Arrived in Chiang Mai

When researching my trip to Thailand I knew I wanted to some chill time in Chiang Mai. After some research I learn the Nimman neighborhood is highly recommended. Nimman is a hip new area at the bottom of Doi Suthep Mountain. It has all the creature comforts for western travelers and it quieter than the hustle and bustle of the main tourist areas. I booked about a week at the Nimman House guesthouse in the Nimman nieghborhood. I must have been visiting in off season because I had the entire place to myself most of the week (a local in Bangkok told me they visit Chiang Mai in winter to escape the city heat and this week in Chiang Mai is hot as Bangkok). In fact I only saw the hotel staff once and that was at check in – however they were accessible by email if I needed them. It did get lonely though. One of the reasons I chose a guesthouse is the hope to interact with other travelers. The only other girls I saw in my hotel had no interest in talking to me whatsoever.

hotel lobby

After checking into my hotel I went out wandering around the neighborhood and ended up Jarid Thai for Roti Massaman Gai (Chicken curry served with Roti).

Most nights I ended up walking by this cafe called SS1254372 Cafe. It is funky and had these male and female robots that had certain body parts light up at certain times. I ended up ordering a yummy brunch there one day.

Ordered a yummy vegetable benedict. Craving vegetables.

I call it an early night. Tomorrow I will wander around town and try to see some temples.

Bangkok Chinatown Food Tour (Yaowarat)

One evening in Bangkok I attended a great street food tour of Chinatown.

My good friends know that I don’t show up late to things. I HATE being late so I usually show up at least 15 minutes earlier than needed to any given event. Bangkok broke me in this sense. I underestimated what a time suck it is traveling from location to location in Bangkok and consequently ended up late to my food tour. Despite the warnings and the travel instructions I decided to rely on my judgement on time and google maps for directions. I left super early and got on the sky train. Somewhere the plan goes off the rails and I decide I am going to try to take a bus since it seemed more efficient than taking the metro.

Besides the lines seemed long at the Skytrain….

Isn’t it great how everyone queues up to get on the train?

Not only did I not know what direction I am supposed to go but the bus appears to never show up. So much traffic, so many people, signs not clear. I never see the bus appear.

I finally decide to follow the transportation instructions from the tour. The instructions have me taking the subway. The subway uses a token system. The line to buy a token is super long and half the machines or more are not even working. More time is wasted here.

The wait is forever to buy a token

Once on the metro it is very clean and efficient. It is even in the process of expanding.

Luckily I am only 5 minutes late. It is so unlike me and luckily the group didn’t look too annoyed with my tardiness. Additionally it seems like I wasn’t the only one with travel issues.

Finally I meet with the group leader of the Yaowarat Street Food Tour (Chinatown) from Bangkok Food Tours.

First stop is a look at a Chinese temple near Chinatown. It is a nice little respite from the hustle and bustle of Chinatown.

After a little walking further we are in Chinatown where traffic is non-stop and there is a vegan food festival going on.

Stop .5

Free glass noodle sample as part of vegetarian festival. It is pretty good. I wouldn’t mind trying all the vegan goodies but we have so many good foods awaiting us.

Stop 1

Michelin Doughnuts

First stop is supposed to be dim sum but they are too crowded to hold our group at this time. Instead we start with the Michelin rated street doughnuts (Patonggo). Pa Tong Go Savoey. The uncle who started it is Michelin but we eat at his nephew’s and it also Michelin rated.

The doughnut is fried then grilled and then topping of choice. We choose kaya (pandan coconut custard) dip. I would have liked to have this dessert later but something tells me that I will probably be too stuffed later to enjoy a dessert. Probably good to taste this early.

Stop 2

R & L Seafood (Lek and Rut.). Different name on different days the tour guide tried to explain. The menu is supposedly different depending on who runs the place for the day.

Our tour guide informs us that you never place your silverware directly on the table when eating street food (table could be dirty).

Here we try a few different seafood dishes.

Prawn’s served full body are interesting. One must be able to pop it’s little head off to get to the good stuff.

We are served clams stuffed with shrimp and pork. They are pretty interesting

Crab fried rice is also on the table and doesn’t disappoint (not pictured).

And finally Tom yum (clear broth) with bass. So good. Good lemongrass flavor. This is so far my favorite.

Stop 3

Hua Seng Hong

Sticky bun with melting custard in interior (lava custard bun).

Stop 4

Pepper soup

We are asked if we wanted just crunchy pork or other organs in the soup (tongue, liver, intestines, etc). I order just the pork because I am not feeling adventurous. I learn later I accidentally ate someone’s tongue and pork soup. The soup is so good I didn’t notice I am supposed to be grossed out. Very strong pepper favor. Rice noodles that curve when cooked. It is spicy but manageable. Due to the heat I start sweating even more than I already am.

Stop 5

Pancake

The pancake is my least favorite food selection: With sugar, nuts, coconut. Did not love that one.

Stop 6

Glutinous dumpling in hot ginger syrup

This is a surprise. I really like the black sesame dumpling in the ginger syrup. Ginger syrup tastes more like ginger tea. It is so good that it is tied with Tom yum for my favorite of the tastings

Stop 7

We finally make it to dim sum at The Canton House.

Pandan colored noodles and a deep fried tofu wrapped pork and shrimp dumpling.

Stop 7.5

Finally it is time for ice cream. We purchase ice cream from a sister team that has been in business forever. I order the lychee and it is marvelous.

lychee ice cream
Group photo

More food stuff is observed by not necessarily sampled. None of us are brave enough to try the bugs.

Durian is not high on anyone’s to try list as well.

More fun along the streets….

Chinatown is lively with all the food stalls, the parades, and I even got a drive by blessing. If I have more time in Bangkok then this street is a definitely a return visit.

Arrived in Bangkok

My start to Bangkok couldn’t have been more perfect. I started with some delicious street food. Then spent a hour or so drinking beers in the courtyard and chatting with other travelers while someone played songs on a guitar. And finally got about 10 hours or so of sleep on a comfy loft bed.
Just what I needed after 2 weeks of non-stop travel.

Ari neighbourhood

One of the challenges as an older solo traveler is finding appropriate accomodation. I would like to be price conscious and also stay in a place where it is easy to meet other travelers. Naturally hostels would fit that requirement except I can’t really do the shared room thing anymore. I don’t mind hanging out and chatting in shared living space but I really need to have my own space to unwind every night. (“I’m too old for this”). Some hostels provide private rooms but those are limited and often at a premium, even more than a hotel room sometimes. Fortunately I booked my Bangkok stay pretty far in advance so I was able to reserve a private room at the Yard Hostel in the upscale and hipster Ari neighborhood. It is a little of a splurge for a hostel but I am so glad I did. It was probably the best hostel I stayed at during my travels. The hostel is a short walk to the BTS Sukhumvit line and the area contains many hip restaurants.

I stayed five nights to give myself time to both enjoy Bangkok slowly and to give myself recovery time from my fast pace tour I just finished (Egypt and Jordan).

Loft Bed
The look down

The only bad thing about this hostel is the steep stairs to get up to the bed. If you are afraid of heights you might want to skip this option.

In the common areas people are friendly. Those who worked there also hang out there and get you involved in group conversation if you are a shy loner-type like myself.

In addition the breakfast is included and is very good. I admit I got sick of eating the same thing every day but I think most don’t stay there as long as I did (5 nights).

People were pretty friendly but this cutie wanted nothing to do with me.
Hipster food place outside of hostel.

Delicious Mackerel rice bowl ordered right outside the hostel
Beers were cheap in the hostel

To save money I choose beers at the hostel. It seemed loose and casual in Bangkok, little did I know about all the weird alcohol rules in Thailand. First off there are many dry days in Thailand. Dry days are either religious days or days of political significance. During those days bars are closed and alcohol cannot be purchased. I hit a few of those during my time in Thailand. In addition, you can only buy or be served alcohol between the hours of 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. – midnight on normal days. For some reason I was always craving a drink between 2-5 pm while visiting the country.

Sweating on the subways

Before my visit the pollution levels were dangerously high. The smog didn’t really bug me at all during my visit but the humidity did, even as a Floridian I sweated constantly.
The sky train and metro were both pretty easy to use. Traffic sucks so it is the best way to get around if you can. They have grab (their version of Uber). Used that once when I was too tired to hoof it to public transport. Didn’t use buses. Many people ride on the back of bikes using grab. I was too scared to do so. In fact, I didn’t do my first motorbike trip until much later in Indonesia.

Luckily the trains take me to everywhere I want to go in Bangkok.


Our Dinner is cooked underground

Our second night of Wadi Rum the younger tour also joined us at our campsite (their tour only does one night at Wadi Rum).

That night we were introduced to the traditional Jordanian Bedouin style cooking called Zarb.

The food is cooked under ground, covered by dirt.

Our food is under this mound
Under the mound a metal tin covers the food to protect
Veggies and potatoes on the top
Meat on the bottom

The meat isn’t as flavorful as I would like but it is good enough to satisfy and to make me feel a part of the Bedouin life for at least one night.

Traditional Bedouin Jordanian style of cooking video.

Egyptian Home Visit

During my tour of Egypt we have two opportunities to have home cooked meals. First time is with a Nubian family and the second time is a traditional Egyptian family.

We learn about family customs and are served a delicious meal of orzo type soup, potatoes, rice, vegetables, and chicken.

Experiences like this are just one of many advantages you get on a small group tour that uses local hosts like Intrepid Travel. I highly recommend their tours.