Following on from Eating in Chiang Mai – Part 1

On Day 3 in Chiang Mai, we had booked ourselves on a tour of the Elephant Nature Park just outside the city. The Elephant Nature Park is a rescue centre for elephants who can recover after being abused and can roam free. This was a real eye opener. Elephants have their spirit ‘broken’ in order to entertain humans – either through a circus or by giving rides. I’d highly recommend a trip to this elephant park. It’s a heart breaking reality, but great to see the elephants free and enjoying themselves at the park. It was about a 40 minute ride out of the city to the Elephant Nature Park, and our instructions were to bring some snacks. We stopped in at the local convenience store for a couple of things. I purchased some cookies and cream Pocky to satiate my sweet tooth.

Pocky

I also purchased some laab flavoured Pretz (similar to Pocky) and wish we could get them in Australia! They were basically sweet and sour spicy sticks that tasted meaty. So good.

I thought about trying these sweet sandwiches, but figured it would just go off in my bag since it was very hot and humid.

Snacks in Chiang Mai

At the Elephant Nature Park, our first task was to feed the elephants some fresh fruit. We were asked to hold out our palms completely flat, with the piece of fruit on top (though not everyone followed that instruction).

Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park

Mini clip of me feeding watermelon to one of the elephants.


From there, we were taken to different parts of the park to observe the elephants and learn more about them. It was an all day tour and we loved it. We even got to meet a baby elephant who wasn’t shy around humans.

Elephant Nature Park - baby elephant

A buffet lunch was provided as part of our package. I don’t remember taking photos but there was plenty of food for all the different tour groups with a lot left over. We then got to watch the elephants bathe in the river, and got to wash them at the end! Fun times. A very enjoyable day though I do remember the heat and sweat that day.

Elephants

That night, I decided I wanted to find the famous Cowgirl at the North Gate Markets for dinner that night. Her stall Khao kha moo chang phueak is famous for its stewed pork leg – khao kha moo in Thai. Not knowing what signs to look for or where her cart was located, we easily spotted her white cowgirl hat, and of course a massive queue, and went to line up with everyone else.

Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak stall

I was salivating while waiting in line. There were lots of communal picnic tables so J went to save us a spot. There was no English menu in sight and I had no idea what to order, besides pork. I figured I’d just point at something if they didn’t understand English. They must get plenty of tourists, as the lady serving me said ‘pork leg?’ and all I had to do was nod and pay up (100 baht for a plate of stewed pork leg or AUD $3.80).

Food stall Chiang Mai North Gate Markets

It wasn’t until I sat down at the communal tables that I spotted the menu.

Chiang Mai Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak menu

It didn’t take long for our plate of pork leg to arrive as well as a side of rice. It was pretty bare with no garnishes or vegetables. However, that pork leg was top notch – so tender and pulled apart easily. I just loved the delicious sweet but savoury sauce it was marinated in. Absolutely no complaints and I would easily go back for more. It was quick, cheap and tasty street food. Next time, we’d probably order the 50 baht plate of rice, pork, egg and some pickled greens.

Stewed pork leg - Chiang Mai

There were other food carts at the markets as well like this one stall selling all sorts of steamed buns.

Chiang Mai North Gate Markets

Nothing else looked that interesting, and we were mainly there for the stewed pork leg. So we decided to head back towards our hotel to check out another open air food night market.

Chiang Mai North Gate Markets

Our feet were tired by the end of the night, so we caught a tuk tuk home. Fun!

Tuk Tuk

We halted the tuk tuk close to the markets and walked towards an open air area close to the Night Bazaar which had several street food carts. I have completely forgotten the name of it. There were several tourists and we did notice that prices were a bit more expensive than what we were used to.

Chiang Mai street food

I decided to try more khao soi after seeing a stand selling it and a friendly face.

Khao Soi standThis one came with a chicken drum stick, fresh onions, lime and fried crispy noodles on top. I didn’t think it was as good as the first one I’d tried but I do love anything curry-like in a coconut sauce, so I had no problems finishing it.

Khao Soi

We walked further south down the main street of the Night Bazaar, when we stumbled across the Anusarn Markets. Why hadn’t we seen this before?! It was brightly lit with long aisles that stretched for what seemed like ages. I thought these stalls were much better than what was lined up along the street at the Night Bazaar and they were also open for a lot longer. It was a shame we’d already purchased our souvenirs but I did manage to find some cool elephant print pants (which you can find everywhere) in a style I hadn’t seen before. These markets also do free cabaret shows and live music.

Anusarn Markets

The next morning, we walked to the South Gate Markets for breakfast. There were several food stalls in the undercover market. We realised they had been arranged by product with some very helpful English signs pointing out the categories such as Northern foods, meats, desserts and sweets etc.

Chiang Mai South Gate Markets

And some stalls that only sold sticky rice.

Chiang Mai South Gate Markets

There were some stalls simply selling a whole range of eggs.

Chiang Mai South Gate Markets eggs

I stood and looked at this stall for about a minute trying to suss out what was on offer but decided to keep moving.

Chiang Mai South Gate Markets

We decided to start off with something sweet – egg custard on sticky rice. It was only a tiny serving, the size of my palm, but so fresh and delicious! The egg custard was hot and straight from the steamer. There were different colours of sticky rice to choose from.

Chiang Mai South Gate markets

I was so tempted to get a second serving but thought I’d better check out the rest of the market. I’ve forgotten how much it was but it wouldn’t have been more than 50 baht (AUD $1.80). A great and cheap way to eat breakfast.

Chiang Mai South Gate Markets sticky rice

J purchased from the below stall where you got some shredded pork and pickled chilli greens served in a small plastic bag.

Chiang Mai South Gate Markets

There was a whole section selling pork crackling by the bag.

Chiang Mai South Gate Markets pork rind

And lots of fried food and sausages as well.

Chiang Mai South Gate Markets

Because they were so cheap, we also couldn’t resist buying a fresh coconut juice.

Chiang Mai coconut juice

After breakfast we did some more sightseeing, and checked out a temple – Wat Chedi Luang. As I was wearing shorts, I had to hire a long skirt to cover up my legs. It was quite a striking temple in the middle of Chiang Mai.

Wat Chedi Luang Chiang Mai

Afterwards, we headed to lunch at Huen Phen which I had read good things about and it was close to the temple.

Huen Phen

To our dismay, there was no air conditioning inside, only fans. I couldn’t believe some people were wearing long pants in that heat, while we were both in shorts and t-shirts. But I guess we hadn’t acclimatised just yet.

Huen Phen inside

We started off with cold drinks – orange juice for me and a Singha for J.

Huen Phen drinks

J lets me do the ordering, so I chose the Northern style pork sausage (50 baht), khao soi (50 baht), north eastern style larb, and kao ngew (20 baht).

Huen Phen lunch

The Northern style pork sausage, sai oua, was meaty and stuffed with chilli and herbs. I really enjoyed it and the side of papaya salad was a bonus to help ease the heat from the chilli.

Huen Phen sausages

The larb was much lighter than what we’d tried a few days earlier. Again, I love the wonderful use of herbs and spices used in the dish. Nothing was too overpowering and the combination of flavours were amazing.

Huen Phen larb

I chose the khao soi with beef as I hadn’t tried a beef version yet. This version was a bit saltier than the earlier ones I’d had and didn’t have coconut milk. However, I still found great flavour in the dish that used a beef curry paste.

Huen Phen khao soi

I also couldn’t resist trying a dessert – sago pudding with fruit. It wasn’t until we received it that I remembered I probably shouldn’t eat the fruit or the ice! So i left the fruit on the side, and quickly tried to eat everything else before all the ice melted. This is usually a refreshing and cool dessert but I made myself rush through it.

Huen Phen coconut sago

After more walking, sightseeing, and a massage, it was time for dinner. I had read a great review of Cherng Doi, famous for its Isaan barbeque chicken, and wanted to try it during our last night in Chiang Mai. After negotiating a fare with a song thaew, we headed out of town. It must have been peak hour as it was bumper to bumper trying to turn right into the lane the restaurant was on. We paid the driver and hopped out early. It was a little bit dodgy walking down a very dark unlit lane, but we soon came across the restaurant with several diners eating dinner. The dining area is pretty much all outdoors and undercover with some fans blowing some necessary cool air. We snagged the second last table and were presented with English menus when we asked for them. It helped that the menu had pictures! So many things to try and so little time.

The chicken was a must try and we were not disappointed. It was absolute heaven! It had been marinated and coated in so many delicious spices, the fragrant aroma was the first thing to hit us. The chicken was tender and SO juicy, and tasted better than it smelled. This was the best chicken I’ve had in my life. Just wow. I’m salivating just remembering it. The accompanying sauce was almost not needed but it did add some tartness to complement the chicken. I was just as happy with the chicken on its own.

We ordered the barbeque pork which was also tender but didn’t have the intense flavour punch that the chicken had. To be healthy, we tried the papaya salad which a nice hit of chilli in it. We also received some sticky rice to accompany our meals. I don’t quite remember if it came with the meats or if we had to order it separately. Either way, rice is very cheap in Thailand.

The chicken was so good, we actually asked for another serve without hesitation. Yum!

For dessert, we both ordered a scoop of the coconut ice cream. Only one came out which I demolished. It was delicious – creamy and coconutty with some desiccated coconut in the mix. It seemed they had forgotten J’s scoop and we politely reminded them. To apologise for their mistake, they provided an extra scoop of ice cream. All I remember is J saying something about a lot of sugar, while I devoured the entire second scoop, not realising he wanted some too. Whoops.

The morning of our last day in Chiang Mai, we stopped by a nearby restaurant for breakfast. We chose it purely out of convenience as it was close to our hotel. Plus we wanted to visit one last temple before flying out that afternoon, so we needed to move quickly.

Chiang Mai eatery

We hadn’t had any satay dishes as yet, so I ordered the chicken satay skewers. We were both surprised to see so much chicken on the plate as I was only expecting one or two skewers. The satay sauce tasted very much of peanuts and we both really enjoyed the skewers.

Chiang mai chicken satay skewers

I also tried some Thai rice flour rolls with mushrooms, beansprouts and tofu inside that had been steamed and topped with a kind of gravy. I loved the different textures – crunchy stuffing, soft rice flour roll and the fresh herbs.

Chiang Mai rice flour rolls for breakfast

We then negotiated with a song thaew to take us up Doi Suthep (Mt Suthep) to see a holy temple – Wat Phra That. It took us about 4 songthaews to finally negotiate a price we were happy with (by literally walking down a busy street and waving to song thaews to barter). It’s more expensive than most trips as the mountain is about 30 minutes away, and all the way up to the summit. It would have been cheaper splitting the cost with other people, but we didn’t know anyone else and had the song thaew to ourselves. After climbing up the stairs, we reached the small enclosed temple area and all of the GOLD. We spent about an hour there before finding our song thaew (the drivers never forget a face and are waiting for you at the bottom), and heading back into town to grab our suitcases and go to the airport.

Doi Suthep temple Chiang Mai

It wasn’t until we were at the airport that I came across McDonald’s and saw McPorridge on the menu – the congee version with the option of adding egg and fried dough sticks! We weren’t hungry and it was far too hot to eat porridge, but I would like to try it next time.

McPorridge

Top tips I learnt from my trip to Chiang Mai:

  • Save room for food sampling at the various markets around the city. It’s a cheap and efficient way to try the variety of food on offer, all in the one building/street.
  • Food to try – khao soi, larb/laab, sai oua (sausage), and so much more!
  • Do be careful of trying anything that’s been washed in water. Eating something that’s been cooked is a lot safer.
  • If travelling in October/November, remember to bring thin light clothes that wick away moisture. We were in a permanent state of sweatiness. Also, bring a rain poncho and/or umbrella – it’s monsoon season after all, and we did have one massive downpour.
  • Bring plenty of bug spray! I even soaked my clothes in Permethrin so mozzies couldn’t bite through my clothing (probably an extreme but it was more needed for our next destination in Laos).
  • Enjoy a foot massage! Trust me, at AUD $6 an hour, it’s worth getting one at the end of the day especially after all of the walking and sightseeing. Free air conditioning and wifi at all massage parlours we visited. We noticed that we created a domino effect – the massage parlour would be completely empty when we arrived, and by the time of leaving, it would be full of other tourists.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices to transport yourself from destination A to B.

Next up, Eating in Laos!

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2 comments on “Eating in Chiang Mai – Part 2”

  1. Awesome blog. The way you enjoyed there is completely visible infront of my eyes while reading this. Nice photography. Hope you enjoyed a lot and had a great memories. 🙂

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