Night Market in Chang Rai

Trip Start Jan 10, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2010

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, February 5, 2010

Chang Rai, my last stop before Laos.
Boring little town, not much to say about it other that it is basically a gateway to The Golden Triangle and to Laos. Most of the travelers don't spend to much time in CR but they do book a very diverse set of Tribe Villages treks. If you are into that this is probably the best place to do it. The Golden Triangle is the area in the north of Thailand where Laos, Burma and Thailand share a point of border. Historically this was a region characterized by poverty and 90% of world's Poppy production. Although Thailand managed successfully to replace that with tourism, Burma and Laos are still big producers of poppy and are confronted with serious opium addiction among the villagers in the area.

But back to CR. A quick tour of the city really convinced me to rent a bicycle and get out of town for something more interesting. So I did and I was not disappointed. Once out of town I found my self cycling through the a beautiful countryside with gentle rolling hills and tall limestone mountains popping up everywhere, caves, sugar cane and yes, the mighty Mekong River.  Don't forget is the dry season, so the Mekong is not really that mighty but sure enough it's a big river.
Some of the caves were quite interesting. Monkeys Cave for example: perched up inside this mountain side, with Buddha statues in it and a "window" in the shape of a dolphin (at least that's how it looks in my picture). Not very big, it seemed to be ignored by tourists in general and that was what made it special to me. Quiet, peaceful and all to my self to enjoy. Bigger and no doubt more touristy Buddha Cave was a bit of a disappointment but an interesting photographic opportunity as the young novice monks were at work, producing little artifacts to sell to the tourists. 
A nice quiet time spent on the bank of the Mekong watching the beach full of local kids on the other side of the river and occasionally the slow boats full of tourists doing the tour advertised in there brochures gave me this satisfied feeling of a day well spent, mind you I had to cycle back to town. But that was not a problem since there were plenty of Wats along the way to keep me occupied until the sunset.

I probably was unfair in saying CR is a boring little town. At night the situation changes dramatically. Huge Night Markets, one permanent and one every Saturday bring everybody out of their houses for a real crazy experience. First of all navigation between the stalls among literally armies of people requires a skill that can only be learned on the job. At first I was knocked around worst than a pinball, getting dizzy... not an option. Gather all the energy and split your vision in two, one eye on the merchandise the other on the potential obstacles around you. Anticipate the next moves of the few dozens people around you, that's the secret! It takes a bit of getting use to but it works.
Enough said, after all that effort I got hungry, and hungry I stayed for another hour, Why? Well, I had to get to the area were the food was, and if you just glanced over what I wrote above I repeat: armies of people! Then there was an infinite choice of food, that I've never seen and tasted before. I starved running from one place to another trying to figure out what to get first. Fried silk worms, grasshoppers and cockroaches were out of the question, although they were such an inviting food :p, they are like popcorn, you can't get popcorn for dinner... So moving on... I spear you the details of my choosing but in the end I had grilled squid with garlic sauce, something on the stick that I've been told it was chicken... Don't trust the vendor that is laughing with hiccups handing you the food you just purchased! Some noodle soup with some strange eggs in it followed, I think, not sure about the order of the courses, buffalo on the stick, and some meat balls on the a slightly bigger stick, again, not quite sure what was in that meat... Everything helped in abundance by Chang beer in big bottle (680 ml)... and of course the omnipresent chili sauce, I forgot about it, yessssssshhh!
Then finally I was ready to calm down and with a full belly, completely confused taste buds and a stupid satisfied grin on my face I was able to enjoy the live entertainment that was going on a stage at the other end of eating area. When the traditional Thai folk band left the stage and the traditional Thai dancers moved in I decided to get my self a little closer to that stage. Good move! ... They were gorgeous! And the dances were... I don't know, I wasn't paying attention to that! :)
It is obviously clear that I had a large dose of cultural experience helped beautifully by the said Chang beer.

It was a good night after all, good food and good culture, I went to sleep happy happy. :)

... And that is Chang Rai for you!
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Spiros on

What do you mean you didn't try the silkworms??? They look so delicious ;-)

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