Trying to familiarize myself with a few common terms in each country I visit..Sawasdee means hello!
My first day in Chiang Mai was pretty crazy. I hopped off the night train – which by the way was a very comfortable, and not to mention, cost-efficient mode of transportation-and headed towards my hostel. Got there just in time before the breakfast service closed down and grabbed myself some scrambled eggs to order.
If you are ever decide to backpack through Chiang Mai, definitely definitely stay at Plearn Hostel on Soi 1. I cannot possibly praise this hostel enough; it has hands down been the best hostel I’ve stayed at to date. The women running the hostel were the absolute sweetest, (more on that later) and they had the greatest breakfast spread ever. You can get up in the morning, make your way downstairs, tell ‘auntie’ whether you’d like your eggs scrambled or fried, and then treat yourself to coffee, toast, croissants, and a wide array of fruit (including, but not limited to, mangos, rambutans, bananas, oranges, and apple). All for FREE! On a backpackers budget here peoples, the word ‘free’ has been making my heart sing lately.
Watching the Warriors game over breakfast…so far from home yet so close. Go Warriors! Totally the biggest fan..
And here’s where the craziness begins! I’m sitting at the communal breakfast table and making conversation with some of the other backpackers..the same old questions as usual. ‘Where are you from? How long have you been traveling? Where have you been?’ I mention to someone that Im from California when a guy from across the table joins in. I kid you not, this is exactly how the conversation went:
Him: ‘Oh you’re from California? Me too! Where in?’
Me: Northern California, bay area!
Him: ‘Really? Me too, what city?
Me: ‘Oh cool, Fremont! What about you?’
Him: ‘I’m from Fremont too…wait..what high school did you go to..?’
(at this point, everyone at the table is listening to us)
Me: ‘Mission… What about you?’
Him: ‘I went to Mission too.. What year did you graduate?’
And that’s how I ran into someone from high school at some random hostel in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It truly is a small world. We re-introduced ourselves, and after a bit of mutual Facebook stalking, finally remembered eachother. Turns out we were in completely different social circles, but still.. What are the chances?!
‘Niraj’ was traveling through Thailand on a research grant with some classmates from his med school. I ended up spending the majority of my time in Chiang Mai-and Pai-with his group and a couple of other backpackers. I am so so glad I met them, it really was awesome getting to know everyone-and reminiscing how ridiculous Mission was way back when.- Apparently Mission’s new logo which they have engraved into some kind of memorial/statue is ‘GOOD ENOUGH NEVER IS.’ ha. Good riddance!
Anywho, as with all first days in new places, I took it easy and strolled around the surrounding area once the weather cooled down to a ‘comfortable’ 30°C (86°F).
Passed by some beautiful wats. Got hungry after wandering for a little while, and by recommendation of many many people from Plearn, redirected my efforts towards a search for ‘Khao Soi.’
Found ya! This. Was. SO. Delicious. Khao Soi is the regional ‘special’ of Chiang Mai, and influences can be traced back to Chinese Muslim and Burmese cuisine. The dish itself is simple, but as with most Thai dishes, is packed with complex flavor profiles. Comprised of egg noodles and braised chicken leg in a broth similar to yellow curry, the dish is served with pickled mustard greens, chili oil, and raw onions, and is topped with crispy fried noodles. Talk about nailing the textural components! After that first taste of Khao Soi, I understood what everyone had been raving about, and so began my new obsession.
Walked around for a little longer, slowly falling more and more in love with Chiang Mai. Headed back to the hostel and rested up in the comfort of my air conditioned room.
Later that evening, I met up with a few other backpackers and collectively decided to head to the night market for dinner before checking out the bar scene. One of the guys who had been in Chiang Mai for a couple of weeks-and was actually from San Jose (hi Matt!)-led us to a smaller, more local based market at the edge of town. I think there were about 12 or so of us packed into the back a red-taxi (think pick up truck,) knocking our fare down to 10-ish baht a person. (Roughly 30 cents, heeyo!)
Heard about the ‘Cowboy lady’ from many different sources, Matt and Lonely Planet included, so decided to check it out.
The ‘Cowboy Lady’ is a woman donning a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, all the while chopping up and serving slow cooked pork over rice for a mere 50 baht. Good eats for a little over a dollar? Count me in! The line for this culinary attraction was lengthy for a reason.
Before adding condiments..
Spicy chili oil, pickled greens, and one perfectly soft-boiled egg paired with the juicy and tender pork created quite a perfect bite. (Sorry for the blurry picture, guess I was too excited.)
Next stop, the reggae bar! Highly recommend. Had an awesome time dancing and listening to the live band play Thai renditions of The Beatles and Bob Marley.
Good music with great people, couldn’t ask for any better.