Jan 032008


On our final morning in Sukhothai, we stopped at a local noodle place for a breakfast of duck noodle soup. We then wandered the local market (adjacent to the temple) and nearby streets looking for anything of interest. I tried some warm corn and potato balls which were a bit too dense and mild to recommend. We headed back to the main highway for our journey North.


We were headed to Chiang Mai province from Sukhothai province, and there was one “must see” temple along the way, near Lampang. But first, we had a fortifying lunch of Chiang Mai style noodles: thin, flat, eggy ribbons in a yellow curry broth, with extra heat on the side. I completely overdosed on chillies and welcomed a dessert of glutinous, hand-formed dessert noodles in lightly sweetened coconut milk with crushed ice.

Wat Phra That Lampang Luang features several restored and several decrepit buildings showcasing Lanna style architecture. The temple also has an “emerald” (green jasper) Buddha image said to be a little brother to the more famous Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. Although photography is barred here as well, at least one can get close enough to get a good look at this unusual, translucent green Buddha. Another unique features of the temple is a small dark room from which “ladies” are prohibited. It features a small rectangular opening which projects an image of the copper-covered chedi and adjacent buildings on a sheet hanging across the room (if one lifts the sheet, this “camera obscura” image is projected onto a wall). It’s puzzling: what purpose might this “spy cam” have served? We completed our visit with ice cream from a vendor in the parking lot.

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Mae Sa Valley

Just Northwest of Chiang Mai, the Mae Sa valley is home to a few traditional Hmong villages, an elephant training camp, and numerous resorts. We would occupy snug (but chilly) bungalows at the Mae-Sa Valley Resort and visit Kasma’s friends in a nearby Hmong village for cultural exchange, food, and shopping.

Our first evening, we arrived at our cabins around 4:45 PM and reconvened on the terrance adjacent to the dining room at 7:00. In between, I met up with our drivers to eat a Miang Kum I had purchased way back in Bangkok. We folded dark leaves around a couple dried shrimp, pieces of shallot, lime, ginger, chillies, toasted coconut, peanuts, and a spicy-sweet sauce. I washed this down with some Hong Thong, a 70 proof liquid best enjoyed as cold and diluted as possible. As if that were not filling enough, we had some boiled peanuts, too.

At dinner, we experienced the Northern emphasis on pork. Sour sausage pieces were served with pickled garlic, peanuts, and greens including lettuce, red cabbage, whole green onions, and cilantro. The sausage was seasoned with a slightly sweet sauce, and was a hit with the group; we ordered an extra plate to pass around. Pork also featured in a red prikh king curry with chopped long beans and a salad of mung bean threads with ground pork, shrimp, and wood ears. Crispy fried fish slices with a slightly sweet red curry and fried basil, mixed vegetables, and a soup of shrimp and a squash-like vegetable completed the set. A large plate of melons, papaya and pineapple brought relief from the chillies, but the heat of day had long dissipated, and as the wind came up, we realized that we were going to have a cold night.

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