Happy Halloween from Chiang Rai

IMG_0156We are in the city of Chiang Rai about 500 miles north of Bangkok and close to the borders of Laos and Burma. The city is a friendly melting pot of several cultures including Thai, Lana, Chinese, Lao and Burmese.

The province is known for its great natural beauty, trekking tours and the many hill tribe communities that are sprinkled throughout the region.


The local produce market is one of many successful projects sponsored by the Royal Family to transition the region’s opium growing to more nourishing agriculture. Hill tribes receive land and the space at the market for a promise not to cultivate opium.


Buddhist temples are located throughout the city.


The province of Chiang Rai is mostly rolling hills, jungle and community-based agriculture that is focused on coffee, tea, rice and vegetables.

When we arrived on Tuesday, we got oriented to the textiles and crafts of the region by visiting the Hill Tribe Museum where we met Ati, who uses traditional methods of spinning and weaving to make beautiful fabrics, shawls, blankets and bags.  She is so loyal to her craft, she hand rolls the tassels on blankets and uses only natural dyes.


We have had a few mediocre meals in Thailand in our search for street food that works for both of us (ok, the truth is that any street food works for Mags including roasted crickets). But we found the perfect sea food barbecue at the night market, where we sat with local Thais for a performance of cross-dressers doing Judy Garland-type numbers.  Some of the other tourists were at a restaurant on the other side of the food stalls listening to Thai covers of Peter, Paul and Mary, so we knew we were in the right place.

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Great find at the night market — stuffed and grilled fish, barbequed prawns, fried rice and papaya salad. We washed it down with Thai beer.

Yesterday, we took an all-day tour with the NGO that operates the Hill Tribe Museum.  The tour included stops at an Akha village where we saw a traditional dance and a demonstration of weaving and spinning, and walked through the tiny hillside community. We also saw an organic tea plantation, a temple (or “wat”) and visited an outdoor market in the hill town of Mae Salong.


Mae Salong’s betel nut retailer. For about 15 cents you can get a legal high. Betel nuts have addictive properties and are in other ways unhealthy.


Beautiful young Akha woman was always smiling.


On our tour, we visited an organic tea plantation in Chiang Rai hills, which is owned and operated by a community collective that supports environmental protection and fair labor practices.

Today, we signed up for a great cooking class that started with a tour of the local market.  We enjoyed some amazing snacks, including donuts made with mung bean paste and rice flour, banana leaves stuffed with ginger, peanuts, coconut, chilis and dried shrimp, and cakes made without baking — it is too hot here!  Mags found some really excellent curry pastes to take back to Spain (where they don’t sell curry paste) and we shopped with our hostess, Suwannee, for a four course meal.


Wrapping sticky rice in banana leaves for sale at the market


Grilled coconut cream. I think I ate ten.



Ta-da! My favorite of the dishes we made — pad krapow with prawns, chilis, green beans, elephant ear mushrooms and a long list of seasonings and spices. And pumpkin with coconut cream for dessert!

In addition to learning about Thai foods and cooking, I bought two frogs at the market who would have otherwise been enjoyed by the monks at a later date. We released them into Suwannee’s pond to live out their natural lives with a turtle and five other frog friends.




Still in a bag from the marketplace, they have no reason to believe they are about to taste freedom.

With mindfulness, a person always prospers


  1. Happy Halloweenie to you! I enjoyed all the pictures in this post enormously, particularly the one with you and your frogs. It was a perfect Kimmie pic capturing your joy and respect for animals (alas, not plants.)

    But, I have a favor to ask. Can you possibly steal Mags’ “hat” and burn it? It looks like she robbed it from Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. She shouldn’t be allowed to wear such an icon until she acknowledges the superiority of NYC bagels.

  2. This hat, which I like to call my ‘attitude’, has been envied by style mavens on five continents. Learning that smoked meat is yet *another* NYC disappointment must have sent you over the edge.

  3. Kim, please Fedex me a grilled coconut cream asap! What fun adventures you are having. I love that you rescued the poor frogs. I once bought and released an armadillo that was headed for a stew.

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