21 January 2014 -- Part Two
Chiang Mai is known for its Night Bazaar or Night Market. And it is amazing!
Block after block in the town is dedicated to the Night Bazaar, and there are certain areas behind the buildings, in the alleys, that are specific Night Bazaar areas.
But the streets also have booths or stalls, and these are set up every afternoon - huge rolling booths are dragged in (by hand, by motorcycle, it takes forever) and set up along the sidewalks. And I imagine they are removed each night, after the vendors pack up their wares about midnight and close down.
You can buy just about anything at the night market, although the items are geared toward tourists. Watches, bags, clothes, jewelry, toys, games, soap, perfume, shoes, socks, undies, luggage, umbrellas, paintings, books, small electronics - as I said, just about anything.
Artists sell paintings, local craftspeople sell their items (we loved the hand-painted silk umbrellas and fans), and there are women from the various hill tribes welling hand-made items such as toys, jewelry, the pieced fabric hats or cross-stitched embroidery - absolutely beautiful pieces of folk art that I would love to buy if I had a house to decorate or even a closet to fill. Silk and cashmere pashminas in every colour you can imagine. I love ethnic clothing and jewelry, so this is just wonderful. Women with black hats studded with silver tacks, wearing indigo batik and embroidery, babies on their backs wearing the cute tasseled hats and their adorable chubby cheeks just waiting to be photographed. I love it!
So of course we're contributing to the local economy by buying small items that are easy to carry or mail. Because that's what travellers do, help support the locale where we are as we collect small items to gift, or to supplement what we have. And because that's how we meet people, by talking to them about their goods, and initiating a conversation. (We met a lovely young man from Kashmir and had a long talk while buying a pashmina or two, before he rushed off to his cricket game. Seriously. This is life on the road.)
Okay, so eating in Chiang Mai - there are restaurants and food stands at every turn. Some are wonderful, some are so-so. We haven't found any that are bad, but maybe we've been lucky, or just discriminating. (Look for clean floors and crowded tables - usually means a good spot.)
Our favourites thus far include:
Lemongrass for wonderful Thai food:
Also Whole Earth Restaurant for Thai and Indian food, in a little garden setting off the busy street:
Apostrophe Café for American (and Australian) brekkies, sandwiches, coffees, all that:
Nakara Jardin, at an old Thai estate by the river - perfect for lunch, afternoon tea, or a date you want to impress with a lovely dessert (we had the set lunch menu and everything was amazing, these are a few desserts shown here, but definitely try the black truffle cappuccino, a creamy black truffle soup - OMG heavenly!):
But my personal favourite, La Terrasse, an authentic French bistro - we had trouble finding it the first night the four of us met there, but it turns out our new hotel is right across the street! (We extended our time in Chiang Mai, the first hotel we were at was full for the time we wanted to book, so we just found this other spot which is not far away.) Anyway, the coq au vin is to die for, and the bill comes with homemade chocolates made by an Austrian chocolatier I met one evening (as I was waiting for my coq au vin). I plan to make this my last night restaurant of choice because I have tried the chicken Basque style with ratatouille, and I love eggplant. Followed by the chocolate mousse. Because, well, I may never be back in Chiang Mai. Anyway, their website so you can drool:
Correction - the mousse au chocolat noir is straight from Paradise. Nirvana. Heaven. Whatever is your ultimate location, the dark chocolate mousse comes from there. Or maybe it is served there. Yes, it's that good - I'm hoping that wherever I go for eternity, they serve the mousse from La Terrasse.