You step onto the street, within the gates of the Old City in Chiang Mai, and smell sweet florals, citrus and spices. Two steps later, you’re bombarded by exhaust and sewage stench. Chiang Mai is certainly filled with unknowns around every bend. You can get lost among the winding streets, feeling directionally confused, and walk straight into a bustling street market. Food certainly rules the scene, and that’s why we’re here.
The markets are my favorite places to roam. The food is beautiful, fresh and unbelievably inexpensive. At the Chiang Mai Gate Market, multiple rows of vendors line up with farm produce, every type of meat, buckets of swimming eels and catfish, spices and chiles. An older woman, dressed in a floral blouse and pearls, fries pork in boiling hot oil; another woman chops a live fish to order and throws it in a bag. It is loud and lively. A band of young boys weave their way through the crowds, while children and their parents dance around them and on tables. It is 9a.m, and the market has been booming for hours.
We are among few Westerners out. We do our best to communicate with the farmers and cooks. Smiles go a long way here, and everyone is incredibly helpful and kind. With the little Thai we know, we ask about the foreign produce, and they slowly yell the words out over the music.
Jason slurps soup noodles with pork (bami mu daeng), and I am happy with sweet sticky rice & custard (khao neow sang kaya). Our day fills up with more walking, more eating. Now, we are jet-lagged and in desperate need of some sleep.
We head out to the farm tomorrow for a couple of weeks, where we’ll be taking a course on sustainable farming, living, and cooking. At this time, we’re not sure how much internet access we’ll have. But, please know that we will be in touch as often as possible and will certainly fill you in when we get back.