Saturday, 25 April 2015

Week 18: THAILAND - Bangkok → Koh Phangan

Image of the week: good skies at Baan Manali Resort, Koh Phangan
More images at the end of post
Where in the world

A thirteen hour overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, where we stayed for three nights. 

Then a one hour flight, two hour coach ride and two and a half hour boat to get to the Thai island of Koh Phangan, where we stayed for three nights.


private two bunk cabin on the overnight
sleeper from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
It's been a while since we took an overnight train. 

I think the last time was six weeks ago from Nha Trang to HCMC in Vietnam, where the carriages blast classical Vietnamese music at 3am to make sure you're up in time for your stop. Needless to say, it works.

I booked our tickets from Chiang Mai to Bangkok using about three months ago, and that amount of foresight means you've a good chance of securing the precious few private two-bunk cabins available, complete with wash basin. 

We really only tapped the shoulder of Bangkok for a quick hello during this visit. Three days is barely enough to walk round a few blocks, especially when stifling temperatures and high humidity leave you a lot less willing to ditch the AC in favour of exploring. 

But we're back next week, for a full week, and I plan to get better acquainted. 

But what we did manage to fit in was a rather fantastic food tour with the lovely Chin from Chili Paste Tours, and if I've learnt anything about prioritising the activities of a brief city visit, it's focussing on the eating. A lot more on that under The best things I ate this week below.

Chin from Chilli Paste Tours, Bangkok
Then it was off to the islands - Koh Phangan followed by Koh Samui - for what was supposed to be a glorious week changing down a gear and lazing under palm trees, before returning to Bangkok for a few more nights.

But after just a single day of sunshine, the skies closed in and the internet spoke of clouds and storms for the foreseeable future.

I also wasn't really feeling the island 'vibe' - too many hippy dippy trippy westerners with bare mid-drifts, hair braids and overtly baggy pants - not much in the way of Thai authenticity around. 

That, or it required more time and patience to seek out, both of which I was running low on. The place reminded me of Sihanoukville in Cambodia, but a (thankfully) milder version.

Couple this with the more critical situation of the food beyond our quite lovely bungalow resort (Baan Manali) not being much to shout about, and we made the decision to ditch the beach and return to Bangkok five days earlier than scheduled.

And that can never be a bad thing.

The best things I ate this week

Bangkok food tour

One of the best ways to explore the culinary scene of a new destination is under the expertise and guidance of a local who knows their food. That's why I'm a good guided food tour's biggest fan, and always try to find an expert to show me the ropes when I'm in a new city. 

Bangkok is up there with the best of them when it comes to the sheer expanse of its food offering, from market food courts and street side kitchens, to plush malls and award winning fine dining, and everything in between.

We spent a superb morning with Chin from Chili Paste Tours who helped guide our stomachs through the myriad of comestibles encountered on her Old Bangkok Food and Culture Walk, around the area of Banglamphu.

top: Chin and I with ice cream, dried fish, a lady pounding salads
bottom: lady making steamed coconut and pandan custards, little steamed fish, duck noodle soup
With Chili Paste Tours, Bangkok
This is, without question, the most food I've sampled on a food tour; full marks to Chin for stuffing us to the hilt. 

The tour starts at 9am and can last between four and six hours. What's key is it includes leisurely breaks between all of the eating to allow for a bit of sightseeing, but mostly to give your gut a chance to catch its breath.

Due to time constraints involving hotel check out deadlines, we asked Chin if she could leave out the non-food related bits, to which she duly obliged. But if you have the time, do definitely keep them in for the sake of making the most of your stomach capacity.

Here are some of the things we ate (sort of in the order of the images above and below):

Above image

  • Kha nhom touy, coconut pudding with pandan leaves
  • Ho mok pla, fish grilled in banana leaves 
  • Kuay teaw ped, duck noodle soup

Below image

  • Sai krok pla nham, sausage and fish wrapped in betel leaf 
  • Khi khua takrai, chicken fried with lemongrass
  • Kha nhom jeen sow nham, sticky rice noodles with pineapple and ginger topped with coconut milk and chilli 
  • Some of the best ice cream found in Bangkok, from Nattaporn - Thai tea, mango and coconut
  • Kha nhom lueam kluen, purple rice cake with coconut and mung bean 
  • Kha nhom jeen nham ya tai, southern curry with sticky rice noodles 
  • Gang som, southern sour curry with steamed taro and young green papaya
  • Yum wunsen, glass noodle salad with smoked shrimp 
  • Krua kling, pork mince stir fried with a spicy southern paste

No image

  • Gang tai pla, southern curry with belly fish and bamboo 
  • Pla goong, shrimp salad with lemongrass
  • Kha nhom leb mue nang, colourful sticky rice flour cakes with coconut milk 
  • Spicy Isaan bamboo shoot salad with fermented fish 

Like I said, a lot of food.

top: lady making sausage wrapped in betel leaves, lemongrass fried chicken, noodles with pineapple, ginger and coconut milk
bottom: great ice cream from Nattaporn, colourful sticky rice flour cakes, southern and central Thai dishes
With Chili Paste Tours, Bangkok

I can't recommend Chin highly enough. She's bubbly, informative, easy to chat to, speaks great English, and we got to try a hell of a lot of food that we likely wouldn't have without her.

Incidentally, Chin was recognised on my Instagram by John (see who he is below under Street food must-eats) who said he thinks Chin is good friends with his friend 'Anne'. Anne confirmed this, and told us Chin had showed her around the Isaan region of Thailand one time. 

And then when I looked up who Anne was, it turns out she is Luxembourg cookery show host and cookbook author Anne from Anne's Kitchen, and did a talk at a class I attended at Leith's one time. 

So, we were duly impressed with the 'small world' square we made with all of that.

All of Chin's tours are privately guided. The Old Bangkok Food & Culture Walk is available Monday to Saturday and costs 1700 baht (around £35) per person.

Note: This tour was kindly hosted at a discounted media rate. All views are my own.

Street food must-eats

pad thai at Thip Samai, Bangkok 
Street food in Bangkok

The best pad thai in town.

I had been in Thailand for two weeks and realised I was yet to have a pad thai, arguably Thailand's most internationally recognised dish. 

Well, it turns out this is because I was saving it for one of the best.

There were snaking queues and a half hour wait by 6pm (woks are lit at 5pm). But the pad thai at Thip Samai in Bangkok was really very good indeed - the best I've ever had, most certainly. 

We tried a few entries from the menu, and the best from a very good bunch was what's being cooked in the video below (have a watch).

It's pad thai haw kai goong sot, where the cooked pad thai noodles are wrapped in a thin layer of egg. It's probably superior because the egg mix has some sort of magical flavourings added, who knows. But it was glorious. 

6pm queue at Thip Samai, Bangkok
It actually moves pretty quickly
The noodles are soaked in sauces and oils which gives them their great colour. Massive handfuls are added to fried prawns, then tofu, baby prawns, spring onions, bean sprouts, etc. are tossed in the mix. 

There are several different wok stations each loaded with around 10-15 portions being cooked at a time, and the place had a huge number of take away orders, often in bulk, as well as those eating in. 

These were so good that Matt annihilated three whole plates to himself (the fact we hadn't had lunch may have helped).

This doesn't have to be street food if you don't want it to; you can request a seat inside the restaurant. But if you're willing to sit on the pavement, you'll get your dinner sooner.

This is a definite visit for both the food and theatre if you're in Bangkok.

Thank you John Chantarasak (half Thai and a chef at Thai restaurant Som Saa in East London - excellent by the way, go if you find yourself there) for the awesome recommendation.

Pad Thai Thip Samai, 313 313 Thanon Mahachai, Phra Nakorn, Bangkok. Open daily 5pm - 3am.

It's just a few minutes walk from the Giant Red Swing near Chinatown Bangkok, and very close to the Golden Mountain.

Did you know?

Recognition for a third gender in Thailand 

In January this year, it was announced
Thailand's constitution would soon include the term "third gender" for the first time, in a move to empower transgender and gay communities and ensure them fairer legal treatment.

Homosexual, transgender and transsexual people play key roles in Thailand's entertainment industry, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in Bangkok. So this is good news for a lot of people. 

Well done, the Thai government.

My insider tips

Public transport in Bangkok 

The Skytrain (BTS) and underground (MRT) rail systems connect the main shopping, entertainment and business areas of the city. They're fast, air conditioned, reliable and very comfortable.

However, if there's more than one of you, it may well be cheaper getting a taxi. The Bangkok taxis are cheap, metered (with a minimum fare of 35 baht / 70p), the cars are new, and they're easy to hail.

For example, getting the train across town from where we were staying would have cost us 60 baht (about £1.20) each. A taxi for the two of us to the same destination cost just 60 baht. That's £1.20 saved, which is the price of both your street food dinners. 

It's worth noting that if you have a tight schedule, a taxi might not be the best choice as traffic can get bad in Bangkok. What I've noticed though, is they don't seem to be traffic jams, just excruciatingly long red lights. 

Even so, our taxi fares have remained cheaper than two train fares. Motorbike taxis (drivers wear orange vests) are a good option for nipping between the traffic.

Then there are also tuk tuks, which are not metered, but are good fun (see the above video I took). Have an idea of how much a fare should cost before you get in one, and agree on the price beforehand.

Highlight / Lowlight


Thank the powers that be for the Arab travel market. Because it often means good Middle Eastern food (so basically, Turkish food), can be found where they choose to holiday. And quite a few of them are in Bangkok.

Thanks to the indispensable online resource of where and what to eat in Thailand that is Mark Wiens, who writes for both his own website Migrationology as well as Eating Thai Food (both of which I've referred to at least once a day since being in the country), we realised our hotel was a mere 700m from a Lebanese restaurant that Mark sings the highest praises of

And this guy knows what's good.

Let me tell you, as someone who's half Turkish, the absence of hummus, white cheeses, and lamb kebabs (or lamb full stop) has been one of the hardest things to endure since travelling. You just cannot find this stuff in Asia.

All of the joy at Beirut Lebanese Restaurant, Nana, Bangkok
We over ordered, we ate it all, and we ate it hard and fast. I can't remember the last time I tasted parsley, or strained yoghurt, or garlic that wasn't in a stir fry or curry. 

It was a rapturous meal. Everything was spot on. And not just because we were starved of these flavours. Looking past the blind frenzy with which we inhaled what was in front of us, the food would have been very good on any day.

We might have left feeling like we could have been sick, such was the speed of our eating. But holy hell, we also left feeling really, really good.

Beirut Lebanese Restaurant, Sukhumvit Road Soi 2, Basement of the Phloen Chit Center, Khlong Toey 


Going to Koh Phangan felt like a bit of a waste of time. We only ended up staying there for three days, and only one of those was sunny. What's the point of being on a beach if you can't sunbathe?

Cutting our time short and returning to Bangkok five days early was definitely the right decision, but we lost a bit of money with late hotel cancellations and having to change our flight. More of an annoyance than anything else.

At least I got a couple of decent sunset snaps.

arriving by boat at Koh Phangan
Next week

A whole week back in Bangkok. Whoop.



market scene, Bangkok
multi-tasking market scene, Bangkok
hairy rambuten fruit, Bangkok
cutting up freshly made noodles, Bangkok
'Want to try some?', Bangkok

market scene, Bangkok

86 year old market trader, Bangkok
Bangkok's back streets

food court lunch, Bangkok

southern and central Thai eating with Chin from Chilli Paste Tour, Bangkok

food court scene, Bangkok

food court grazing, Bangkok

food court scene, Bangkok

market scene, Bangkok

tuk tuk ride, Bangkok

Bangkok skyline
market scene, Bangkok

I pull the same face when my lunch is interrupted, Bangkok
Som Hom's Kitchen, Bangkok

Baan Manali Resort, Koh Phangan

Baan Manali Resort, Koh Phangan

Related posts

Week 0: Gone travelling. London - see you in nine months

Week 1: INDIA - Mumbai → Goa
Week 2: INDIA - Bangalore → Mysore → Wayanad
Week 3: INDIA - Kochi → Allepey → Kollam → Madurai
Week 4: INDIA - Pondicherry → Chennai → Mumbai

Week 5: INDIA - Varanasi → Udaipur → Jaipur → Delhi
Week 6: TAIWAN - Taipei
Week 7: CHINA & VIETNAM - Hong Kong → Hanoi
Week 8: VIETNAM - Sapa → Hanoi → Ha Long Bay → Hanoi

Week 9: VIETNAM - Hue → Hoi An
Week 10: VIETNAM - 6 day / 5 night motorbike tour from Hoi An to Da Lat
Week 11: VIETNAM - Da Lat → Nha Trang
Week 12: VIETNAM - HCMC → Mekong Delta → HCMC

Week 13: CAMBODIA - Siem Reap (and Angkor Wat) → Phnom Penh
Week 14: CAMBODIA - Sihanoukville & Koh Rong Samloem Island
Week 15: CAMBODIA - Kep
Week 16: THAILAND - Chiang Mai

Week 17: THAILAND - Songkran Festival in Mae Rim & Chiang Mai

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Week 17: THAILAND - Songkran Festival in Mae Rim & Chiang Mai

Image of the week: joining in the wet revelries during Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai
More images at the end of post
Where in the world

A mere half hour skip and a hop to the district of Mae Rim, where we enjoyed Chiang Mai's surrounding countryside for four nights. 

Then back into the hot and sodden mayhem of Chiang Mai city for three days of Songkran Festival (Thai new year) celebrations.


our very lovely bungalow at
Ban Rai Tin Thai Ngarm Eco Lodge
The themes for this week have been: wildlife and water.

If I haven't mentioned it before, I'm a big fan of Mother Nature and all her work. Give me a forest and a trekking trail and I'm just as happy as when in front of good food.

To feed this second passion, we spent a few days in the district of Mae Rim in the hills and countryside surrounding Chiang Mai city, staying in a private bungalow in the glorious grounds of Ban Rai Tin Thai Ngarm Eco Lodge.

Here, £30 a night gets you two balconies, very comfortable lodgings, sensational views, and the night chorus of Thailand's wildlife.


On the agenda, orchid farms, elephant poo park (you heard - see Did you know? below), cycling, and the indisputable highlight of this area, the Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens, found at the foothills of the mist-shrouded Doi Suthep-Pui mountains.

It's a sprawling 1000 hectares of vegetation, a complex of great grand greenhouses, forest trails, gardens, incredible hilltop views, streams, waterfalls and a whole load more. 

If you're into wildlife and walking, this place is amazing - we spent a good five hours here. It's a do-not-miss if this is your bag and you find yourself near Chiang Mai. Incidentally, we didn't have to pay an entrance fee because it was Songkran, and the place was deserted for the same reason. Jackpot.

Tip: do not leave until you've descended along the trail through the cool and wet fern garden. An achingly beautiful multi-level moss-covered verdant wonderland in dappled shade, carpeted by ferns of every shape and colour, with dew collecting on leaves and trees reaching for the sky. You'll feel like an explorer in the depths of the jungle. So very excellent.

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province

Also on the agenda in Mae Rim, dancing with 70 ladies from the local village. 

On our first evening at the eco-lodge, our host Petchara invited us to join her and 'some friends' from the village at a party. She mentioned there'd be dancing.

It turns out a group of about 70 ladies get together each evening for an hour's worth of al fresco boogying to traditional Thai folk music, between 6-7, as part of a fitness regime. Before they start throwing shapes, they get their waists and weight measured, monitoring how much they lose over time; a sort of outdoor Thai WeightWatchers club. 

The only foreigner for miles around, I was of course encouraged to join in. They were very accommodating and didn't laugh at me when I got all the moves wrong. 

Dancing for an hour when you don't have a clue what you're doing is hot work in 35C heat, but good fun. There was also loads of food after as well as traditional and gentle Songkran water blessings from the village elders. 
dancing, feasting and Songkran celebrations with the ladies of Mae Rim
it's the taking part that counts; attempting some moves with the dancing ladies of Mae Rim

And then it was back to Chiang Mai city for three days of Songkran (Thai new year) celebrations. And what a lot of fun that was.

On the third day we stumbled across the Songkran city parade, where groups representing local businesses were dressed up to the nines, simultaneously dancing to the live music and getting a hose down on the march to the temple, where the city governor was waiting to receive and bless them (with more water, of course).

 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai
But the best bit was the local fire engine getting involved, the source of a deluge of fine spray over the city centre, beneath which revellers of all ages were gathering to cool down (it was pushing 42C that day), party on and join in the carnival spirit.

It was only by complete fluke that we happened to make travel plans that had us not only in Thailand for Thai new year, but also in one of the cities with the biggest celebrations for it. I had never even heard of Songkran two weeks ago. 

A happy coincidence indeed.

 A fire engine hose down. Songkran Festival, Chiang Mai

The best things I ate this week

Where to eat in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai Province

Typical Thai food from 'Grandma's cookbook'

Some very good eating was had at the bottom of a small hill surrounded by fields and greenery at little place called Baa Baa Black Cafe

A whole section of their menu is labelled as 'Grandma's Cookbook'; it's one of those you want to order everything from. 

We enjoyed: 
  • a seasonal salad of pomelo, chopped pork, prawns, roasted coconut, birds eye chillies, garlic, shallots, fish sauce, palm sugar, 
  • a panang chicken curry (curry paste, kaffir lime, fish sauce, coconut milk, sweet basil leaves) 
  • yum chicken (coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lemon balm, shallots, green mango, coriander, birdseye chillies, fish sauce)

And more importantly, roti!

Vibrant, beautifully presented, good value, and in the unrivalled setting of the Chiang Mai countryside.

Baa Baa Black Cafe, Mae Rim Lagoon, 65/7 moo 6 Mae Rim, Sameong Old Road

Home cooking amongst the hills

Our host Petchara and her staff rustled up dinner on a couple of nights where we'd been out trekking all day and the thought of venturing to a restaurant was just too much. 

There was goon chiang (sausage), made with pork meat and hard pork fat, seasoned with sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and Chinese spices. It's pretty sweet, but worked well with raw onions, tomatoes, cashews, lime and fish sauce. 

There was also a life affirming bowl of khao tom - Thai rice soup - for breakfast one morning, with chicken, chicken broth, vegetables. All of the comfort.

Ban Rai Tin Thai Ngarm Eco Lodge, 113/4 Moo 5 | Ban Tung Ha bon ,Tambon Maeram, Amper Mae Rim, Mae Rim

top: Panang chicken curry and pomelo salad from Baa Baa Black Cafe. Goat biryani from Khao Soi Islam
bottom: sausage salad and Thai rice soup from the eco lodge. The dry roasted chilli condiment at Khao Soi Islam
Where to eat in Chiang Mai

Best for biryani

I've already dedicated a big section of last week's post to eating in Chiang Mai. But here's another great find.

Khao mok, which is Thai biryani. Had at At Khaosoi Islam, down as the best place for it in town. Expertly spiced rice, tender meat (we tried it with goat and beef), topped with crisp fried shallots and coriander. With it, a sweet and sour side sauce of coriander and mint, to spoon over your rice.

To this I added a few generous dollops of pounded dry roasted chillies mixed with a bit of oil. Like gunpowder chutney; lovely stuff.

Khao Soi Islam, Thanon Charoenprathet Soi 1, Chiang Mai (close to the night bazaar in the centre of the city).

Thai cookery lesson in Chiang Mai
Market visit and our teacher, Apple, overseeing our good work
Basil Cookery School, Chiang Mai

I donned my apron and kicked off my shoes for a spot of barefoot Thai cooking at Basil Cookery School this week.

A bubbly and uber-tattooed Apple picked us students from their respective hotels and stopped off at a local market to source the evening's ingredients. She talked us through the key elements to Thai cooking, cracked a few jokes, then packaged us off to the cookery school to put in practice what we'd learnt. 

There are a whole load of cookery schools available in Chiang Mai, but Basil Cookery School caught my attention for a few reasons.

Firstly, it's an intimate group of no more than six students. Whilst at the market, I saw a dozen or so much larger cookery class groups, with numbers pushing 10-15. 

Secondly, each student makes seven plates of food (one of these being a from-scratch curry paste). But the key thing here is attendees get to choose what they cook. 

There are three options from each of the following: noodles, curry, stir-fry, soup, appetizer, dessert. You make your choice in the van at the start, and Apple buys the ingredients at the market accordingly. 

top: frying spring rolls, prawn with tamarind, making curry pastes
bottom: mango sticky rice, making fresh coconut milk, hot and sour chicken soup
At Basil Cookery School, Chiang Mai

I've never come across a cooking class where students are cooking different things at any one time. It gives a freedom of choice and Apple did a great job overseeing it all. We even made coconut milk from a kilo of freshly dessicated coconut bought from a vendor at the market.

Some of my favourite dishes from this evening class: tom sap gai yang, an Isaan hot and sour roast chicken soup. Sour with tamarind and lime - extra sour for me please. Kung ma kaam, stir-fried prawns in a tamarind sauce. Under on the sugar, over on the tamarind.

And no Thai meal is complete without some khao niaow ma muang, mango sticky rice, topped with crunchy fried mung beans. I simply cannot get enough of these Asian mangoes. Exquisite.

Classes run Mon - Sat from 9.00 - 15.00 (morning class) or 16.00 - 20.30 (evening class) and cost 1000 Baht (about £20) per person.

It includes hotel pick-up and drop off (within 3km) and a recipe book to take home.

Basil Cookery School, 2/4 Siri Mangalajarn Rd. Soi 5, T.Suthep, A.Muang, Chiang Mai

Note: This class was kindly hosted by Basil Cookery School. All views are my own.

Street food must-eats

Street food in Chiang Mai

the sign wasn't kidding when it said 'ALL butter roti'
Roti stall, Chiang Mai
There's a good amount of Chiang Mai street food covered in last week's post

But this week, I treated myself to some Thai-Muslim roti from a street stall, of which there are quite a few dotted around.

You can have them plain or stuffed with all manner of sweet or savoury goodies: banana, chocolate chips, egg, marmalade, corn, cheese, something called milo which seems to be similar to Nesquik milkshake powder.

Next time I'm getting one with a mataba filling: diced potato, beef, seasoned with curry - a Southern Thailand speciality. 

The dough itself has no sugar added, so if you've gone for a sweet stuffing, there's the option of dousing in condensed milk should you fancy it.

Did you know?

Making paper from poo. 

making paper from elephant poo
Elephant POOPOOPAPER Park, Chiang Mai 
Paper can be made from animal poo - who knew.

It actually makes perfect sense. To make paper, you need fibres of some sort. These days we use wood, but in the past these fibres have come from scraps of rags, corn husks, hemp, flax, nettles to name a few.

The poo of herbivorous animals (elephants, horses, cows etc.) contain a lot of undigested fibrous plant matter, which after being boiled down and cleaned up, makes for some pretty good paper pulp. 

Better for the world than cutting down trees.

Elephant POOPOOPAPER Park manages to encompass eco-tourism, history and culture, artisan crafts, education, hands-on paper making, a unique shopping experience (loads of poo paper products that would make great gifts) and as many poo puns as you can shake a stick at.

It's only 100 Baht (about £2) to get in, and if learning about this type of thing and having a go yourself is your bag, it's good fun.

My insider tips

Waterproofing during Songkran. 

Don't be a party-pooper and stay indoors if you happen to find yourself in Thailand during Songkran

Instead, buy a waterproof pouch for your phone and wallet (you can get them in Thailand) or invest in a dry sack to hold bigger items, put on clothes you don't mind getting soaked and can easily wash after, and head outdoors.

If you're in Chiang Mai, my advice would be to avoid the moat as super-soakers and water guns will refuel from it, and it's not the cleanest. Instead, wonder the rest of the streets and you'll get wet from the much cleaner tap water.

Either way, you don't want to end up swallowing any of it, so be conscious of that.

Also, sitting in a restaurant in sodden clothes after the sun has gone down isn't huge amounts of fun. So, if you plan to stay out after getting a soaking, I'd suggest wrapping up a spare set of dry clothes to change into.
 This kid got Matt good. Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai
Highlight / Lowlight

Highlight.  Apart from the final day of Songkran celebrations in Chiang Mai which was huge amounts of fun (see image of the week picture), I really enjoyed the Siam Insect Zoo in Mae Rim.

It's a chance to get up close and personal to a whole host of critters: scorpions, beetles, stick insects, lizards, a glorious butterfly enclosure. 

When I was younger and I used to fantasise about hiking the Amazon, my dad would say to me 'how do you expect to go trekking in the jungle if you're scared of a little spider in your room?' Good point. I hate spiders, but more specifically, tarantulas.

Well, dad, I swallowed my fear of these godforsaken beasts and shined a torch into a few of their murky tanks, where hairy ones the size of my palm were picking their way over old bits of wood and earth. Hideous creatures, the spawn of Satan, and still the stuff of my nightmares.

But all other creepy crawlies, big fan.

handling the critters at Siam Insect Zoo Mae Rim
A caterpillar, red dragon, mantis and millipede

Lowlight. This week has been very good to us, but there was one single moment of great fear.

The annual water-throwing festivities of Songkran started a day earlier than we were expecting in Mae Rim. We'd just got to the end of our road on the bicycles and turned the corner, when we were very unexpectedly launched upon. 

A whole bucket of water went directly over my camera, which was strapped across my chest. 

The people who threw it were apologetic - most tend to be careful, or avoid you altogether, if they see you're carrying something valuable that could get damaged.

But thank the powers that be, there was no harm done. There could have been some serious tears though.

getting drenched in the Chiang Mai countryside, along with all the locals.
Songkran in Mae Rim

Next week

Fifteen days spent in Chiang Mai province (eleven of those in the city) has come to an end. It's a glorious part of the world, but it's time to move on.

Next up - Bangkok.


Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province

Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province

Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province

Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province
Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai province
 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai

 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai
 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai

 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai
 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai

 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai

 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai

 Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai

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