A quick photo-heavy recap of our day before I stumble into bed and pass out:
We got off to a slow start this morning…
…but after downing some coffee…
…and a hearty breakfast of hot khai jiao (Thai omelets)…
…we were ready to venture out to the Friday morning market.
We’re incredible fortunate to have Mark Ritchie—founder of Chiang Mai’s International Sustainable Development Studies Institute and CrossFit Chiang Mai (and the guy who persuaded us to come halfway across the globe to northern Thailand!)—as our guide.
Henry and I love picking Mark’s brain. With his deep knowledge of Thai culture and language—and decades of experience living here in Chiang Mai—we have a rare opportunity to get a close look at the city around us, starting with the Friday morning market near the Night Bazaar.
Located near a prominent mosque, this open-air market is crammed with farmers and vendors offering everything from fresh produce and exotic fruits…
…to whole birds and wild honey.
(Yes, those are bees still in the honey. It’s that wild.)
The bustling, vibrant market was a feast for all the senses. Everywhere we turned, we spotted something new, interesting, and delicious.
Surprisingly (to me), quite a bit of Mandarin could be heard spoken at the market. As Mark explained, there’s a sizable Chinese population in Chiang Mai, which is reflected in the melting-pot cuisine of northern Thailand. In fact, I spotted a number of foods I remember from my mother’s kitchen, like black chickens…
…and Chinese sausages.
I was particularly struck by the pickled vegetables and other fermented foods sold at the market.
After tasting a variety of pickles…
…I ended up buying a few bags of these deliciously sour-and-spicy treats. I have a feeling I’ll finish ‘em well before next Friday’s market.
We didn’t just sample the fermented goods. As the five of us made our way through the market, we nibbled on freshly-fried samosas…
…munched on sticky rice roti stuffed with sesame paste and honey…
…and took in the aromas of the many spices and herbs available for sale.
But after a couple of hours in the humidity, our melting boys—Lil-O in particular—began to complain. “I’m bored,” my five-year-old whined softly.
Henry pointed to a sleeping child on the ground. “Well, I’m sure you can ask that little girl if you can share her mat,” he suggested. “We can come by and wake you up when it’s time to leave.”
Shockingly, our son opted to come to lunch with us instead.
Mark took us to Khao-Soi Islam—one of his favorite spots for khao soi, Chiang Mai’s famous coconut-curry soup featuring a combination of egg noodles prepared two ways: deep-fried and boiled.
Shallots, lime, and hot chilies add wonderful depth and complexity to this coconut curry, and the crispy noodles are a nice contrast to the tender pieces of chicken. It’s easy to see why khao soi is Chiang Mai’s most beloved dish.
And while it’s not Paleo, you can also see why I deemed it well worth a gastronomic detour. Prepared with fresh, local ingredients, this wasn’t a dish I could pass up. (Besides: I’M ON VACATION!)
The restaurant’s khao mok—a rich goat curry served atop a mound of yellow biriyani rice—was equally delicious. Henry and I split both dishes, and I was sorely tempted to order seconds.
But instead of continuing to cram food into our bellies, we headed back to the hotel for a break, and capped off the afternoon with some silliness in the pool.
See? It just takes a little food and a splash of cold water to revive these two.
Okay, gang—it’s bedtime. Tomorrow, we’re heading out to a village and visiting with a local family for some home cooking, so I have to conk out now. Smell ya later!