Carla’s South East Asian Adventure – Part 3

In the third article of this series Carla ter Maat finds Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand a total contrast to Bangkok

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Travel Tip 1 – Leave lots of time and check every detail of your travel arrangements well before hand, as you never know what little unexpected situations will arise to undo your best laid plans…

Whether it was the excitement of travelling on or too much chilli in my Tom Kha Gai (spicy coconut soup with oyster mushrooms), but my tum was definitely not happy. The last thing I felt like doing was repacking my over crammed backpack to look for my 2 missing credit cards!

(Travel Tip 2 only take half of what you think are essentials when packing!)
Having no luck in my hasty, frantic rummage, I scoured the room to make sure I hadn’t hidden them ‘somewhere safe’ before having to check out and leaving them behind. No, definitely not in the room. With a flight to catch and out of time, I would now have to wait until I arrived in Chiang Mai before being able to check through my things again.

Just an hour’s flight from Bangkok but it could have been a million miles away. Despite being the second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai is the most significant culturally in the country and has a wonderful laidback, bohemian quality about it. The charming, old moated city centre houses literally hundreds of chedi and wats (temples), each architecturally more beautiful than the previous. This really is a photographer’s paradise.

I checked into my 14th floor room at the luxurious Centrara Duangtawan Hotel and drew back the curtains to reveal a stunning view of the city beyond and directly below me a most inviting pool. With temperatures hoovering around 37C, a twice daily plunge was not only a pleasure, but a necessity! (decided to give the well kitted out gym, sauna and steam room a miss- too much to explore)

No time to look for my missing cards as the driver had arrived to collect me for the Classic Thai Cookery class. With only 3 in the group, we received the undivided attention of our Hostess Win at her home based cookery school. I asked to cook the most traditional dishes of Chiang Mai, which included Gaeng Massaman Nua (Beef Curry), Pad Krapao Gai (fried Chicken with Holy Basil and Chilli) and of course the famous Thai Papaya Salad. Surprisingly there is a strong Indian influence in the food here (considering the proximity to China) which resulted in the liberal use of fresh cardomom fruits, Cumin and Garam Masala in their curries. (Yellow curry paste is made by adding Garam Masala to Red Curry Paste). We cooked up a feast between us, indulged with relish and departed feeling satisfied with our newly acquired knowledge and skills.

With the best part of 6 days here, I had plenty of time to venture into the lush country side as I was eager to explore what lay beyond the city limits. I had booked a tour from home, on a friend’s recommendation (thanks James) but there are a plethora of very affordable and reputable operators which you can book at a days notice. I opted to visit some of the northern tribal villages, enroute to The Golden Triangle, the meeting point of Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Thailand and via the most beautiful Thai Buddist Temple of them all

Of course I found the cards, right where I had hidden them in my pac’o’jac sleeve (no one would find them there indeed!)

Carla ter Maat

Carla ter Maat has worked in food related businesses all her working life, from running an award winning delicatessen and catering business in Virginia Water to owning and managing a sea front Italian restaurant in Sussex. This has produced in her a wealth of experience in the Food, Drink and Hospitality industries. Now, as Sales Manager for the impeccable drakes boutique hotel and restaurant in Brighton, Carla continues to impart her knowledge and delights in discovering the hidden gems, whether fine food importers, local wine producers or excellent restaurants; and she’s travelling far and wide to do so.

Carla’s trip to South-East Asia was organised by Travelbag. To see their holidays to Northern Thailand go to