aka. how much do we eat in one day?
aka. how much does it all cost?
Days in Chiang Mai begin slow and lazy. Because D ends us working in the middle of a night a lot (and me with him), we don’t set the alarm and let ourselves naturally come out of slumber. But some days, the day begins early. Sometimes much too early, like today. I stir, reach for my phone, and groan at the hour: 8 am only. But sunlight is already flooding the room even from behind the floor-to-ceiling accordian shades. Resigned to the fact that I won’t go back to sleep, I get out of bed and start to get ready.
Even though we’re both groggy with too little sleep, we know this is the actually the best time to be waking up, because now, we’re early enough to make it to breakfast before all the good stuff is sold out! Honestly, I’m not even hungry this early in the day, but no way am I going to miss breakfast if I have the chance.
We step out unto Nimmanhaemin Road and breathe in the air thick with exhaust fumes. The winter season is starting to come in, which means the days are now warm and humid, as opposed to scorching hot and humid. This moment, when you step outside for the first time, is the best part of a day. There’s an entire day ahead of you and you’re not yet sure how it will unfold. Even though days have taken on somewhat of a routine, it’s still susceptible to change at any moment. Everyday can be an adventure.
For breakfast, we go across the alleyway to our trusty little food stall. Large vats of soup and pans of dishes are laid out on the metal counter. We order the traditional Thai breakfast: rice with a couple of sides and a fried egg (or 2 for D since he’s greedy). Later in the morning, the breakfast vendors will pack up and “the fried chicken people” will move in. We go there for dinner a lot too.
We carry out plates to a table and prepare to chow down. On this particular day, I notice a gigantic 3″ cockroach twitching on its back right next to our table, furiously kicking its legs into the air. It’s the first cockroach I’ve seen yet at this corner stall. I hold back a scream at the sight of this disgusting vermin, but the food is very good here, so I’ll overlook this.
D doesn’t function very well without his daily dose of caffeine, so after breakfast, we take a walk around the neighborhood to search for coffee.
The Nimman area (a few kilometers from the town center) can be considered the chic, trendy area of Chiang Mai, though at a quick first glance, you wouldn’t have guessed it. This is no metropolitan. At 10 stories high, our apartment building is the tallest building around. Most of the structures are small single to double stories, and some can look quite shabby. However, upon a closer look, you will see renovated storefronts housing cute boutique clothing shops, quirky cafes, and spas/salons. And if you look even closer, you’ll immediately put that cute dress back on the rack after reading the price tag.
The main drag takes only 15 minutes or so to walk, beginning with the Chiang Mai University and ending in the new, luxurious mega shopping mall. Branching off to either side of the main road are dozens of soi’s (alleyways), where the real jewels are. In these alleyways, it seems as though every few feet lies an interesting cafe and around every corner a hidden gem. One of the best things to do is to just wander up and down the alleyways and see what you discover.
Afterwards, we head back to our apartment. Our time in between meals are usually uneventful and are spent loosely working while waiting for the next meal. There’s not much else to do in Nimmanhaemin, and so our days revolve around food. Not even gonna lie.
When we get hungry again, we head back out for lunch. We don’t even ask each other where to go anymore. We just know to walk across the alleyway again to one of the street vendors. We go there every single day, for practically every single meal, and rotate between the vendors.
There are not a lot of street vendors in Nimmanhaemin. We seem to have the majority of them right downstairs of our building (Soi 10). There are a few stalls: the breakfast/fried chicken at the corner, a Burmese place, one that does traditional Thai dishes, and one that makes great noodle soup. Each one is unique in its own way and between all of these, we can find a solution for anything we’re craving.
Today for lunch, we go to the Burmese place. The people here aren’t the friendliest, but the food is good. I’ve never been to Burma/Myanmar, but from what I can see here, they make a mean salad. The tamarind leaf salad is to die for.
In the afternoon, we take a walk down to the mall at the end of the street. The Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center is the epitome of luxury in Chiang Mai. It looks like it fits in better in posh Beverly Hills than in this small humble town. The top floor is a huge cinema and the basement level is a grocery store that rivals Whole Foods.
We head up straight to the fourth level, which is *surprise surprise* dedicated to food. There’s a mix of stands, open storefronts, and high end dining establishments, covering everything from western desserts to traditional Thai food to other international restaurants, including many many Japanese places (the Thais really love Japanese food!). Usually, when we walk to the mall, it’s to visit my favorite tea & coffee stand underneath the glowing Food Lanna sign. They make my favorite Thai milk tea with pudding!
Afterwards, we walk around to see if any place catches our eye. After such a light lunch of mainly salad, we’re starting to feel a little hungry again. (I should also mention that the portion sizes tend to be really tiny here. At least, tiny for us because we’re used to the huge American sizes.)
We stop at a little eatery specializing in Khao soi, a traditional Northern Thai noodle soup with a curry base and fried crispy noodles on top. I used to get this dish from a restaurant in one of the soi’s, until we both got food poisoning after eating there one day (which is also why we mainly stick to the street vendors now. We’ve never gotten sick and at least we can see them making the food)… so that was the end of that. We’ve been looking for a replacement since. So we sit down to share one bowl.
Having met our exploring quota for the day, we go back to our apartment until dinner time. When we’re able to be in one place for a longer period of time, we don’t feel rushed to do touristy things and rather like simply living a normal life. This means we do hang out indoors a lot more than we probably should for being in a new place. It gives us normalcy and the feeling of being home.
For dinner, we go to – you know it – the vendors across our alleyway again! This time, we visit the one serving traditional Thai dishes. D notices that the dad is cooking today, who he swears makes the best food out of everyone else there. So usually, whenever the dad is cooking, we try to eat there. D orders pad see ew (his favorite dish), and I get the pad thai.
Afterwards, we make our daily run to Seven-Eleven (actually, this is for sure our 3rd run of the day, like we do everyday, but I’ve spared you from hearing about the other ones), which is located in the lobby of our apartment building. We buy some bottled waters, but the real reason is so I can get my daily post-dinner dessert: a coconut milk ice cream bar (a current obsession!). I’m positive that I’ve single-handedly depleted their stock of these bars in the ice cream chest. We’ve also become a bit obsessed with the fermented milk/yogurt drink, so we pick one up for the next morning.
Back in our apartment, we get comfy and settle in for the night. We’ll do a quick review of our budget and spendings today. Even with everything we ate (which is on the heavy end today), we clock in at 530 baht, or US$16. Not bad… yep, I could get used to this.
At this time, D may take a short nap before he’ll have to start work at 10 pm (in order to match up with USA time). I’ll settle down at my computer to work on blog related stuff, or set time aside to indulge in other hobbies, like reading. I’m definitely the most productive during the late late hours of the night, so often (like tonight…. and with the earlier iced tea as fuel) I find myself awake and in “work mode” even as D has already gone to sleep. All I hear now is the hum of the AC and D’s soft breathing next to me.
But soon, I’ll close my laptop and drift off to sleep, full and happy. And when I wake up the next morning, we’ll do it all over again. And I can’t wait! Thailand has been treating us good so far. :)
What does you day look like today? I hope everyone has a great weekend coming up!
This post is linked up to #SundayTraveler with Pack Me To.