Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Adventure for my Taste Buds

October = school holidays (yippppeeee) and after spending one week on Koh Phangan (doing yoga, dancing, sleeping, and lazing on the beach) I traveled North to Chiang Mai.
Last year when i was doing a permaculture course at Panya in the hills outside Chaing Mai I met a divine woman named Janice. Janice is a teacher, a New Yorker and an all round amazing person. We've stayed in touch (she visited me a few months ago) and she suggested I stay in her apartment building when i visited Chaing Mai (CM from now on).

My beautiful room in CM - THANKS JANICE!

Even the bathroom's swanky

Chiang Mai is a really fun and vibrant city with a lot happening and a youthful energy. There's a lot going on and so much to do and see everyday. It makes a great change from quiet Nakhon.
I don't know whether it's a North vs South thing or if it's just a CM thing but there seems to be much more of a focus on sustainable, healthy living - green, organic, natural etc - with both foreigners and Thai people alike talking about issues that i rarely hear about down south.
I have loved buying organic food, visiting the farmers market and buying local organic produce at the royal project market. I spent a lot of time wandering the isles of one of the many health food/organic stores in CM and i realised that organic food and produce is something that i really miss in Nakhon. What a shame there's not more available down there.

One day when i was out exploring CM with my pal Allison, i went to the Chiang Mai University Arts Centre. The exhibition was ok but the sculptures in the garden were beautiful. I went back to the CMU Arts Centre a few days later because Janice told me there was a great cafe there. Din Dee it's called and she was right, it is great. It's a mud brick building (making it cooler on hot days and warmer on cold days) with only 4 tables. There's a wide range of teas available and some classic Thai dishes with a little twist. I had the chickpea curry and brown rice - YUMMO! But the highlight of the meal for me was the passion fruit lassi I had, which was simply passion fruit juice, ice and natural yoghurt blended together, delicious! 

The sculptures in the CMU Arts Centre

Janice is a foodie like me so there's been a definite focus of eating and food this week. One night we went to The Cat House for a wonderful meal. I had a scrumptious quesadilla and a perfectly minty mojito but i liked the look of the salad that Janice's friend Anne had too. 

My yummy quesadilla and Yoko in the background with her (rather spicy) spaghetti

Janice struggled with the level of spice. A shame that the new chef didn't realise not everyone can handle red hot chilli peppers
 After dinner at The Cat House we wandered just down the road to an area called Nimmanhamen, for some cocktails. Carla and Allison, two wonderful gals who teach in Nakhon with me, met us there and we all ordered happy hour cocktails :) 
Janice and I with our cocktails, apple for Janice and peach for me.
 One of the best things about living in Janice's apartment building in Chiang Mai is that there's a wonderful cafe called Akha Ama  right underneath my room. I have been having amazing coffee for the past week and i don't know how i'll ever go without it now. 
Lee, the barista and coffee guru, makes beautiful coffee but it's coffee with a heart. The Akha people live in the highlands above Chiang Mai. The coffee is planted, cared for and picked by them and the profits come back to them.  
A book, a coffee, some tea cake with mulberry topping and a shady spot in the garden. Just another morning in Chiang Mai.

Sunday brunch with some new friends and some yummy food . Roasted veggie pasta, mix salad, salami, goats cheese and some avocado dip.

Janice, Lani and Rami (sitting next to my travel tube of Vegemite!) at brunch

Robyn, Charlie and Lani up the back. Janice, Me and Dinah on the couch and Rami as photographer. 
 Janice volunteers at an NGO called The WE Women Foundation. which is empowering women who are Burmese refugees living in Thailand. The foundation assists women who are committed to working towards change for the better in Burma by assisting them to further their education.
Janice tutors women at the foundation twice a week and i popped by to check it out and to help make lunch. What an inspiring group of women they all are!
Spicy capsicum, red bean soup, organic papaya and a yummy Burmese tomato salad. Lunch at WE.

During my time in Chiang Mai i spent 2 nights couch surfing with a wonderful Englishman an longtime expat, Ralph. On my first afternoon with him he took me to a beautiful temple about 45 mins outside of CM on the Chiang Rai road. The temple is not on the tourist trail so we were the only people there, but phew - is it beautiful! 

I was too lazy to walk up these stairs, we drove around :)

The art on the walls was done by one artist over a period of 4 years. It is utterly unique and very beautiful.

I gonged the gong, yes i did.

Ralph and the 3 headed elephant shrine
 There was a mini zoo near the temple (because Thailand is full of surprises) and we went and had a poke around.
These guys reminded me of the lorrikeets my dad feeds in Sydney. 

Apart from being a super interesting and lovely guy, Ralph is also a great tour guide. On my final day with him he very kindly took me on a tour of the hills up behind Chiang Mai. So beautiful! It was a perfect day to sit on the back of a motorbike and gaze around.

A woman working in the rice fields.

Ralph and I agreed that there was something special about that valley. It was so peaceful and green. Just lovely.
 That night Janice took me to North Gate Jazz Co-op for some jazz and some drinks. I loved the music and the super chilled out vibe of the place. I also loved meeting (and falling mildly in love with) Yoda (my name for him, see the ears?) the kitten.  
Yoda and me - love at first sight

Yoda deciding he really doesn't want to be held thank you

Yoda napping on my lap - nnnnnnawwwwwwww

Janice, Ghee, Lani and I (note Yoda napping on my lap still)

The saxophonist was rad!
 T'was my dear friend Abim's birthday a few days ago and i decided to take him for lunch at Pun Pun Cafe. Pun Pun is the farm next to Panya (where i met Janice) and serves organic food, grown both at the Pun Pun Farm and by other local farmers. 
The food is spectacular and i honestly could order anything off the menu and be happy.

Andy's Banana Flower Salad - YUM!

Salad with deep fried flowers and an avocado dressing. Abim is the groovy guy in the hat. 

Indian curry with eggplant and bamboo shoots and home made roti bread

Abim's masaman curry with mountain rice
The regulars at Akha Ama Cafe have a Friday morning breakfast club and this week i was invited along, but so too was a film crew who are following 3 of the gang (A, J and M) for a show called International House Hunters. Needless to say we all put on our best outfits and the food was colourful and yummy.

Janice made a wonderful salad and Anne brought some watermelon and dragon fruit (which i love but others are of the opinion it tastes like nothing)

The Secret Friday Breakfast Club

The crew eating some yummy food from the local restaurant.

Yoko (an amazing artist and lovely gal) at Akha Ama. Don't worry, i did buy some of the coffee you can see on the shelf in the background.

One of the staff at Akha Ama and Lee (making coffee as usual)

The menu

So that's Chiang Mai - Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 which is mainly some Mexican food, bowling, and farewells.  
Until then i hope you're indulging your taste buds as much as i am. 

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