Thailand 2017 – Stewed Pork and Yi Peng
On November 4th we hopped on a plane to Chiang Mai. The largest city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has the highest temple-to-person ratio of any city in the country. As we wandered around town, we did indeed seem to stumble upon a new magnificent temple on every block. Monks in saffron robes were ever present on the crowded streets. I took great care to avoid jostling into or touching a monk as they are not allowed to touch women.
We lodged at the Chankam Boutique Hotel which was clean and nice but not particularly inspiring. The hotel did have a great location, however. We stayed in the old part of town which is still surrounded by a moat and the remnants of a centuries-old wall.
For dinner we walked to the Chang Phuak City Gate (north gate) in search of the Lady in the Cowboy Hat. We heard about her from an episode of No Reservations in which Anthony Bourdain visits Chiang Mai. She serves khao kha moo, or stewed pork knuckle, from a cart in the midst of a row of street other vendors. Her meat is stewed in the same vat of sauce every day, possibly going back generations, which lends the pork its fabulous flavor. It was *really* good.
After dinner we wandered around town in search of festivities for the Yi Peng holiday. Yi Peng is the name given to the Loi Krathong festival in Northern Thailand. The Yi Peng festival includes the release of krathongs into rivers and streams and also the release of paper lanterns into the sky.
We ended up by the East Gate where we found crowds of revelers lighting candles inside paper lanterns and gently letting go as the heat lifted the lanterns into the sky. Lanterns floated on the breeze and dotted the night sky with pinpoints of light as far as the eye could see. I’ve never seen anything like it.
We also saw lanterns caught in trees and in one instance we even saw a lantern caught in a building. It eventually caught on fire and fell to the ground on a busy sidewalk, narrowly missing several people. It’s a wonder the whole city hasn’t burned down.
The next street over we stumbled upon the annual Yi Peng parade. I’m a sucker for parades and this one did not disappoint. Covered in thousands of lights, the floats were elaborately decorated works of art. The festival also hosts a number of beauty pageants, and the winners rode on the floats in traditional garb.
Not a bad way to spend our first night in Chiang Mai.