My favourite part of the trip! Lovely countryside, the city was a manageable size for walking and great shopping abounded.
The food hall in Kalare/Kalae/Galare Shopping Centre was our local haunt. Semi-open air, its stalls ran the gamut from Eastern to Thai, Indian to Chinese. We really should have explored more eateries, but we had difficulty dragging ourselves away from this place. Chang Klan Rd, north of Loi Khro Rd.
Must tries at Kalare:
Gyoza Japanese pan-fried dumplings filled with pork and fresh greens.
Pork, noodle and wonton soup (Melt-in-your-mouth-wontons were divine)
Best green coconuts in Thailand. The secret they keep them in the deep-freeze.
Prawns with holy basil: found this all over Thailand. This one had very fresh prawns.
Som tam: Again, another national treasure.
Naan: Not exactly Thai, but they make them whilst you watch. The garlic one, covered in crushed garlic, was the best.
My favourite: garlic chicken egg noodles. Garlicky tangle of fresh egg noodles tossed with chicken and deep fried slivers of garlic. A light hand with the fresh garlic made this a subtle masterpiece. This is what I crave when I think of Thailand.
Watermelon juice: This was generally of a high standard all over Thailand, Kalare being no exception. Come summer, I am going to try to make this at home.
Mainly a fish market. We came here for dinner, but I suspect that there would be more on offer at lunch time. They keep the prawns alive right up until they cook them. They are the freshest Ive ever had, and some of the best. Make sure to get a 50baht foot massage at one of the roadside stalls either on your way into or out of the market. Chang Klan rd, just south of and opposite Starbucks.
Roadside treats (most of these can be bought at the night markets):
Steamed dim sum the chicken flavour is very subtly flavoured. The northern side of Bamrung Buri Road.
Deep fried sausages with sweet chilli sauce.
Satay they were all good
Rotis. In Thailand, rotis are typically served sweet. We had a banana and chocolate one, but found it overpowering. It needed some lemon juice, I think. But the corn and egg roti I had for one oily, calorie-overloaded supper was superb. Both savoury and sweet ones are served with sugar and condensed milk.
Waffles containing a whole banana, dribbled with chocolate sauce: I had these outside Doi Suthep. You should go for the temple alone, but dont forget the deep fried sausages, banana waffles and grilled corn on your way in/out!
I must admit, we were too scared of eating raw food off the street to buy any of the delicious looking fruit from a vendor. In the end, we stopped by the Tesco Lotus supermarket, and bought whole fruit which we peeled and cut back at our hotels. Our favourites were:
Dragon fruit, a pink and green horned oval with white crisp flesh and tiny black seeds. Kind of like a kiwi.
Custard apples: never had these before, although Ive seen them of trees. Uncannily custardy!
Rambutans: exactly like lychees, but in prettier furry, bright pink shells.
Rose apples: green and smooth with a puckered base. Tasted like a cross between pear and an apple.
We tried durian chips, but not the raw fruit.
For shopping, you will need at least two nights at the night market (roughly from 4pm to midnight), and should visit the Airport Plaza (otherwise known as Robinsons) for other shopping needs.
Lankam Terrace: This was right by our guesthouse (Galare Guesthouse very cheap and in a good location), and we went here for breakfasts. Lemongrass tea and either club or egg sandwiches. 100/1 Chiang Inn Nightbazaar, Chang Klan Road.
If you come via train, make sure you go to the train station information desk and ask for a map of the area. These maps (Thaiways Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai) were the best we came across, and we only found them here.
Baitong Tour, 1/2 Charoenphathet Soi 2, 053-820-797, firstname.lastname@example.org
This husband and wife team were trustworthy, friendly and flexible. They let us design our own tour packages, and rented us cars, vans, etc. at good prices.
This is where many factories which supply the country with tourist knicknacks are located. Its a big road; you will need a car. We rented a van, complete with friendly driver, from our travel agent. The great thing about this area is the factory stores and the demonstrations. Most of the factories will show you how their products are made and give you a tour of their factory. Its a fun activity that took us half a day. We visited Baan Celadon (this region is home to that famous green pottery glaze), the largest jewellers, lacquerware factories, amongst others.
Mineral springs: Im not sure exactly where these were (a hour or so north of Chiang Mai), but we finally found an activity where locals outnumbered tourists. Thais view the mineral springs as healing, and there were plenty of old arthritic ladies, people in wheelchairs, etc. taking advantage of the streams and pools. Despite the heat, we swam in the hot springs. I think the Thais are on to something my calluses from travelling magically softened and disappeared after half an hours splashing about. Something we did not try but everyone else was doing: cooking little baskets of quail and duck eggs in the hottest springs, and eating them. It was too hot for me to do justice to a basket of hard-boiled eggs, but this activity entranced me.
Lets Relax (in both the Chiangmai Pavilion or the Chiang Inn Plaza, both on Changklan Rd)
Upmarket, peaceful yet affordable. 2hr herbal massage 500baht, 1hr aromatherapy 900baht