When I was younger I used to have eating competitions with my mate Greg. I always lost, and what’s more, I always cared that I’d lost because at that age wagers like these were some of the biggest things happening in my life. And Greg always won because Greg’s a big fat fatty.
I don’t know who can eat the most anymore and I’m not that fussed. I doubt Greg is either. But this week Gemma and I had one night in Chaing Mai. And Chaing Mai is famous for it’s Sunday night market which sells delicacies and oddities of the fried variety, all for 20 baht, all delicious, and all for me and Gemma to get our lips around. It was time to gorge again!
We’d spent the day riding bikes around the quaint city of Chaing Mai, taking in all the biggest temples, the bustling side streets and the calm of the moat which fences the city walls. Already we’d enjoyed Chaing Mai’s honesty, which went hand in hand with the tranquility of the place. It’s not as much of a touristy city as many Thai traveller spots are these days. There are plenty of tourists there don’t get me wrong, but the locals didn’t seem to treat us differently. It was the only place we’d visited where we’d start to haggle before realising that the prices were pretty fair to begin with. Transactions were friendly and so were the people.
We’d worked ourselves up quite an appetite on the bikes before we hit the market so I knew we’d eat a lot… That and I’d been talking about the night market and its street food for days with hungry eyes and probably the wrong amount of excitement. And if you’re wondering what the wrong amount of excitement is for a 26 year old man – You know when, as a child your parents tell you that you need to go to the toilet before you can go on any rides at a Theme Park? And the excitement of the rides just means that this toilet nonsense is an absolute outrage? Well, when Gemma told me we had to book tickets to the southern islands before we could enjoy the market – that was me… And for that Gemma, I am sorry.
The night market is more than impressive. Once a week the city of Chaing Mai simply stops and starts all at the same time. All businesses shut down, doors are closed and traffic is pushed outside the walls of the city. At the same time every street within the walls begins to fill up with food stalls, local art and street bands. It’s hard to move for the amount of customers the market draws, some foreign but the majority Thai. And as if the city isn’t big enough, the market spills outside the walls with plenty of stalls gathering around the east side of the moat.
Next to the entrance of the market we passed some sort of muscleman contest, in which several oiled men posed to a crowd in time to music. This was followed by several scarily similar looking women. The crowd loved it, whooping, taking pictures and cheering. Food for the eyes maybe, but it wasn’t our eyes that were starving…
“What’s in these spring rolls” I asked the spring roll seller after taking a bite into a nice but mushy one. The lady looked confused.
“Spring rolls!” she beamed back. Clearly she’d learnt just enough English to do her job.
This is why I’m afraid I can’t be accurate with everything we ate that night, because we’re not sure ourselves. But over the course of the evening we think we ate the following: seafood omelettes, quails eggs, miscellaneous spring rolls, cheesy ham stuffed potatoes, deep fried vegetables (Gemma will tell you that to deep fry a vegetable is to ruin a vegetable, but I assure you she’s wrong), Thai flavoured sausages and the best banana chocolate roll I’ve ever eaten. We also had some Pad Thai.
To top it all off, like the civilised people we are we had a coffee which was made like a cocktail. The proud seller threw it in the air, behind his back, from cup to cup and under his leg before he handed it to us. It tasted the same as regular coffee but he’d clearly enjoyed himself making it so we cheered anyway.
We only had one night in Chaing Mai but we found it to be one of the few places left where you can experience the tranquility and spirituality of a true Thai city without all the luminous vests and angry sellers of the south. It was a breath of fresh air in a country so hell bent on taking tourists for all they’re worth – quiet Buddhist temples, honest sellers, street musicians and food. So much food.
And to Greg: I really don’t care who can eat the most anymore. Honestly I don’t.
But it’s me.