On Wednesday night I had dinner at a rather lame Thai restaurant about a block up from the Shangri-La Hotel, which impressively towers over the rest of the buildings on Chang Klan Road. It wasn’t my choice – I was having dinner with the man I’ll be renting off – and in all honestly it wouldn’t have passed the taste test for me in Sydney, let alone here. And yet the place was packed the rafters – with tourists! I haven’t seen that many Dutch people in one place since Amsterdam c2005. Excluding staff, I was the closest thing to a Thai there. I wish I could remember its name so I could warn y’all to steer clear because it gets the thumbs down from me. For two people it worked out to be 600THB ($20AUD) which is really expensive by Chiang Mai standards (though I didn’t pay so probably shouldn’t complain too much, really – thanks David). You could find cheaper and tastier Thai food in Sydney. However, I will say that the steamed rice which came out in the shape of bears was pretty cute. Good use of jelly moulds.
In stark contrast I went out last night for the first time with my workmates and for the same cost per person I had the most sensational meal I’ve had in ages at Mix Bar, a very funky establishment with a mix of influences in terms of its decor, including Turkish. (The second best meal I’ve had since arriving is the vegetarian place I wrote about last week – Khun Churn – which I returned to a few days ago. I would particularly rate their super value-for-money and delicious lunch time buffet. Aroy! Delicious!)
I had a great night with my workmates who I’m quickly finding out are a fun-loving, sparky and funny bunch and we’re getting on really well and getting to know each other. The cultural exchange is happening on several levels and I’m finding that the differences aren’t as great between us as I might have supposed. In fact, I’m even finding that we have some common interests and this morning I got together a big collection of mp3s for them – some jazz, electronica, pop, rock. I feel so lucky to have the chance to befriend locals here, and not just hang out with ex-pats. The night ended with my workmates professing that they were really happy to have me here working with them and the feeling is totally mutual. We all seem to feel like I’ve been here longer than two weeks.They were teasing me that my goal to have a more “slow down year”, which I was telling them about last week over lunch, wasn’t going to happen. How transparent must I be that people I have barely known a fortnight can see right through me! I can’t wait till I can speak and understand Thai which will make our interactions even easier. But as it is the language barrier is not proving to be too difficult to overcome at all. Their English is excellent and they are extremely accommodating and find my pronunciation of Thai “cute”. They’re very patient with my constant questions of “What’s the Thai word for this? What’s the Thai word for that?” They think I am learning really fast which is encouraging! Oh, and can they drink or what!? Between three of them – I wasn’t up for drinking last night because I’m totally worn out at the moment – they just about finished off a bottle of whisky. They can drink me under the table ten times over and yet they didn’t seem the least bit drunk after all that.
The food just kept coming out last night and though I had an absolutely massive lunch at the Bake & Bite, I suddenly found my appetite being re-activated by the sight of food. We had a huge array of dishes including spicy meat salads, glazed ribs with Indian inspired rice, roast pork with potatoes and gravy, pork balls in individual servings of soup, sashimi, stir fried egg and vegetables, a huge plate of fried rice, a raw sausage called nem which is also part of Vietnamese cuisine and something I know well. I’ll have to call my parents on the weekend to tell them about it! Big ups to the raw prawns served in a soup spoon in fish sauce, lemon, garlic, chilli, coriander etc. I’ve never had anything like it before and it was totally sensational. My workmates thought I might have problems with eating raw and/or spicy food but I quickly set them right on that account telling them I eat “everything”.
The night ended with us continuing onto a guesthouse which one of my workmates is staying in – he lives and works in Bangkok and is just up here for a few days to be with us. Such a pity he works so far away, it would be great to have him in the office with us.
The Pann Malee Home is the most darling establishment which feels just like a very hip home where young trendies hang out. Which is just what we were doing till midnight. I will definitely be recommending this place to visitors, especially considering how inexpensive it is. I would take a place like this over the 5 star opulence of the Shangri-La any day of the week. They also sell very cool things downstairs and I plan to go back on the weekend to have a closer look and have a coffee since it’s also a cafe.
Yesterday I also discovered a shop next door to my office which sells extremely cute knick-knacks which greatly appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities. Chiang Mai is absolutely full of gems.