Coffee art & great mocha @ Silomjoy Cafe, Chiang Mai - Next to Black Canyon Taphae Gate.

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Cafe mocha & blueberry cheesecake @ the Coffee Club Chiang Mai… Sweet indulgence…

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Cuppa cappuccino under a Thai paper umbrella - Fern Restaurant, Mae Hong Son

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Kin k̄ĥāw (กินข้าว) : Nothern Thai Specialities

Northern Thai cuisine is quite different from the rest of the country.  Some of them are influenced by neighboring Laos and Burma.  In addition there are also ethnic hill tribe cuisines

This is Gaeng Kae Gai, a combination of local green vegetables and chicken curry.  Kinda similar to Or Lam, a Laos specialty from Luang Prabang.

Had this at the Night Bazaar & Food Court in Chiang Rai, complete with cultural dance entertainment.

Karen Pumpkin Curry is another example of northern curry that uses more fresh herbs and chilli peppers rather than thick curry paste and coconut milk.

Apparently the Karen people love to cook with pumpkins, this is from the River House Restaurant in Mae Sariang.

The Shan people from Burma are also a prominent minority here, you could find many restaurants offering Shan cuisine.

This is Shan Herb Chicken from Fern Restaurant in Mae Hong Son.

A refreshing lime juice at the Salween River Restaurant & Bar, a Shan Cuisine specialist in Mae Hong Son.

I’ve had my share of papadoms at indian restaurants but I’ve never tried Shan Papadoms until I got here.  It has a more fishy taste and thicker, scrumptious with the special dip.

This is Chicken Casserole, Shan style. A little too tomatoey for my taste.

They do make an effort for the ambiance :)

This is another version of the Shan Herb Chicken from the Seven Elephants Restaurant, Soppong.

Of course you eat almost everything here with  k̄ĥāw (rice).  Every dish here is serve in the traditional Thai Caladon ceramic ware.

Shan meat balls.  Whether it’s Italian, Chinese, Turkish or Shan, meat balls are the best!

Shan pad thai. A more exotic version from the rest of the country.

Rice noodles with bean sprouts, tofu, peppers and meat.

Probably the most famous Northern Thai cuisine is the Khao Soi. Noodles with a spicy coconut milk broth mix that resembles curry.  Shallots and other vegetables together with lime are also provided to your taste. 

At the NorthWest Restaurant, Pai.  

There are two types of noodles in this dish, boiled and fried egg noodles.

There is a saying that you have not truly visited Chiang Mai until you have had your Khao Soi.  Khao Soi from De Naga Restaurant, Chiang Mai.

I really like the flat noodles with the fried egg noodles here.

Chiang Mai is also famous for their sausages like the Sai Ua.  This is the Chiang Mai Platter with nam phrik at De Naga.

Not to be left out, Sukhothai also has its own special dish, the Sukhothai Noodle.

The rice noodle used is called the Khanon Chin.

Kinda resembles the Vietnamese Pho, it is a blend of chicken or crispy pork, peanuts, coriander and peppers in a clear broth.

Sukhothai noodle is delicious, cheap and can be found all over town.

Last but not least is a very Laos or Isaan style dish called stir-fried morning glory.

The collection of Northern Thai cuisine is truly an extension of the well known delicious Thai cuisine that the everyone loves.

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Thailand Redux: Sukhothai (สุโขทัย) Part 3

The Western Zone of ancient Sukhothai is today known as the Aranyik, which means the forest.  Naturally this is a less restored and less crowded area.  The terrain is also much hilly and more foliage allowing a nice hike to the ruins here.

Wat Chedi Ngam

Wat Khao Phra Bat Noi

Wat Tham Hip Lang

Wat Chedi Ngam

Wat Tham Hip Bon

Wat Mangkorn

Wat Mahakaset & Wat Tuk & Wat Si Thon

From the Western Zone, I went back to Sukhothai town for some lunch before exploring the Southern Zone.  If your are exploring more than the Central Zone you need a bicycle or strong legs

Entering the Southern Zone.  There are less ruins here but pretty interesting nevertheless. 

Wat Kon Laeng

Wat Chetuphon

Best of the Southern Zone!

Wat Chedi Si Hong

I do prefer Sukhothai over Ayutthaya mostly because it’s less crowded and less traffic in Sukhothai.  However Ayutthaya has more mega monuments.  Bottom-line I love both of them and would recommend them to all you hardcore ancient ruins enthusiasts.        

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Thailand Redux: Sukhothai (สุโขทัย) Part 2

Heading north towards the North Zone, there are many small monuments such as Ta Pha Daeng Shrine and Wat Sorasak.

Near the elephant chedi of Wat Sorasak is Wat Son Khao.

The design and style is pretty common around the historical park.

There are two impressive temple ruins in the North Zone. One of them is Wat Phra Phai Luang

This Khmer temple complex located outside the historical city walls is surrounded by a moat. Most obvious attraction is of course the lotus prang (spire), biggest and tallest in the area.  

It is believed that during the Khmer domination, this was the center of Sukhothai. 

The other star of the North Zone is of course Wat Si Chum.

This impressive mondop (prayer hall) houses a huge 15 meter seated Buddha. I love how the image peeks out even from a far.

"This Buddha’s elegant, tapered fingers are much photographed." - Lonely Planet Thailand.  I can’t resist either, Amazing!

After the North zone, I entered the West Zone via Wat Saphan Hin.  The West Zone is the ‘wild zone’ where the terrain is hilly and covered with more vegetation.

To reach the ruins of this Wat, you’ll have to climb up a 200 meter hill. The name of the Wat means “Stone Bridge” referring to the causeway like stone path leading up to the temple.

On top of the hill, the temple has an image of a 12.5 meter standing Buddha.  Besides that you’ll be able to get a panoramic view of the historical plain.  I am sure in a better lighting it can look more impressive.

Up next, more of the West Zone.

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Thailand Redux: Sukhothai

As the ancient Khmer Empire declined, the Tai people began to unite, it was the dawn of a new beginning, it was the Dawn of Happiness.  This was exactly what the Thai people named their first kingdom, Sukhothai.

Although the Kingdom only lasted for more than a hundred years, its influence has lasted till today.

The Sukhothai Historical Park serves as a reminder to the splendor and greatness of the Kingdom’s capital.    

The Park is 70 square kilometers and is divided into four zones Central, North, East, South and West.  The Central Zones is the ancient capital’s walled city and is considered to have the best restoration work. 

The must see is of course Wat Mahathat.  It is said to be the most important building in the city, possibly the main temple for royals and the office of the Prime Minister.

Also impressive is the Sukhothai Buddha and the pillars of the hall that once housed the Buddha.

Best time to visit - at dawn or at dusk.  I personally prefer the sunset.

There are also many lotus ponds located near the monuments.

Chedis and spires.

These architecture style would later influence successive Thai Kingdoms.

Sukhothai is considered part of the Northern Thailand.

But it is not Lanna.

As it was once part of the Khmer Empire (the builders of Angkor), the influence here is very prominent.  A clear example is the Wat Si Wai.

Featuring the three Prangs.

Very Cambodian indeed.

The Prangs or spires are inspired by the lotus buds.

There are also smaller monuments such as this one, Wat Tra Phang Ngoen.

Opposite this wat is another temple on an island.

Another Khmer influence would be the presence of reservoirs or artificial lakes.

Wat Sa Si is a mid size temple that is completely surrounded by water.

Have to cross the bridge to get to it.

This statue is the image of King Ramkhamhaeng who is much revered by the Thai people and is known to be the founder of the Thai script.  Leaving the Central Zone for the Northern Zone you’ll pass the Ta Pha Daeng Shire and the Wat Sorasak elephant chedi.

Up next, the North Zone….

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Kin k̄ĥāw (กินข้าว) : Western and Fusion Food Thai Style

You don’t have to consume Thai food all the time in Thailand, no matter how delicious they may be.  There is a vast varieties of western or at least the fusion version of it easily available.  I mean even Asians or Thai people don’t eat Asian food everyday!

The most common form of western food in Thailand is of course the breakfast.  Scramble eggs, toast with butter & marmalade, pathetic vegetables to pass as salad and of course a good cuppa coffee.  They are either complimentary to your room or cost around 800 - 150 bath.

Classic example below from the River House Restaurant in Mae Sariang 

Rather than pathetic salad I really much prefer a local fruit platter such as the breakfast at the Seven Elephants Cafe, Soppong River Inn.  Fresh bananas, mangoes and watermelon.

Freshly ground coffee.

The usual western breakfast suspect.  To be honest its much heartier than a bowl of noodles (shhhh…)

Was kinda bored with scramble eggs, so I ordered this waffle with fruits and yogurt at Charcoa Restaurant, Chiang Mai.  This comes with a cup of orange juice and a great cup of coffee, of course.  You gotta eat healthy while you’re traveling (well as often as you can). 

Charcoa Restaurant also serves western lunch and dinner such as this fish & chips which sadly does not taste that good. Still a great cafe restaurant though.

This fusion food below I really like! Grilled chicken in tamarind sauce with chips and vegetables.  TipTop Restaurant, Chiang Mai.

A fusion gone wrong would come next in the form of fusilli pasta in tom yam kung soup.  Two strong cusisine that didn’t mix too well for me at the Black Canyon Cafe, Chiang Mai.

Italian cuisine should be “pure” like this Hawaiian Pizza LOL.  This was from a really nice French owned pizza place Da Mamma Restaurant, Soi Kasem San 1, Bangkok. 

Of course Thailand can make a mean cup of mocha anytime! @ Chacoa Cafe

Whether you are home sick or sick of Thai food or just a pizza eating traveller, Thailand can surely accommodate your taste buds.

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Thailand Redux: Point of Wat ?! - Chiang Mai (เชียงใหม่)

In Chiang Mai, I stayed at the Trigong Residence in the old city.  A really superb place to stay however not many songthaew or tuk-tuk drivers know where it is.  So I just got off the van from Pai at the Arcade Bus Station, head towards a songthaew driver and asked whether he knows the place.  I tried to pronounce the street name as best I could, I showed him the street name in Thai writings, I opened up my Lonely Planet to show him the map and guess what he still doesn’t know where it is!!!

Now this not a scam, it just a fact that Thai addresses are usually useless.  The solution to this is to tell your driver a point of reference ie. a Wat or Temple of reference.  So in my case the nearest temple to my hotel is Wat Chiang Man, when I told the driver that, he immediately knew where it is and problem solved!!!

In Chiang Mai it’s all about the beautiful Wats, here are the Top 4 temples in Chiang Mai as recommended by Lonely Planet Thailand.  Let’s start off with Wat Chiang Man, it’s not just the temple nearest to where I was staying but it is also the oldest Buddhist temples in the city.

Like many temples in Northern Thailand and neighboring Laos, you’ll notice the low sweeping roofs with ornate carvings and colored glass decorations on its facade. 

The main draw to this Wat is of course the Elephant Chedi.  They are so lifelike as if real elephants are actually supporting the gilded top of the pagoda!

Here’s the Elephant Chedi bathe in the sunset glow.

The grandest of all temples in Chiang Mai goes to Wat Phra Singh.

Now a Wat is actually a temple compound and every Wat will usually contain a Wihan: the big prayer hall, a Chedi or pagoda and an Ubosoth: the holy ordination room.

A prestigious Wat like this would also contain a Tripitaka: special library building for holy scriptures.

Apsara figure decorations also adorn many parts of the buildings. 

Wat Phra Singh was especially spectacular at twilight.

I especially like this pic I took of the Ubosoth with the Chedis behind.

If you have the time do try to see this temple in daylight and at sunset.

The next temple is the Wat Chedi Luang.  This is not just a Wat but also includes a temple to the City Pillar. 

It is a must see because it has the ruins of the original temple built in the 14th century, at that time the largest building ever constructed in Lanna Kingdom.

Sadly it was damaged by wars and finally left in ruins after an earthquake.

Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang are all located within the moats of the old city.  The last temple is the Wat Doi Suthep located on top of a mountain outside the city.  You can reach the top by using a cable car but what’s the fun in that, best to do it by climbing more than 300 steps with two giant nagas next to you.

This is probably one of the most beautiful Wats I’ve ever seen in Thailand.

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The Chedi just glows and pulls you attention towards it.

Bells are also another symbol of this Wat.  You can buy them at the stores at the base of the mountain.  Hang them for good luck or as wind-chimes. 

You can also get a panoramic view of the city from here but the Wat is still the best feature.

Legend has it that a Lanna King sent a sacred white elephant to locate a site to build this temple.  The elephant stopped here, trumpeted 3 times and died here.  Sad but it was taken as an auspicious sign.   

I also like the ornate bell towers located at all corners of the Wihan.

See I told you bells are the in thing here.  I had a cuppa at this cafe while many people just rang the rows of bells over and over again, needless to say I didn’t stay long…

Although these temple are not the megalithic temples in Bangkok nevertheless I am still impressed by the ones here in Chinag Mai.  They are very charming, ornately decorated and has an intimate feel to them.  There is a 5th temple recommended, ie. them Bamboo Monastery but I was all wat-out….. Definitely saving it for my next visit.

Entrance fees : Free!

Artistic and architectural delight, combined with the invocation of spiritual calm: Priceless

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