Saturday, 16 August 2014

Complimentary Dinner at Veranda Chiang Mai The High Resort

During our stay at Veranda Chiang Mai The High Resort, we were given a complimentary dinner package at their restaurant. The resturant is a lovely open air area, with lots of greenery and fresh air. While the restaurant offers many dishes, the complimentary package is somewhat more restricted. We were given an option of either a vegetarian or non vegetarian set meal for two people that came with an entree, a soup, a main meal and fruit for dessert. Since there was four of us, we decided to get both options.

We were seated at a long wooden table, where we could see our rooms and enjoy the scenery. For the vegetarian entree, it was spring rolls and papaya salad, for the non vegetarian it was chicken skewers with peanut sauce. We were also given a basket of bread, which were really hard therefore making it difficult to eat for some reason. I think they were microwaved for too long or something. All the items of entree were great! Be careful of the papaya salad though, there were hidden chilli seeds! The chicken skewers reminded me of the Malaysian delicacy satay, but without the smokyness. 

The vegetarian set dinner came with a spicy mushroom clear soup, that was really spicy, but delicious at the same time. It really clears your sinuses! Strangely, the non vegetarian option didn't come with a soup.

For the mains, it was an assortment of different dishes to have with white rice. There was chicken green curry, green curry with tofu, stir fried beef, a tofu dish and stir fried vegetables. All had a hint of spicyness which was great and made it so easy to eat more rice!

They also has these great little air-conditioned private rooms.
Since we wanted to catch the shuttle bus to the night market that evening, we decided to take away our fruits, so we could enjoy them later in our rooms. The dinner wasn't spectacular. but it was pretty decent for a complimentary dinner! The location is so great and so open, it makes everything really peaceful and airy.

It's so open, yet there's a roof high above your heads to protect you from the rain.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Chiang Mai: Teddy Bear Cafe and Interesting Things

Nimmanhaenim Street is a where the hotel drops us off during the morning, it's a long street filled with interesting cafes and shops. It's a great place to explore Chiang Mai! We stopped by this unusual cafe called Tawan Shine located on Nimmanhaenim Sol 1, which is a street that branches off from the main Nimmanhaenim street. We wanted a cold drink to cool ourselves down, because walking in humid hot air can be very draining. The exterior of the cafe is colourful and quirky with handmade table clothes, blue bricks and splashes of colour everywhere. We decided to sit inside, and when we entered the cafe, we were surprised to see soft toys everywhere, there were soft toys clumped together like an art piece hanging on the wall, elephant soft toys hanging behind the chairs, there were toys on the table and in cabinets. It was quite overwhelming, but interesting at the same time. You're actually able to purchase these toys if you like. I don't have any pictures, but we ordered refreshing mango smoothies, iced coffee and iced Thai tea. It took awhile for it to come out, but it was worth it! They were all delicious and definitely cooled us down. Tawan Shine really was unique in a way that I've never seen cafes like it.

Chiang Mai is so clean, with rarely any rubbish, making it great to walk down roads. There really are some interesting buildings and little things along the road that caught my eye. One thing that synonymous around Thailand, in my opinion, is the copious amount of overhead wires gathered together. It looks slightly dangerous to be honest. Chiang Mai is so great, I saw so many interesting things along our walk.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Thai Shopping, Street Food and Getting Around

The hotel shuttle dropped us off at Nimmanhaemin Road and we decided to walk, sight see and look at shops. We found this block of shops that sold Northern Thai styled items. These included a lot of handmade hill tribe bags and linen. Chiang Mai is known for its hill tribe people like the Hmongs. It's a great place if you want to buy some hand stitched goods. Everything they make is so intricate and beautifully colourful. These shops however, were more on the pricey side, you can get cheaper bags from markets like the Night Bazaar or the Sunday Night Market.

The best way to get around Chiang Mai city is to catch the local red taxi. These are called songthaew. It has two long benches on the sides making it possible for large groups of people to sit inside. They're distinctly red, so you won't miss them, there's dozens of them driving around the city centre. What amuses me about Thai taxi drivers is that they beep and shout from their vehicle to get your attention. Some of them also manage to illegally u-turn busy streets so that they can offer you a ride. It kind of gets awkward when you don't need a taxi, especially when they slow down in front of you and stick their arm or head out gesturing. Most taxis charged us 20 Baht per person for a short ride around, I'm not sure if they were ripping us off, but when 20 Bahts aren't even equivalent to one Australian dollar, who cares really? I loved riding around in songthaews, it's all open, exhilarating and you're able to view the streets commotion while zipping through the city.

For lunch, we decided to eat at what seemed to be a local restaurant. The people working there didn't speak or understand any English and we found it amusing although hard to communicate with them. They gave us English menus but it was obvious that the menu did not have the same or as many dishes as the Thai one. We really wanted to eat fried noodles and after a while of trying to explain and ask what they serve, we finally settled back in in to our chairs and the humidity. It started to rain quite heavily while we waited for the food! The noodles were a simple flat rice noodle stir fried with egg, chicken and bean sprouts, with some lettuce on the side. It was such a simple and yummy dish!

Most Thai eateries feature several containers holding amazing condiments. The usual salt and pepper that is common at cafes here, was replaced by white sugar, smoky chilli flakes, green chilli in vinegar and fish sauce. If you come across these condiments in a Thai restaurant, I totally recommend sprinkling a little bit of everything on your dish, it enhances the flavours and gives it a wonderful salty, spicy and sour-ish kick! So good!

While walking down Nimmanhaemin Road we stopped by this cafe called Mont Nom Sod, or just Mont. We decided to head in to this chain milk and bread cafe because of the giant mountain of margarine sitting at the window. This woman was buttering dozens of white toast and there was a queue at the cashier, which made us super intrigued! What they do here is simply buttered toast with different toppings and a selection of milk based drinks. The bread was that delicious white fluffy bread that is commonly found in Asian bakeries, it's a little sweet and extremely soft. We decided to get toast with condensed milk and green kaya, which is basically a coconut egg custard. The kaya might be a little daunting for some, but trust me, it's amazing, it's subtly sweet and coconuty. We also ordered some hot milk tea. Both went extremely well together! This snack was actually one of my favourites during our trip! It was so simple, it was crunchy, soft, buttery and sweet, just amazing! The interior of the cafe is very much like a fast food chain and it seemed like a very popular place for locals to come and eat delicious food after work.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Things to do in Chiang Mai: Sunday Night Market

The Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai is a must if you're ever in Thailand. It's held every Sunday from around four, starts at the Tha Pae Gate and goes on and on along Ratchadamnoen Road. It's a walking market so unlike the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, you're able to walk freely through the street without any cars. I suggest getting there around five-ish, so it's not overly crowded and still bright. The Sunday Night Market is also a great place to witness the six o'clock stand still, where the Thai national anthem is played and everyone stops what they're doing and completely freeze. It was such a contrasting period of time, one second locals and tourists were haggling, talking, shouting and laughing loudly while shuffling through the market, and the next second everyone stopped and the whole street was engulfed in silence and stillness. When the anthem finished everything and everyone resumed their pace like nothing happened.

The Sunday Market, in my opinion, was more favourable than the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. The Sunday Market had more diversity in what was being sold. At the Night Bazaar, we constantly saw the same things on sale, Thai baggy pants, imitation jewelry, shoes and watches, but the Sunday Market sold traditional crafts, bags and other great things. It was more authentic and not mass produced like the Night Bazaar. The absence of cars also made walking easier and it gave us a chance to view more stalls. However, both are a must when visiting Chiang Mai.

The Sunday Walking Market had so many shops and street entertainers that played and sang music, it created such a fun and fast-paced atmosphere! When walking along Ratchadamnoen Road, make sure you keep an eye out for two Thai temples Wat Phan Tao and Wat Chedi Luang. And also, there's a great sections that branches off from the main street where traditional Thai street food are sold. We bought these great little sweet snacks called Khanom Buang, which was basically a thin and crisp outer shell holding coconut flavoured mousse and sweetened coconut shreds. The mousse had a melted marshmallow like consistency. It was such an interesting snack, flavour and texture wise, I really enjoyed it! 

At the end of the road, in front of a traditional Thai dancing school, there was a stage set up and we were able to watch the students performances. There were so many categories and girls dressed in traditional costume and full make up. Their dancing was so unique! Hand movement seemed to be really important in Thai dancing, they were so graceful, delicate and precise in what they were doing.

We bought biscuits from this tiny old woman sitting on the floor surrounded by snacks on sale for fifty Bahts. She didn't speak a word of English and what she was doing was amazing! I wonder how old she is? We bought two types, one was a rice cracker that was really subtle in flavour and these sweet deep fried flower shaped biscuits.

One thing we noticed in Chiang Mai was the cleanliness! There is absolutely no rubbish anywhere whatsoever. Throughout the trip, I think I only saw about three pieces of rubbish laying on the ground. It is absolutely so clean in Chiang Mai! There's no rubbish smell that is quite common in south-east Asian countries and everything is spotless and neat. Through the market, a lot of the stalls had signs up that said "You may leave your rubbish with us.". I thought this was great! The locals really have a mentality of keeping things clean and handling rubbish properly. Even in the rivers, although isn't a pleasant colour, had no rubbish floating around! There wasn't rubbish bins everywhere, it was actually quite hard to find one, nevertheless there was no littering at all. It really gives you a peace of mind and the overall atmosphere was great because it wasn't ruined by bad smells or rotting food containers etc. Absolutely loved the Sunday Night Market! Here's a tip: When booking a flight to Chiang Mai, make sure you're there for a weekend so you can go to the Sunday Market!