Whoa…it’s been two months since we’ve posted anything to this blog, and we’re still not through Thailand! Well, this IS the last Thailand entry, meaning we’ve dragged you through one short month in only one country in SE Asia. We left so much unseen that there’s a huge pull to return. Hence, we cannot strike SE Asia off of our bucket list yet!
The last two cities we visited in Thailand were Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. As you may recall from our previous post, we’d hopped on an un-airconditioned train from Pak Chong to Ayutthaya, which was not horrible by the way, for roughly 2.5-hours of clickity-clacking. Luckily, it was an overcast day, so we were spared what could have been a horrendously sweaty ride. One of the highlights of the train ride was the constant stream of vendors walking down the aisle selling either snacks and drinks or cool, damp hand towels for dabbing one’s brow. Occasionally, at certain stations there would be a changing of the guard – some vendors would exit at a stop and new ones would board – not unlike buses in Mexico. We bought some mango in a bag and Jenn bought at least one diet Coke. All in all, it was a nice crossing.
Most old cities exude character, and they all have stories. Ayutthaya was one of the original capitals of the Kingdom of Siam and it was a 16th century boom town, until it was overrun by the Burmese in the 1700s. Some comparisons from back in the day described the economy here as equivalent to that of Paris – pretty impressive. It is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, and the ruins are expansive and well-kept. Between the ruins, active temples and Buddhist Lent, the markets, and finding street food, we covered a lot of ground in Ayutthaya, and even enjoyed vegetarian food made for vegetarians. Yum! We loved this little city just 80 km north of Bangkok; in fact, it may have been one of my favorites.
After a couple of days in Ayutthaya, Jenn, Jason, Rand, and I boarded an air-conditioned train for Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand. We had to leave Jeff and Brenda behind because of an unforeseen traveler’s illness that we won’t talk about – but rest assured, they quickly caught up to us in Chiang Mai. After three weeks of moving every two or three days, we had decided to settle in for an eight-day stint here. The four of us rented an Airbnb on the 13th floor of a modern condo complex and enjoyed vast views of the city and the mountains, time to just relax and do nothing (well, it was a nice thought anyway), and our own laundry facilities. It’s the little things…
Founded in the 1200s, the Old City, which is delineated by a moat and walls that are mostly still standing, is home to hundreds of ornate and active Buddhist temples, as this area was known as the city’s religious center. Juxtaposed to the Old City, is the hipster Nimmanhaemin Road, with its modern and massive shopping malls, high-rise hotels, and food craziness. There were so many food options in Chiang Mai, it was a bit overwhelming. And the markets here, both day and night, were utter madness. Not only did they encompass blocks and blocks of the city, they were overflowing with humanity. Oy!
Because there are sooooo many photos, we’re just going to give you the quick and dirty of our eight days in Chiang Mai: Laundry (haha!); walkabouts in the Old City and new alike; amazing wall art; temples, temples, temples; markets, markets, markets; street food, restaurants, Khao Soy noodles (oh my!); scooter rides in the surrounding mountains and rice paddies; and most importantly, cooking classes. One of the main reasons Rand wanted to go to Thailand was to learn how to cook Thai food, one of our favorite cuisines.
Rand took a class with Jenn and another vegetarian class with me and Brenda. He was is heaven! More than anything, we realized just how easy it is. All we needed was a wok, a stainless steel spatula, and a lot of really fresh ingredients – many of which are not available in Mexico, but substitutions make it all doable. The biggest epiphany came when making peanut sauce – hardly any peanuts are used in the recipe! What?! Crazy. The classes were super fun, we got super full (you eat everything you make!), and, most importantly, we came home with two Thai recipe books. Jackpot! Once back home, we bought a stainless wok and a stainless spatula. We’re all set for cooking Thai food in Mexico!
Chiang Mai Gallery
And, of course, S/V Adventurer‘s vids from these two fabulous places! Thanks, Jeff and Brenda!