I didn’t know the meaning of “value” until I came to Southeast Asia. And I really didn’t know value until I took this Chiang Mai Food Tour. I’m constantly in shock at how little things cost and how exceptional the service is. In America you’re expected to tip everybody for everything or you’re a stingy asshole, this made me realize how ridiculous our culture is. I’m basically subsidizing somebody’s salary because the business owner wont pay them.
The food tour in Chiang Mai offered by Lin is the pinnacle of southeast Asia value, at least from what I’ve seen thus far. The ROI of this experience was shocking.
For 1,300 baht ($42 Trump Tokens) you get a 5 hour tour where Lin takes you to 4 temples, feeds you 5 meals and shoves countless snacks in your mouth. Oh and I forgot to mention that covers the cost of all the cabs you take throughout the day and any entrance fees for the temples. $42.
My only complaint (that wasn’t at all Lin’s fault) was that we were eating like it was our last day on Earth in the middle of Chiang Mai summer. In case youre unaware, Chiang Mai is about 105 degrees with 120% humidity starting at 10 AM. Walking around with a full stomach was challenging to say the least. I drank 5 bottles of water and my piss still looked like coffee afterward.
If you embark on this journey you need to come prepared. And by prepared I mean your stomach better be empty. You should probably throw up and get a colonoscopy the night before just to be safe. Trust me, you’re going to need that intestine space.
I’m not a food blogger, I’m actually pretty terrible at it but today I’ll be pretending. I also forgot the names and ingredients of everything but who cares? It’s all about the mouth feel. Any self respecting foodie knows that.
I’ve been annoying everybody in my hostels telling them they have to go on this tour. Now it’s your turn.
1st Stop: Khanom Ba Bin (Thai Coconut Egg Pancakes)
These little fluffy little bites of bliss are ubiquitous at every street market in Thailand. I had tried them before but of course I got the budget ass, tourist garbage. Lin showed us that premium, local special. These were miles better than the plebeian trash I had before so I got carried away and stuffed 8 of them in my face. I had no idea what was to come.
Since I forgot to mark this spot on a map, here’s a video to help you find the stand if you’re ever in town. It doesn’t really help but it’s all I got. I told you I’m a terrible food blogger what do you want from me?
It’s not hygienic but man is it delicious
2nd Stop: Khao Soi Khun Yai
This place has been on all of the food shows. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Travel Eats, International Bowel Movements, Passport Fuckers, Guy Fieri: Trash Monster, and several others. Is there one restaurant on Earth that hasn’t been featured on one of these foodie TV shows? What’s left? Enough with the food content, America is fat enough.
Because of all this attention, we had to get there at 10 AM which is not the ideal time for some heavy, spicy egg noodle soup. Thought it was better than the alternative of eating at 12:00 – 2:00 since it was slightly less hot and the restaurant is outside.
Let me stress this, it was the best meal I’ve had in Thailand. I don’t think it can be topped. The spice, the creamy texture of the broth against the handmade noodles and crunchy…things on top. The onions and fermented somethings and lime on the side add a nice touch. One bowl isn’t nearly enough, especially when it’s this good. I recommend at least 2, maybe 3.
I had 2 bowls and went back the next day. I would live there if they had a place to sleep and they were OK with it. They probably wouldn’t be OK with it.
3rd Stop: Thai Spicy Herb Sausage
Praying to Allah that I don’t get food poisoning
Again, I didn’t mark this on a map and it wouldn’t matter if I did. It’s in a nondescript, empty back alley that looks like somebody’s house. Well, technically it is somebody’s house.
There is a Thai grandma who makes these spicy thai, coconut and herb infused sausages that would rival anything in Germany. She’s been making these sausages her whole life and you can definitely taste it. I’ve never experienced such depth of flavor in a sausage before.
They chop up the meat and serve it over sticky rice in a leaf bowl. You take a dab of rice, a bite of sausage and repeat. The flavor was so addictive that I ate far too much again. I figured we were almost done. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
4th Stop: The Chiang Mai Market
PLEASE GOD STOP FEEDING ME
As I mentioned before, we’re basically walking through a sauna eating a meal every 30 minutes. It was putting a lot of stress on my body. I can’t tell if I’m dehydrated or full or dying, but can’t stop sweating and I’m pretty sure I’m hallucinating. The experience started to feel like a delicious fever dream.
Lin refused to slow down, she kept buying these local delicacies and it felt rude to refuse her. But at a certain point everybody reaches their limit. Me and my Chiang Mai homies agreed that we needed a break.
I feel ashamed as Lin shakes her head slowly, disappointed and hurt at our inability to power through. She mercifully agrees to let us grab some coffee before we keep going so we can at least stay awake. We’re done when she says we’re done.
There Were Also Temples Because There Are Always Temples
No Women Allowed haha (but seriously)
I almost forgot to mention, intertwined with all the food were 4 much needed breaks at Chiang Mai’s least crowded/most interesting temples. Lin took the time to go over Thailand and specifically Chiang Mai’s history, explaining the art on the temple walls and the history of the Lanna kingdom, culture, and its people.
I immediately forgot everything she told me. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because I was delirious from overeating and it’s hard to think when it’s so fucking hot outside. WHY DID I COME HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER?
Last Stop: The Final Showdown
I was late on the photo
The final meal happened at a local lunch spot specializing in Lanna cuisine. I was finally ready after being very unprepared to start the day. My stomach was now used to processing food at a frightening rate, Lin, do your worst, fuck me up.
Psyching myself out was unnecessary. Lunch turned out to be a light mix of appetizers, mostly dips and some rice that we ate with our hands. We had some Larb, Nam Prik Ong (Pork Tomato Chili Dip), and Gaeng Hunglay (Northern Pork and Ginger Curry). I didn’t know if Lin was taking it easy on us or if this was the plan all along but she really stuck the landing.
A soft landing after the marathon of eating. We covered every single Chiang Mai/Lanna specialty in one 5-hour session. People I met afterward were shocked at my extensive knowledge of the food around the city even though I had been there for less than 48 hours.
It was grueling at times, the heat was ungodly, but it was an experience I would do again tomorrow.
If You go to Chiang Mai and Skip The Chiang Mai Food Tour, You’re An Idiot
Me and Linsanity
Seriously. If you’re anywhere near the city don’t hesitate to reach out to her on Instagram for the food tour @lovechiangmaicookingandtouring and her website for her cooking class www.lovechiangmai-cookingschool.com. She may not always have time, but you can wait.
And here’s a travel tip – listen to the people you travel with when they have a good idea. Keep your mind open and be ready to wipe your itinerary clean. More often than not, you’ll get an experience like this.