A Trip Up North

Ditching the traffic and boiled rice of Bangkok, we headed up north. Our first stop was in Chiang Mai, where after picking up our rental car, we proceeded directly to Khao Soi Lam Duan, Chiang Mai's, and by association, Thailand's best and most famous khao soi restaurant:


From Chiang Mai we drove directly to the pleasant town of Lampang, home to an excellent night market selling heaps of northern Thai food. This stall was virtually inundated with people buying food to go (a very good sign), and their food was nearly sold out even before it was dark:


Selling mushrooms:


Serving up sticky rice, which as in much of northern Thailand, is wrapped in large leaves called bai tong tueng:


We took our goods back to our hotel, the lovely Riverside Guesthouse, where they were kind enough to let us use their dishes.

The next morning, on the way out of town, we stopped at a shop selling a vareity of curries meant to be served over khanom jeen, fermented rice noodles:


Mom chose the northern specialty, khanom jeen naam ngiaow, a dish of tomato-based broth not unlike a spicy spaghetti sauce:


I think this pic was taken at the point when she was told that those dark cubes are not liver, but rather coagulated blood!

Our next stop was the beautiful province of Naan. Unfortunately almost as soon as we arrived, the entire area experienced its worst flooding in nearly 50 years! I was planning to spend a few days in Naan, so this drastically changed our plans, but at least we had an amazing dish of laap khua at a restaurant call Pu Som before heading to higher ground:


The next day was spent in the small provincial town of Phrae. A night market can be found in the middle of town, and although the food sold there wasn't local (nor really good), we did have some good roti:


From Phrae we drove south to Sukhothai to check out the ruins. The modern city of Sukhothai is probably one of the least attractive urban areas in Thailand, but there is some decent food there, including a night market with both prepared dishes and people selling produce such as the local favorite, phrik num:


However one of the best restaurants in town is an extremely popular noodle shop called Jay Hae. This place is known for its Sukhothai-style noodles, as Nong Paeng is showing here:


And they also do an excellent khanom jeen naam ngiaow:


One of the most interesting stops on our trip was at Thung Kwieng Market, found along the highway between Lampang and Chiang Mai. Also known as the jungle market, this market previously had a reputation for selling rare animals/produce from the surrounding forests. Today the sale of endangered wildlife is more or less a thing of the past, but there are still some bizarre things to be found, such as this:


a nearly fully developed buffalo fetus, known locally as khwaay awn. It is prepared by chopping it up, rubbing it with copious spices (to cover up the horrible smell) and steaming it, as shown below:


The market had an amazing amount of particularly northern Thai specialties, such as dried spices:


grilled food, including the famous northern Thai sausage, sai ua (located on the right):


and maengdaa:


an insect used all over Thailand for its fruitlike "essence".

In the coming weeks I'll be going up north again, this time to my beloved Mae Hong Son, to write a sample chapter for a particular publisher of travel books popular in SE Asia.