Nick and I spent a week climbing and eating in Chiang Mai. It was relaxing spending a few days in one place and we were able to celebrate our own unconventional Christmas.
At my previous job in Colorado, my company sponsored 2 strong climbers from Chiang Mai that I continued to stay in touch with. During our visit, we met up and it was a blast to some familiar faces and get some local insight. Although they had to work, we had fun climbing with their friends.
We climbed 6 days at Crazy Horse Buttress, the rock 21 miles outside of the city. The rock was limestone (as all rock is in Southeast Asia) although extremely diverse. We climbed a dirty 4 pitch route up through a cave that rewarded us with a view and various other sharp overhanging routes. Of the 30 plus routes we climbed, our favorite routes were on heart wall which had sustained climbing up to 30 meters.
Nick and I decided to take a rest day on the 26th and celebrated Christmas! We spent the morning at a Thai cooking class (Asian Scenic Thai Cooking School $28) and ended the evening with a Thai massage (Lila Thai Massage $7). At the cooking class, we visited the local market and picked up foreign ingredients that I’ve never seen before (eggplant the size of a pea, coriander leaves, kaffir lime and tamarind sauce). We picked herbs and vegetables from the garden and before we began to cook were treated with an appetizer. This dish was called Meang Kim or Thai welcome snack as it’s traditionally used to greet guests. A dish with diced shallot, sliced lime with the skin, roasted peanuts, toasted coconut meat, ginger, chilies, betel leaves and sweet syrup (palm sugar, ginger, water, salt and shallot) were placed in front of us. We were told to fold the leaves to form a cup and place all of the ingredients inside. We drizzled the sweet syrup on top and ate it in one bite. As we slowly chewed we could taste all of the flavors at once. It was spicy from the ginger and chilies, bitter from the lime and betel leave and sweet from the toasted coconut and syrup. It was fascinating as I’ve never felt all of those sensations in one bite.
After, we began to cook. We made pad thai, cachew and basil stir fry, spring rolls, green curry, red curry, panang curry, massaman curry, mango sticky rice, deep fried bananas, and bananas in coconut milk.
I’ve only ever made Thai curry from store bought curry paste, so it was interesting to make it from scratch. Did you know red curry paste and green curry paste use all of the same ingredients (kaffir lime skin, shallot, garlic, turmeric, coriander seeds, ginsing, lemongrass and galangal), only different chili peppers? Green curry uses fresh small young green chilies making it more spicy and red curry uses dried large red chilies. Did you know the only difference from red curry and panang curry is that panang curry uses peanuts to take away some of the heat? And Khaw Soi (northern Thai curry served with egg noodles) is red curry with added chili oil and curry powder. Masaman curry (which has more Indian origin) is made from dried red chilies, peanuts, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom pods, kaffir lime skin, shallot, garlic, turmeric, coriander seeds, ginsing, lemongrass and galangal. We had a blast at the cooking class and though it was money well spent.
There are so many markets in Chiang Mai, morning markets, night markets, Saturday markets, Sunday markets, night bizzares, etc. Nick and I explored as many as we could and ate our brains out. We also ate at Chun Kurn, a classy vegetarian buffet that I’d highly recommend and A Taste of Heaven. We had a blast in Chaing Mai and are heading Sukhathai then Myanmar before returning to Southern Thailand. Happy New Year!