Nesting in Chiang Mai

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June 7th 2008
Published: June 7th 2008
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Thai seating areaThai seating areaThai seating area

Our traditional Thai table with cushions.

Nesting in Chiang Mai

Since Songkran, we’ve really had a lack of things to write about because more so than traveling, we’ve really just been nesting. During the Songkran holiday Brian and I had to decide which school offer to take. Brian chose Prince Royal’s College, a huge Christian school for K-12 grades. Brian teaches 10th and 11th grade English classes. I chose Sacred Heart College, just a block down from our apartment; it is an all girls Catholic school and I teach 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade English, Social Studies and Health in the school’s bilingual program. Neither of us set out looking for Christian based schools but it turns out that all schools in Thailand have to be based off religion—only some take it more seriously than others. A big plus for us is we get all Christian, Buddhist and National holidays off!

After securing jobs, we went on an apartment hunt. We ended up choosing the Doi Ping Mansion. It’s a huge tower in the best part of town with privately owned and rental units. The tower comes with 24-hour security and a pool. Our little place has a huge balcony with the best view in
Western seating areaWestern seating areaWestern seating area

We had to have a couch and coffee table...just too bad they are hideous and made of pleather. Thank God for cheap blanket covers in Thailand!
Chiang Mai. Straight on we over look a garden of Chiang Mai’s beautiful flowered trees and to our immediate right is a decorative, traditional Thai Buddhist temple—quite the sight to behold. Actually, the temple has become one of my favorite parts of our apartment. Every morning at about 4AM the monks ring their morning bell. With this they wake up the approximately 30 dogs that live at the temple (there are tons of stray dogs in Thailand and since it is a Buddhist country no one will ever put them down or even neuter them so strays are taken in by the temples). These 30 strays howl madly when they are woken by the early morning bells. I know this sounds like it should be annoying but it is not, it is my absolute favorite part of the day!* There is something so beautiful to me about being present for the early morning rise of a monk’s day and to hear all those adorable puppies try to out howl each other. We are far enough away that it isn’t too loud but just loud enough to break my deep sleep, which is good because it starts my wake up process
Living roomLiving roomLiving room

More of the same...just a different angle.
so I can be up and cooking sticky rice before school. But back to the balcony: to the far left of our skyline are skyscraping five star hotel towers with mountains in the background. It is the perfect site for us: the city, the country and Buddhism all in one balcony. Inside our apartment isn’t so grand but we painted some fun colors on the walls and tried to clean it up best we could but unfortunately there isn’t much we can do about the blue checkered linoleum flooring. We did created a Thai sitting area in the living room with floor cushions and a traditional Thai floor table overlooked by an abstract Thai painting of a dragonish elephant creature. Opposite that wall is our western seated area with the traditional couch, chair and coffee table.

We actually sit at our Thai table every night for dinner. I took a Thai cooking class and found out that Thai cuisine is extremely simple! I have an electric wok, rice cooker and an electric kettle - all you need! So far I have mastered cashew nut chicken, phad thai, phad see eiw (fresh noodles stirfried with kale, egg and chicken), paneng
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Wat Changmongkol right outside our balcony.
curry, pat kra pow (spicy minced pork with rice) and my favorite, sweet sticky rice with mango. Sticky rice is a northern specialty in Thailand. It is special glutinous rice that you soak in water overnight and then steam in bamboo instead of boil. Thais will form it into a ball so you can use your hands to eat it with. For sweet sticky rice you prepare the same but then mix with coconut milk, sugar and salt. Pair this with mango and banana and that’s been my breakfast everyday for the last couple of weeks. I’m addicted to it but unfortunately mangoes are going out of season right about now so I’m expecting some morning withdraws.* Brian even made a plate of pad thai that was delicious! But he hasn’t completely kicked his cereal or peanut butter & jelly sandwich breakfast habits yet. With the discussion of sticky rice it is probably a good time to tell the tale of Thai cutlery. Thais use a spoon and fork with every meal, in the North of Thailand they do use chopsticks but only for noodle dishes. Apparently Thailand never got on the chopstick boat with the rest of Asia and
Balcony view 2Balcony view 2Balcony view 2

I told you I love those flowered trees!
always ate their food with their hands. It wasn’t till the late 19th century when King Rama V had English visitors to the palace to observe how they ate a proper English meal. Deciding that a fork and spoon were quite useful but not a knife since Thai food is already cut, King Rama V introduced this cutlery to the nation. Because of sticky rice, eating food with your hands was quite easy in Northern Thailand—you could just scoop food onto the balls of rice. I assume that chopsticks were introduced for noodle dishes by the Chinese since much of the North has been influenced by them…not totally sure though so don’t quote me on this one!

Other than our food and balcony the apartment is also situated in a great part of town. We are about a 5 minute bike ride from the “Old City” of Chiang Mai which is nestled in a moat. This a great spot to check out but you don’t necessarily go there everyday unless you don’t have a job or are a tourist. There are good bars there with a fun ex-pat scene and you can also find lots of western food. A
Balcony view to the leftBalcony view to the leftBalcony view to the left

Mountains, tall buildings and trees -- what else could you ask for?
good one is the Texan Saloon where you can get big portions of good ol’ American food. However, cheese based items come with big portions of everything but the cheese. Brian’s grilled cheese was huge pieces of bread, tons of bacon and one Kraft single slice of cheese lost somewhere in the middle. Cheese is a sad subject for us in Thailand. They do have cheese here - in fact they have every kind of cheese you can think of; however, it will cost you between 300-800 Baht for one package (that’s $10-$25 and mind you an entire meal here is only about $1-$2). And of course, along with cheese, wine is another rare item here. It will cost you about 20 bucks for a cheap box wine… Hey, at least we found Miguel’s Café, a fabulous Mexican food haven in the midst of Southeast Asia!*

Again, I digress - back to our locale: Even closer than the “Old City” is the famous Night Bizarre. It is a huge street dedicated to street vendors with two mall areas for the “official” Night Bizarre vendors. There is a lot of cheap yet useless merchandise but some good stuff there as
Our KitchenOur KitchenOur Kitchen

Thank God we have one! I was getting sick of washing dishes in the bathroom.
well. Our favorite shopping area is actually the Sunday Walking Market that takes up the whole center of the “Old City.” Here you can find all the crafts, clothes, textiles and artwork that are at the Night Bizarre but for a fraction of the price. The Sunday Market is frequented more by Thais and therefore is cheaper than the touristy Night Bizarre.

Even closer to us is the Ping River, a huge murky but beautiful lush river that runs through the heart of Chiang Mai. Off the river are many Thai markets where you can buy cheap produce, flowers and virtually anything you want. These are where the Thais go for meals. They pick up a plastic bag of a pre-made food and take it home to eat with the family. It is so popular that there is even a phrase “plastic bag cook/wife.” It isn’t any wonder they do so though—it’s actually cheaper to buy food like this than to cook at home for yourself. The markets are interesting but I must admit I am more comfortable at our local Western style Rimping Supermarket. It is nice to buy from the farmers direct and give them profit so
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Thailand is known for their silk so I had to have a Thai silk bedspread!
we do go to the Thai markets for produce but Rimping caters our needs for anything else. Our first time at our local Thai market, I was buying mangoes when the King’s song suddenly blared through the market. Brian (having had a class on Thai culture at his school) knew immediately what was going on. Everyday at 8AM and 6PM they play the King’s song in all public places of business (strange we hadn’t noticed this before). Everyone ceases what they are doing and stands at attention. Catching on quickly so did Brian and I and as a result of being conscientious Farangs (foreigners), the Thai merchant threw in an extra free mango.

Other than these areas our dwelling is also next to a few Karaoke Bars (which in Thailand are brothels), a ton of schools (including mine) that make traffic a bit of a nightmare and a cute park along the river. We definitely love our spot and feel quite lucky here! I don’t know if it is any place we will grow roots in but for this year at least, it makes a nice home!

* Updates (I wrote this blog weeks ago and had to
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Peaceful indeed.
add in some new info)
1. This was my favorite part of the day until May 19th during the celebration of Buddha’s death and final release into Nirvana or Nibbana for those of you who prefer the Pali name (sorry, studying Buddhism right now and can’t help myself). During this holiday the monks really went all out with the 4AM bell ringing and instead of one round of bells they now repeat the ringing pattern about four times so it lasts for about 10 minutes! I don’t know why they changed the ring but they haven’t stopped and now I find myself covering my head with the pillow when the bells begin…a very sad end to what used to be my favorite part of the day.
2. Today mangoes are officially out of season and sticky rice and mango stands have ceased operations. It is not as terrible as I thought though. I just eat sticky rice with bananas instead. Not as addicting so sometimes I break up the monotony with cereal (with bananas still—the bananas are really good here! {pineapple, however, pales in comparison to California’s}).
3. I should also mention how proud I am that I recently prepared
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Tis the season for monsoons. Its so funny, today was warm and clear except for about two hours in the afternoon when this cloud came in and dumped on us.
a fabulous Mexican Thai fusion dish. I call it Thai fusion because I was impaired with only Thai ingredients and a can of salsa (made in Thailand) and a can of refried beans. It was a delicious and very Mexican tasting (using Thai chilies did make it spicier though) plate of Mexican rice and a refried bean with pork concoction - tortillas are too expensive so I basically mixed my beans with my taco meat in the wok for that one.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Thai seasoningThai seasoning
Thai seasoning

Must haves for Thai food! All dishes should have a balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy so here we have prik nam blah (chilies for spice in fish sauce for salt) and prik nam... I don't know how to say vinegar but this is for the sour. Then you just add sugar for sweetness.
Sticky rice and mangoes!Sticky rice and mangoes!
Sticky rice and mangoes!

Yum!!! Oh, but Brian detests it... I don't get it.
Phad ThaiPhad Thai
Phad Thai

Brian made this one. It was delicious!
Paneng CurryPaneng Curry
Paneng Curry

It is like red curry but with crushed peanuts mixed in. Delicious too!
My Mexican DishMy Mexican Dish
My Mexican Dish

Brian was so stoked about this one.
More Food!!!More Food!!!
More Food!!!

This time from Miguel's Cafe. From our lips to God's ears we found our Nirvana in Thailand!
Sacred Heart SchoolSacred Heart School
Sacred Heart School

This was a two hour ceremony (I sneaked out after an hour) at my school to celebrate the "naming" of the school. Hmmm...Thais celebrate everything!
The Ping RiverThe Ping River
The Ping River

Across the street from us behind the temple. And no, its not a chocolate river though the color may fool you.
East side of the MoatEast side of the Moat
East side of the Moat

Entrance to the "Old City"
Brian in a jam session Brian in a jam session
Brian in a jam session

Brian jamming at a bar inside the boat with two great guys from Colorado. They were playing 60's doo-wop music but because they were in the rasta area of town they fused it with some reggae sounds.
So this was weirdSo this was weird
So this was weird

After a night drinking in the moat area we turned the corner to see our first elephant in Thailand... Must admit I was confused at first because I didn't think I drank that much.

8th June 2008

Cant believe you guys are gone! Still boggles my mind. I love that your adjusting well and have found an elephant just walking down the street. Be safe and well. These are my wishes to you.
9th June 2008

What an incredible adventure!
Wow - thanks so much for the update on your adventure. The view from your apartment looks lovely - it sounds like you found the perfect place in which to next this year. I am enjoying the stories - from elephants to bells welcoming the day, not to mention all the wonderful cuisine. Congratulations on your new positions with the schools!
11th June 2008

Wow, looks like you have settled in pretty good. I love seeing all the pics. Keep 'em coming. Miss you guys!!! Congrats on the jobs and the new apartment!!

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