Here are a few memorable things that I would suggest doing in Chiang Mai that you may not read about in a travel brochure.
1. Be a guest to a mystery occasion.
Bree and I were headed out for a walk and happen to pass an opening to a gate that lead to dozens of people socializing, walking from table to table receiving food, drinks and desserts. Was this a temple, a church, possibly an invite only special ceremony? Judging from the abundance of complementary items, we assumed it might be a charity event or perhaps some sort of community gathering. The curiosity must of been plastered on our faces because within a short moments time, we were waved in by several happy locals. We politely bowed upon entering and whispered to each other (you know the kind when you talk out of the side of your mouth as if no one would notice or could hear you) “What are we walking into? Who knows, just keep smiling”.
To this day, we still don’t know exactly what the occasion was, however it left my cup overflowing with love. What a beautiful feeling to embrace knowing these kind people were not only quick to invite us in, but eager to welcome us to stay.
A delicious local lunch, a drink with dessert and a joyous feeling in the soul… $0.00.
2. Moving on to what is listed on the top picks for Thailand, but should be bumped up in ranking! I’m sure you’ve heard of Thai massage in regards to the superb techniques and low price. Lila’s made an imprint in my mind, not only because of its high quality service, but its founding mission. Developed 40 years ago, this program provides thorough education and opportunity to female inmates that are soon to be released back into the public. Once they’ve completed training, they are able to make a living and contribute to society without discrimination from possible employers or fellow employees.
Although you can receive a typical massage in Chiang Mai for $4-5, I’d much rather donate $8-10 to a positive cause that develops confidence and self worth to those involved. Let me inform you that our $10 fee included a warm foot soak, 90 minute full body traditional Thai massage and the best ginger tea I’ve ever had! So good, in fact, that we asked to see the container so we could go buy some. (Sad day when they inform you that they personally make it daily and its not for sale).
If that’s not in your budget, you can get an even better deal from the program in which they are still in training. That was our original intention, until we were read the sign below.
3. Last but far from the least, I’m here to inform you of the best (and I really mean my #1) edible item that I had in all of Asia. Since we never got the proper name for it, Bree and I just referred to the whole experience as “going to see the Egg Lady”.
The first time we approached the stand, we glanced down into a bowl of surprise soup with a shoulder shrug as we discussed if it was worth a try. After a broken english game of Charades, we came to the conclusion that there was no meat, it was sweet and just $1 a bowl. Since neither of us had ever seen it and both of us love to try new things, we had definitely found our mystery meal of the day.
Taste time! Judging by the look on Bree’s face, she was experiencing the same euphoria that I was. A perfect combination between sweet and slightly salty left you wondering if you could get away with serving this for dinner and dessert. The texture of the balls that floated around the egg made an extraordinary addition to the warm coconut milk that sweetened the entire combination. A moment of silence wasn’t even necessary to request, as we both sat there staring at one another in pleasant disbelief.
The first night we split a cup and enjoyed every bite. The following day we just “happened” to be in her neighborhood after dinner and made it back to share another serving. I think Nitwadee (Egg Lady) was just as excited to our familiar faces, as we were to find her there waiting and ready to serve up. Our last comment to her that evening was “see ya tomorrow”!
The following night was my last day in Chiang Mai, so naturally we agreed to make it to “The Egg Lady” one last time so I could savor the goodness before I departed. We went about our day and while packing up my backpack, it dawned on me that we had never asked what time she closed down. It was already dark and we had a solid stretch to get there in time. “Bree, we need to go…now!”.
Rarely do I think of having video cameras around, however on this evening I would of loved to have seen the 8 minute process from start to first bite. Friends and fellow backpackers, please picture this:
The two of us in flip flops speed walking along the broken streets of Thailand giggling at the idea that we had dropped all plans and responsibilities to reach our sweet Egg Lady. As our jokes turned into serious thoughts, “Would if she is closed?”, our speed walking turned to a jog and the giggles increased to the kind that almost prevents you from being able to breathe properly. By the final corner, we were now sprinting through traffic with tears of laughter and partial relief to see her adorable little stand still lit up.
I won’t go into much detail on what happened in the next few minutes, but just imagine the two of us girls out of breath, laughing hysterically while trying to explain to a new lady (who we later found out was Nitwadee’s mom, the original Egg Lady!) that we indeed wanted 2 bowls. She had already began to clean up so I’m not sure if it was our red cheeks and happy eyes or the fact that we came barreling around her stand full speed that caused her to fire it up and make another batch. Either way, the small smile on her amused face spoke in volumes when Bree and I jumped with innocent excitement. I repeat, we literally jumped up and down like 2 squealing school girls as she reached for the eggs.
After we finally tamed our enthusiasm, we were able to get the granddaughter to translate for us. She told “grandma” that we had been coming every night and today would be the last visit. We then proceeded to ask about the recipe to see if there was any way we could even get just the ingredients to attempt to make it on our own. What happened next was unexpected and it solidifies my impression of the people of Thailand…
She proceeded to call her daughter (the one we had been visiting every night) and handed the phone to me! Bree busted out a piece of paper and before I could even grasp what was happening, we not only had the recipe but her personal contact I for for any questions! All of this being a memory that still fills my heart with ecstasy.
If you find yourself if Chiang Mai leave city central, exit the North gate and walk diagonal to your left crossing the street. There will be a line of food vendors (near the 7eleven) and our precious Egg Lady is directly under the big “Ford” sign. I send you with high expectations and an “above satisfaction” guarantee!
UPDATE: I tried to make it on my own! Of course this first attempt wasn’t anything as magnificent as hers, but I wouldn’t consider it a failure. Simply means I get to keep trying.