Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to Eat Chiang Mai Noodles

Beef khao soi with all the fixins at Khao Soi Samerjai

The second time around, Phil and I were in Chiang Mai for six nights, six mornings, and nine breakfast bowls of khao soi. It would have been ten, except Phil felt ill one morning and, in a true demonstration of his illness, did not partake of the curative Chiang Mai Noodles. I did not waver in my devotion, and had the same (same but different!) breakfast five days in a row, at three different noodle shops, all of which were a convenient scoot-distance from our guesthouse. Although khao soi is typically a lunch or afternoon food, there were no lack of locals in any of the restaurants when we went (usually around 9 am), and it was most convenient for our long-distance itineraries to Lamphun and Wiang Kum Kam. We had to fit in our noodle fix sometime.

Monday, February 17, 2014

We Need to Talk About Chiang Mai

I should preface this post by saying that before this, I had never been to any city in Asia. Not even Bangkok, unless you count a harrowing taxi ride from the airport to the train station, where we just waited for six hours. (We’ll be taking the train back down to Bangkok at the beginning of April, so you can look forward to a funny comparison between third and first class travel. I salivate at the thought of a sleeper car.)

I can’t even say with honesty that I have been to any Asian city besides Chiang Mai, because nowhere in Laos that we have been feels anything like a city. Luang Prabang is an overgrown town with an outsize tourist population, a million wats, and European-style cafés that don’t exist anywhere else in Laos except Vientiane (where we haven’t been). The other provincial capitals we’ve visited, Sam Neua and Phonsavanh, were bewilderingly odd: like a cross between Soviet realism and a frontier town movie set, plus enough dust to coat an entire nation, not to mention my lungs and all of my clothes.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. According to this blog, we haven’t even gotten to Laos yet. Let’s get back to Thailand.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fruits on the Farm

Although we left Mae Mut Garden a few weeks ago, we still reminisce about the fresh fruit that we had every day, even during the dry season. Thailand experiences three sort-of seasons: the dry and cool (Nov-Feb), the dry and hot (Mar-May), and the wet (June-Oct). Apparently it's so abysmal in April that everyone tries to leave! Hence we've planned our trip to Burma during that period.

The dry season is the only time that watering is necessary, and even then, it's important to neglect the fruit trees a bit, because they need to feel dry in order to flower, and later bear fruit. But while we were there, plenty of fruits trees were flowering, ripening, or already giving us ready-made snacks (no pesky going to the supermarket). I took most of these photographs in one morning, with the exception of the pineapple photograph.

ทุเรียนเทศ | A new one to me, from South America, the soursop is a part of the custard apple family. Early research has shown that the leaves could have anti-cancer properties.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Buddhist Full Moon Service

Just to keep you on your toes about the details of our lives, welcome to a bonus post (it’s shorter I promise) from the thus far ghostwriterly Pil.

Another of the illuminating and heartwarming community experiences from our time at Mae Mut Garden was the full moon service at the local temple, Wat Wimuttikaram. As we may or may not have mentioned at some earlier time (I am illiterate), there are a lot of wats everywhere we’ve been in Thailand so far. If they were not large walled estates containing several buildings, you’d basically be tripping over them. They are fascinating, beautiful places with many doors, and we’ll have more to say about them in future posts. The point, for now, is that Wimuttikaram is the wat nearest to the house of Marco, Nok, and Her Imperial Highness Serena.

The first we heard of the service was the day before, when Nok invited us. That night, after the Ruler of All had fallen asleep, Steppil + Nok assembled small plastic bags containing smaller packets of rice, noodles, and instant coffee. These bags, Nok explained in a low voice so as not to wake the Serena-monster, are gifts that serve a double purpose. They are a contribution toward our own nourishment in future reincarnations—but in this lifetime, they are also presented as a gift to the hungry poor of the village.

Every family also offers flowers, which are added to communal decorative platters and somehow look like hour-long arrangements, despite being the work of minutes. The pink ones on the right were ours.

Finding Nemo in a Karen Village

If some unspeakably cruel person were to hold me hostage and forced me to choose my top five experiences in Thailand thus far, I would think this person an exceedingly dull villain. It's hard to choose. I would talk about reaching the highest shrine in Thailand, the lights over the Ping River, the dogs of Mae Mut greeting me every morning with wagging tails, I would talk about my brush with the divine when I first slurped Chiang Mai noodles in Chiang Mai, and then I would then launch into the story of the weekend that Phil, Molly, and I spent in Baan Hoi Hoi, the Karen village nearest the farm.