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Chiang Mai Walking Street

August 31, 2011

When I travel I have one thing in mind, and that is to go to the market. Food is the common denominator, but how it’s prepared and presented is unique to its location. The more exotic the locale, the more I find myself obsessed with the market, and when I think back on my travels it’s the markets that stand out.

I am grateful to Julie Butler, the winner of our Market basket contest, for writing about her trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand and the Walking Street.

Court Yard

Rice

Yellow We arrived in Chiang Mai on a Sunday. Our taxi driver explained to us that he would have to drop us at the back entrance of our hotel because on Sunday the front entrance on Rajdamnoen Road is closed for the weekly “Walking Street.” The hotel, Tamarind Village, was beautiful. It is located in the heart of Chiang Mai, midway between the eastern and western gates of the wall that surrounds the old city. It is a peaceful, serene, tastefully decorated complex of buildings with an enormous Tamarind tree as its centerpiece.

We made our way from the back entrance through the pretty maze of courtyards to the front lobby which was an outdoor space lined with lush wood furniture and colorful fabrics.  As we headed for our room, one of the employees urged us to step out of the front entrance because it was Sunday and we wouldn’t want to miss the Walking Street.

Lanterns

We were tired, but we were also hungry so we cleaned ourselves up and headed down the bamboo lined Street Budhadriveway leading to the entrance of the hotel. It was a short, dark drive wide enough for a car and  lit by huge rectangular white cloth lanterns that appeared to float along beside us. In the distance, we could see a sliver of what appeared to be a parade of illuminated color. Emerging from the peaceful drive on to the Walking Street was magical. The color, the light, the music, and the exuberant throng of people from all walks of life were completely unexpected.

Our mouths watered as the scent of exotic spices wafted through the air. We walked the length of the street; first in one direction and then the other. We passed every possible vendor imaginable; motorcycle chickenscarts displaying smokey barbequed meats, shelves lined with layers of leafy greens, a scary row of “fresh” chickens on their backs with their claws sticking out as if to say, “I dare you to eat me,” fish in tanks and on ice, boxes of desserts, baskets of rice (I never knew there were so many kinds of rice), buckets of spices, and wok after wok of curries, vegetables, and Woksnoodles . . . . And that’s just the food. There were at  least 200 tents filled with  interesting artwork, lovely fabrics, instruments, clothing, appliances, toys, anything one might desire during  a Sunday evening stroll through the heart of Chiang Mai. The booths spilled into courtyards and beyond the eastern gate.  Down the center of the road individuals and groups entertained   the parade of shoppers with drums or dance or song . . . . A sudden downpour had merchants protecting their goods with clear tarps and shoppers scrambling for cover. It was late, and we thought the evening had come to an end. Then as quickly as the rain started it stopped; everything was unwrapped and within moments the Walking Street came back to life.

Street

Julie’s blog is Passing Through – A worrywart’s ramblings on world travel, weight loss, . . . and what old married couples do when the kids move out.

 
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