reward. Dealing with all sorts of people over a time makes you identify genuine from fake. It will help you understand the person, the situation and puts you on alert while slowly attuning your mind to identify them.

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3. Every second counts.

Yeah yeah this is the speech we listened to every single day of our teenage years and early twenties. It might not have applied to many situations, might have been the perfect solution of some (AHEM! that night before the damn calculus exam) but right now when you are travelling this applies: 100%.

Stop dusting those running shoes. When I said every second counts, I didn’t mean you have to put on those shoes and start going from one monument to other. What I mean is you are making a memory every waking minute of the day.

Be it doing a city tour with 3 people you met may be 5 minutes ago or playing pool for hours together on a rainy day, be it sharing an amazing meal and talking as if you have met not two days ago but twenty years ago. You are making a memory every single passing beat of your travel. Well, there will be days when you want to kick back in the hostel room just watching movies, HUH! Not happening unless you can make the internet work. This constant Hello’s and Goodbye’s, amazing cheap street meals, friends who will leave you in three days in search of a new adventure but will never fail to drop in a hello once in a while, these amazing tips about hidden waterfalls are your new achievements.

4. You learn to “JUGAAD”.

Gman this is for you 🙂

There are these crazy bunch of human beings?! hmm yeah, may be, I have met in 2009 and who have stayed with me ever since. They taught me the meaning for JUGAAD.

JUGAAD means finding a low-cost/quickest solution to any problem in an intelligent way. Living on smaller budgets? no problem, phone not working, can’t get to that next destination because of torrential rains, no worries, we can jugaad something out. There are no beds available in town cos of the festival, oh too bad, its OK you will sleep in the hammock, under the stars and may be with mosquito repellent. I am not saying taking short cuts in life is what you learn. I am saying you will deal with the situation in the best possible way using as minimum resources as possible. Am I sounding like your HR manager? OOPS..

5. Beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder.

Did you ever wonder how any living being chooses its mate? Why that person? Why not someone more beautiful or successful or handsome?

Did you ever wonder how your language will sound to a person that has never heard it before?

Did you ever wonder why durian is the most talked about fruit? why some tastes are acceptable to some while others reject them out right?

While traveling you learn to accept that all these questions will never be answered. You might enjoy something immensely while the other person doesn’t think much of it. You will love that “grilled chicken feet” while others hate the sight of that thing. Every person is different. Every experience is unique. There will come a point where you will stop questioning and start living in the moment, just enjoying the sounds, tastes, traditions while understanding what fits you best is just tailored for you and you only.

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6. You learn self control.

Some of the countries you will visit in Asia has a per capita income of less than 1 USD a day. In these countries living on a budget of 20 dollars would not be too bad. But if you run out of money and have to make it in 5 dollars the next day? It can be done. A two dollars dorm bed which comes with a huge bed and mosquito net, fan and cold water is more than what you paid for. A meal of rice/chicken and cold coffee for 75 cents is delicious. You will savour every single morsel, every drop of your drink and live every single day you spend in that place. Learn to control yourself from buying those cute looking trinkets or that amazing dress. You learn to differentiate from what you need to what you want.

7. You learn different languages, traditions et al

From “Sawadee to Orkun”. From “Gamsamhida to Xin loi” every single word you learn now, you will remember the rest of your life. Imagine waking up in the morning and repeating a word 10 times and learning a new word from the lady you buy your “yogurt shake” from every day. You will remember it cos it comes with a situation, a memory that is etched into your brain. You learn various traditions as well for example there are 5 ways to greet people in Cambodia depending on their age and your age or the eating traditions at a local festival etc. Will you use this knowledge in the future? Well, its better than knowing an entire periodic table by heart and not knowing laughing gas from nitrogen dioxide.

8. You Know Yourself

Sitting on the mountain top waiting for a sunset for two hours lets you have enough time for these thoughts. Your inner thoughts. You understand what kind of a person you are. There is no one to judge you here but yourself. There is no right or wrong but your consciousness. You meet all sorts of people who are coming from different wakes of life. You realize there are experiences beyond your imagination. A street running model for a show brand? A gasoline tester? An American soldier? A professional poker player? an actual “Pirates of the Caribbean” type sailor? you learn from them and more. Get that first shot of adrenaline whether you are mountain sliding on a rainy day or cliff jumping or diving. Accept that first shot of local produce which inebriates you to the next Friday. You lose yourself. You find yourself.

This is the crazy awesomeness you will live everyday till the last moment of your journey. There will be many lessons you will take with you. As the days pass by, you might forget these things until you start packing your backpack again. But, given a choice or rather I should say taken a choice, deep in your heart you would know what kind of person you really are or you will be.

Small town charm vs. Cosmopolitan City – What’s your travel style?

What’s your travel style? When you are travelling in a country you will encounter all kinds of people and places. On one side, there are these humongous cities that have no limits, buildings that are sky high, food to satisfy your eclectic taste buds and traffic that makes you thank your stars you are not the one sitting the car honking away to glory but not moving an inch. On the other side you have villages that are so off the beaten path and serene that you don’t care if you have a single bar of signal on your phone.

Travel Style - Country Travel Style - Rustic Travel Style - Rustic

Travel Style - Rustic Travel Style - Rustic

Travel Style - Rustic Travel Style - Rustic

I have had the opportunity to enjoy both. Going from the big bad city of Bangkok which made “Hangover” happen once again to lazing on the bamboo raft for an entire day for less than 5 $ in that part of Thailand no one would have thought of. One day during this journey I have happened to listen to an interesting conversation at a hostel. A group of people are arguing about what is the best way to travel. Is it to touch and go all the cities and understand how the country is developing into something that the generation next can understand or to go and live the local style life at the rural villages and understand the culture of the previous generation.

After all, without a past you cannot have a future and without future your past is forgotten at best. Finally, living the fast paced life is the best way to understand where the country is going, what its present generation is dreaming about and being able to soak in the rustic charm at the villages will help you understand where those dreams are coming from. I would like to end this post with a quote that basically sums up everything I want to say.

“Travel is little beds and cramped bathrooms. It’s old television sets and slow Internet connections. Travel is extraordinary conversations with ordinary people. It’s waiters, gas station attendants, and housekeepers becoming the most interesting people in the world.  Churches that are compelling enough to enter. It’s McDonald’s being a luxury. It’s the realisation that you may have been born in the wrong country.

Travel is a smile that leads to a conversation in broken English. It’s the epiphany that pretty girls smile the same way all over the world. Travel is tipping 10% and being embraced for it. Wearing the same white T-shirt again tomorrow. Travel is accented sex after good wine and too many unfiltered cigarettes. Travel is flowing in the back of a bus with giggly strangers. It’s a street full of bearded backpackers looking down at maps. Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was. It’s the rediscovery of walking somewhere. It’s sharing a bottle of liquor on an overnight train with a new friend. Finally, travel is “Maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home.” 

Travelling without research is like jumping off a plane without skydiving gear!

Travelling without research

If you ask me how my travel around Asia started, I will try to sound cool and say this. “Hey, one day I woke up, packed my backpack and took the next flight to Thailand”. In reality, though it took me months of research prior to even having this thought. I researched about the places, restaurants, monuments, markets and more. I know now I sound totally “uncool” but here is the thing. How would I know that there are floating vineyards in Thailand or a teddy bear hostel in Singapore. Or a place to find traditional Benjarong pottery and experience the royal cuisine.

IMG_1744Photo Credit: http://www.offbeatthailand.com/2014/11/02/boat-ride-in-a-floating-vineyard-near-bangkok/

Travelling without research is like jumping off a plane without skydiving gear. It will be exhilarating at first, well adrenaline rush is the new high isn’t it? And then freedom starts to become free doom very fast. It is the same with travelling. Going to a country you are unfamiliar with is thrilling at first but the thrill only lasts so long. You will end up doing all the touristy things suggested by your local tour guide or cab driver, probably spend a little too much on everything, get duped and more importantly miss out on the actual fun and the local culture.

It is very important to know why you need to do this particular journey. There are many answers to that question and all of them are right. Some people want to have fun or relax; to understand and enjoy the history of the place; some need to find themselves in this journey to far off lands; others wants adventure and for some local cuisine is the most important factor. You can have a mix of all these and more as the reason for your travel.

I have met a lot of people on my journey who said their reason in travelling to that particular place is to experience everything and anything. This got me thinking. I have lived in my hometown for 17 years of my life before shifting to a new city or country every few years. And every single time I go back to this place I find something new or something I missed in my previous visit.

I believe an entire lifetime won’t be sufficient to experience anything and everything in any place. That is why you need a reason or a motive for this particular journey. Don’t agree with me? Well, as I have always said my views are my own and you can probably achieve the unthinkable but I can’t. I would like to leave a place with this mindset “It was an awesome trip and I have loved every part of it. I still have lots more to see and someday I will come back here again”.

Finally, I would love to jump off that plane or boat knowing that I will never get bored of it and there is always something new to discover.