There were many food options in Chiang Mai. The western or stereotypical “non-asian” food cost the most. The night bazaar and the food courts in the hot tourist zones provided comfort foods at western prices. However, even the Thai foods here seemed non-local. We walked around for 40 minutes until we found INA House – Training Facilities and Indigenous Products.
This sign hung near the doorway:
By tasting our food, visiting our villages and learning about our crafts, you get a unique experience of indigenous people’s cultures. At the same time, you support initiatives of indigenous Asia.
We made a point to try foods specialties from some of the local communities.
- Ahka Winged Bean Salad (winged beans, tamarind, onion, garlic, topped with dry coconut flakes).
- Karen Creamy Fish Soup (fish, onions, lemongrass, ginger, chili, kaffir lime leaves, lime with tamarind paste, coconut milk)
- Chakma Vegetables (mixed vegetables cooked with spices)
- Karen Fried Pork
In the store they sold items made by indigenous communities across Asia. The store also had conference rooms and training centers for indigenous people.
The food was good and a definite break from the common street foods we were eating.
We made a point not to visit the indigenous communities (“Hill Tribes”) while in Chiang Mai. There were many tour options, but we couldn’t find any that were ethical in nature.
Ethical Issues and Concerns
In recent years, issues have been raised about whether it’s ethical to visit the hill tribe people of Thailand. The concerns arise not just because contact with Westerners is likely to destroy their cultures, but because there has been growing evidence that these people are being exploited by tour operators and others who profit from their popularity among visitors. Not much of the money earned from tourism trickles back into the villages. -Tripsavvy (Citation)
This large collection of food and shop stalls was just north of the Tha Pae Road. It serves tourists, but there were many locals shopping there as well. The basements had food courts serving local cuisine for 30-40B (~$1) per dish. The mid level floors sold produce, meats, and packaged foods. The upper levels sold mostly cloths. Although these divisions were not steadfast. All levels sold everything.
At night, push cart food stalls and tables went up, serving more delicious food. Alyssa and Sharleen could not get enough of the curried noodle soap. I was pretty happy with the Pad Sew Ew. Kyle was the most adventurous, sampling different foods many times.
Chiang Mai — A UNESCO World Heritage Site
I didn’t even realize until we were leaving that Chiang Mai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the capital city of the ancient Lana Kingdom. The Old City in Chiang Mai has left 4 of the City Gates standing (along with the four corners). Sadly, we didn’t explore these as much as we should have. Periodically through the city there were old brick stupas. I wish I had encountered this site before visiting (Click Here). It would have helped focus my attention on some of the history of Chiang Mai.
I visited Chiang Mai in 1981 and had a wonderful time. So nice to hear your impressions of how it is now.
The Sensei from Renshinkan drove me back and told me how different the city had become over the past 30-40 years. More crowded. More tourists. More mopeds everywhere. More pretend celebrations. It was still special, but clearly the disneylandifcation effect was in process.