Having filled my quota for chaotic streets, pushy touts trying to sell me ridiculous wooden frogs, and Tuk Tuk drivers popping their lips asking me if I wanted to go to a ping pong show, it was most certainly time to escape the insanity of Bangkok and head to the northern capital known as Chiang Mai.
I jumped on an overnight train at Hua Lamphong station and 12 hours later, I had arrived at my final destination. Bleary-eyed and exhausted, no thanks to not one, but two screaming infants aboard my train, I happily stepped off and was welcomed with crisp mountain air.
Steeped in rich Lanna Culture, Chiang Mai is situated within the picturesque mountains of the north and has a much more laid back feel to it, which is ever so appealing after a stint in the country’s capital. Captivating tourists with its charming streets, top-notch cooking & massage classes, Elephant treks & bamboo rafting, it’s easy to see why most people end up staying far longer than initially anticipated. The main attraction for me however, is the Sunday market.
Chiang Mai’s Sunday walking street is nothing short of massive. Sprawling far past the Tha Phae gate and branching off into a myriad of random streets and alleys, this is a market junkie and foodie haven! Lined with multitudes of vendors selling everything from snails to scarves, I was wide-eyed and eager to get my chow on.
Fatkid mode, engage.
Walking down the main drag, I caught a whiff of something deliciously tantalizing. Following my nose had led me to a vendor happily doling out what looked to me like Timbits, however, Timbits they were not! She would meticulously roll up these tiny, symmetrically portioned balls of dough and flash fry them to golden perfection in a piping hot wok.
Biting into one, my initial reaction was “HOLY SHIT THAT’S HOT” as it went pretty much straight from the wok into my mouth. Swallowing what felt like hot magma, I waited a few moments for the rest of my treats to cool before devouring them. The outside has a crisp shell, while the inside is slightly dense and has a pleasant chewy consistency with a subtle sweetness. Intrigued, I had asked what these were made of and the answer was rather surprising: Sweet Potato.
I got a whole bag full of these entirely too addictive sweet potato snacks for about 20 TBH (about $0.80 CAD). Oh the glory of cheap eats, but I better make sure to take it easy with these bad boys as they can’t be very friendly to the waist line.
Another enjoyable aspect of the Sunday market is seeing all of the temples lit up at night, flecks of gold adorned stupas shimmering in the twilight hours as the sun sets over the mountains. Quite stunning, really. Often monks can be heard chanting their evening prayers and many Thais can be seen lighting incense and awaiting blessings. It’s very apparent how Chiang Mai is considered the cultural capital of Thailand.
Throngs of people are attracted to this market and when it’s in full swing, boy do you notice. Anybody who has “personal space” issues would have to get over that REAL fast as you end up rubbing shoulders with everyone. It’s not easy trying to weave your way through traffic to look a cute clothes while holding multiple bags of purchased goods, a bottle of water, your camera and that popsicle you just HAD to have. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but I live for this.
On my way back to my guesthouse, I had stopped along some enticing looking vendors and snapped some photos of their offerings. I will eat them all one day…just not all in one day. Even fatkids have their limits.
If I could give anybody tips about going to the market it would be as follows:
1. GO EARLY! Most vendors are set up by about 5:30pm and the traffic jams usually don’t start until about 7:oopm
2.Make sure you work up an appetite, snack along the way rather than having one large meal so you can sample many different items.
3. Make mental notes of what you want to buy/where the items are found and purchase them on your way back home from the market. This way you don’t have to worry about carrying everything with you when things get really busy.