Tag Archives: Chiang Mai

Muay Thai kickboxing in Chiang Mai

The most famous sport in Thailand is, of course, Muay Thai kickboxing. It’s not possible to sit in a bar on the eastern side of Chiang Mai and not be handed an A5 flyer for the thrice-weekly bouts at the Kalare kickboxing stadium, which is just off Chang Klan road, north of the Night Bazaar.

Muay Thai poster

“Tonigth!” [sic] Obviousthly creathed by a copywrither who’d justh thaken a blow to the mouht

Wedged between a dusty gravel car park and the variety performance stage at the back of the Night Bazaar, the Kalare stadium looks like it just rolled into town that morning. ‘Makeshift’ would be an apt description. We bought our tickets out of a plastic tub on a small folding table while an enthusiastic recorded announcement played overhead voiced by an older-sounding Thai gentleman with an excellent grasp of showmanship English .. “Tonight! Proooooooo-fesional Thai Kickboxing!”

Now, allow me to interrupt the story for a second..

Neither of us are boxing fans, and while I did watch a lot of wrestling when it was popular back in the early 1990s, my most recent experience of watching this kind of sport was a few years ago where I saw Evander Holyfield in a boxing match on the TV in a sports bar in the United States. As the fight progressed and the fighters got more and more injured (broken noses, cut eyebrows, black eye’s etc), I started to feel a little queasy. While I still maintain it was the effects of the beer and not my softer sensibilities that was to blame, I was a little apprehensive about how I’d fare given that Muay Thai is more of a contact sport than Heavyweight boxing is, and that we’d be seeing it in person.

Anyway, back to the “Proooooooo-fesional Thai Kickboxing!”..

We took up a couple of seats on one of the ringside-length plain metal benches, and the place quickly filled up around us with equal-parts tourist, expat and local. The programme for Wednesday the 22nd of January 2014 listed 7 fights.

Kalare Night Bazaar Boxing Stadium programme for the 22nd of January 2014

Kalare Night Bazaar Boxing Stadium programme for the 22nd of January 2014

Then the fighters came out and, wow, they looked young..

6th fight - The rock (red) vs. Sotchuen (blue - winner)

6th fight – The rock (red) vs. Sotchuen (blue – winner). Kalare regularly have fights of mixed nationality, and women Muay Thai matches too

At times it was difficult to understand who had won each of the 5 rounds in a fight, but by the end our analysis of the match was in agreement with the judges’ verdict.

 5th fight - Phetnamnueng (blue - winner) vs. Khomsan  (red) sizing each other up in an early round

5th fight – Phetnamnueng (blue – winner) vs. Khomsan (red) sizing each other up in an early round

5th fight - Phetnamnueng (blue - winner) vs. Khomsan  (red) - Phetnamnueng delivers a 'Te tat', or high roundhouse kick

5th fight – Phetnamnueng (blue – winner) vs. Khomsan (red) – Phetnamnueng delivers a ‘Te tat‘, or high roundhouse kick in a very evenly-matched fight

6th fight - Kuman Doi (red) vs Phet Mai (blue - winner) - Kuman Doi with a 'Te tat' or high roundhouse kick

6th fight – Kuman Doi (red) vs Phet Mai (blue – winner) – Kuman Doi with a ‘Te tat’ or high roundhouse kick in a match he dominated but went the full 5 rounds

Helped by two KO’s (knockouts) – one from a kick to the head in the 2nd round, and another from a disabling kick to the upper arm at the end of the first round – everyone really started getting into the fighting, cheering on the good contact from kicks and punches, and otherwise looking engrossed.

The crowd - utterly engrossed and on the edge of our seats

The crowd – utterly engrossed and on the edge of our seats

There certainly wasn’t anything makeshift about the fighting, and, somewhat despite our initial preconceptions, we enjoyed the evening more than we thought we would. Oh, and I didn’t once feel queasy. I was right, it was the beer.

A Lot of Thai food, taking a cookery class in Chiang Mai

We really enjoyed doing a Street Food tour in Vietnam, so when we found out how many cookery schools there are in Chiang Mai it seemed natural to take a class to find out how to make some authentic Thai food. After a bit of research we picked the ‘A Lot of Thai’ cookery school and booked in for their Friday course.

‘A Lot of Thai’ is run by husband and wife team Yui and Kwan. Yui doesn’t have formal culinary training but she is passionate about Thai food (actually I suspect she’s pretty enthusiastic about all kinds of food!) and has been teaching people to cook for over ten years. There are photos of her more famous students around the classroom, including Gordon Ramsey. Her husband Kwan is a graphic designer and also handles the bookings and transport. The classroom is at the side of their house under a lean-to roof.

20140125-092253.jpgClassroom before we started cooking. We were collected and brought to the class in their classic VW camper van.

Stir-fried rice with Thai herbs

We made six dishes during the day, first up was what Yui considers to be her signature dish, fried rice with Thai herbs. Each lesson worked in a similar way, Yui would explain to the ten students a little about the dish and show us how to prepare the ingredients, we would return to our stations to do our preparation and then she would demonstrate the cooking before we went off to finish the dish. At the end we all sat together to eat our creation.

20140129-080302.jpgFried rice preparation: our ingredients plate as we received it, chopped garlic and oil in the wok, finely slicing lemongrass, ingredients plate ready for cooking

20140129-080310.jpgJulie stir-frying

20140129-080319.jpgAndrew carefully aligns his basil leaf garnish, the finished product – yum!

Papaya salad

Papaya salad is unlike anything I’ve come across in other cuisines. It’s fresh and crisp but with a fiery hot, salty and sour dressing. Traditionally made with unripe papaya, there’s also a version made with green mango, and Yui gave us substitutions that we could find at home – either green pears or Granny Smith apples!

20140129-080337.jpgYui showed us the traditional way of shredding the papaya which involved a lot of fast work with the cleaver. We prepared it the modern way with a kind of wavy vegetable peeler, I don’t suppose people going home with missing fingers would be very good for the school’s Tripadvisor ratings…

20140129-080353.jpgThe method is incredibly simple, the ingredients are pounded together in about three stages in a big pestle and mortar before being served

20140129-080401.jpgDelicious but I might have to reduce the amount of chilli I use next time (or work on upping my tolerance!)

Panaeng Curry

Thai curries are famous all over the world. I was a little disappointed that we weren’t taught how to make the curry paste although there are recipes for the various kinds in our souvenir cookbook.

20140129-080412.jpgPanaeng curry: prepared ingredients, reducing the coconut cream in the wok, stir-frying the chicken, finished curry

20140129-080424.jpgAndrew ready to tuck into his curry and rice

Visit to the market

By this stage we were getting quite full and were relieved to hear Yui announce that we were taking a break to visit the local market, Nong Hoy. We always love looking around local markets wherever we’re staying and to do so with a local guide is even better.

20140129-080435.jpgNong Hoy market, Chiang Mai

20140129-080444.jpgProduce in the market (clockwise from top left): fresh vegetables, marigold garlands, an unusual looking Thai herb, bottles of sauces

20140129-080452.jpgYui explaining the many different varieties of aubergine used in Thai cooking

Stir-fried vegetables with glass noodles

20140129-080500.jpgWe were encouraged to try Yui’s method of breaking an egg with one hand, we both managed it but I think it’ll take a bit more practice to feel natural!

20140129-080506.jpgYui demonstrating the stir-frying

20140129-080516.jpgFor each dish the sauce ingredients were set out with little labels for us to mix our own

20140129-080523.jpgAdding the egg to the wok


Stuffed cucumber soup

We were intrigued when we saw this on the menu and not quite sure what to expect. It turns out that cooked cucumber is actually pretty good! Everyone prepared and stuffed their own cucumbers, but as they were all cooked together we had to carve a distinguishing mark into the side of each piece.

20140129-080641.jpgJulie’s hollowed out cucumbers marked with a ‘J’, stuffing them with the seasoned pork mince, Andrew got a bit patriotic when marking his cucumbers, cooking the soup

20140129-080650.jpgAnyone who’s eaten in a Thai restaurant will know that dishes are often garnished with carved vegetables. We got to try our hand at making very simple carrot flowers to be cooked in the soup along with the stuffed cucumbers

Fried bananas

Naturally the final lesson of the day was dessert!

20140129-080659.jpgFried bananas (clockwise from top left): batter ingredients, Yui deep frying them, sadly this wasn’t an individual portion…

We were taken back to our apartment full, happy and keen to try out some of the recipes at home.

Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park, Chiang Mai

Royal Flora Ratchaphruek, Chiang Mai

Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park, Chiang Mai

Royal Flora Ratchaphruek is a huge outdoor park on the western outskirts of Chiang Mai. Originally built for a flower festival and exposition to celebrate the King’s 60th accession to the throne and 80th birthday back in 2006, it’s open all year round and now hosts an annual flower festival from December until February. We hired a scooter and got there reasonably early, but even with a full day of leisurely walking around (and taking plenty of pictures..) we think we saw about two-thirds of it. Did I mention it was huge?

Map of the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park, Chiang Mai

Map of the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park, Chiang Mai

We started off with the Corporate Gardens, not quite sure what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised by their diversity and the effort that had gone into making them informative and interactive. We especially liked the groundwater department garden..

Julie and I pumping water by hand in the Department of Groundwater Resources garden

Julie and I pumping water by hand in the Department of Groundwater Resources garden

And of the other corporate gardens, we also liked the palm tree loop – as much for the palm trees as the water assault course it turned out to be – the sprinklers were on and we both got a little bit wet!

Palm tree garden collage

The palm tree garden, aka the ‘water park’

The ‘New Theory Agriculture’ area was fun because it had a pig pen, chickens and a wormery, but as all of the information was in Thai we didn’t really understand the ‘New Theory’ part – it just looked like rural Thailand to us: rice fields, animal pens and vegetable gardens!

Pigs at the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park

Pigs at the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park

Next up was the Orchid Park. Wow.

Orchid Park sign, Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park

Welcome to the Orchid Park. You’ll be spending some time here..

There were so many orchids, and they were all so beautiful that we spent a lot of time looking and taking photographs..

Orchids, Orchids, Orchids..

Orchids, Orchids, Orchids..

As well as the outside Orchid Park, there is a building which was housing a special exhibit of tulips grown in Thailand, and included a variety named in honour of the King.

Tulip collage

Tulips, Tulips, Tulips..

There was also another room full of orchids, and an exhibition upstairs on Dr Rapee Sacrick, who is known as the “Founder and Father of orchids” in Thailand. Behind the exhibition halls we found yet another outdoor area of orchids, this time the specimens on display were entrants in an orchid competition.

The contestant plants were lined up by sub-species, and the prize-winning plants had rosettes hanging from them. What struck me most was the sheer variety – style, colour and size – I hadn’t fully appreciated the heterogeneity. We took a lot more photographs..

Prize-winning orchid collage

Prize-winning orchids

Us in the orchid garden

Us in the orchid garden

The park’s central promenade leads to the focal point of the entire park and its main attraction, the Royal Pavillion. Built like a ‘wihan’ (meeting hall) of a Thai Wat, the pavilion is exquisitely decorated. Inside are murals of King Bhumibol travelling through northern Thailand, typically pointing at a map with a camera around his neck!

Us in front of the Royal Pavilion, Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park

Us with the Royal Pavilion in the background

Collage of the Royal Pavilion, Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park, Chiang Mai

The beautiful Royal Pavilion

After a little more wandering, we found the Shaded Paradise – a covered tropical garden with an elevated walkway that puts you up in the tree tops. I really like tropical gardens because the humidity carries the smell of earth and breathing that air feels clean to me, it feels purifying. Tropical gardens also tend to contain carnivorous plants such as Tropical Pitchers or Venus Flytraps, and I love that plants eat animals..

Collage of plants in the Shaded Paradise

Tree-top walkway; Carnivorous Tropical Pitchers and dark red leaves

Julie with a fellow photographer and Andrew ordering a beer stein

Julie with a fellow photographer and Andrew ordering a beer stein. There were lots of these painted statues outside the Shaded Paradise garden, each one different

As we worked our way back towards the exit, we found a series of country-sponsored gardens – The Netherlands, Canada, India, and Singapore to name a few. Sadly, we didn’t see one for the UK..

Japanese garden, Royal Flora Ratchaphruek park

The peaceful Japanese garden

We really enjoyed our day at the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek park, and for all we took our time, we still think there’s easily a days worth of things to see and do.

Julie and I on the seesaw, Royal Flora Ratchaphruek park

Julie and I on the seesaw, Royal Flora Ratchaphruek park

Fabric Softener and Monk Baskets

We’ve settled in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, for a couple of months over Christmas and New Year (that’ll be 2556 to 2557..) and as we can cook for ourselves on a more regular basis, we needed to go shopping.

We try to get as much as we can from local markets and the rest from the supermarket, and there’s a familiar name to us Brits here in Thailand – Tesco Lotus.

As we were working down our short shopping list, walking up and down the wide, air-conditioned aisles, it was very easy to forget we were in another country – we could be in a Tesco anywhere in the U.K. – until we looked a little more closely at the items on the shelves..

Oh yeah, we're not in Gateshead anymore!

Oh yeah, we’re not in Gateshead anymore!

.. then we saw the sign for aisle 13: “Fabric Softener, Monk Baskets”

Isle 13: Fabric Softener and Monk Baskets

Aisle 13: Fabric Softener and Monk Baskets

After a double-take, we furled our brows and with our best quizzical faces on, we turned to each other and said in complete unison: “What the hell is a Monk Basket?!” This had to be investigated.

Monk Baskets in Tesco Lotus, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Monk Baskets in Tesco Lotus

From thaizer.com:

If you are out and about shopping in Thailand you may notice some shops selling orange baskets or buckets which contain a number of everyday items like soap, detergent and toothpaste. These buckets are bought by lay-people who then donate them to monks or to the temple. By doing this, the person making the donation makes merit (‘tham boon’). The buckets are normally orange or saffron coloured and are often wrapped in cellophane.

The monk baskets are another example of how Thailand has combined ancient ritual with modern practicality. You will still see Thai people donating food and money to monks as the monks make their morning alms round, but the orange baskets may be donated for special occasions. For example, if somebody buys a new car or a new house in Thailand, it’s common practice for monks to be invited to perform a blessing ceremony. At the end of the ceremony a donation is made to the monks. This may be money which is placed on a pedestal tray or it may be the practical offering of the orange bucket which contains useful everyday items. The buckets or baskets vary in size and price and can be found at stores near temples or even in supermarkets like Tesco Lotus and Big C.

Given that the Monk Baskets are opaque so we couldn’t see what they contained (and the contents list is in Thai), and that they’re cheaper than the empty, boring grey buckets, and we needed a bucket, we bought one and rushed home like two excited little children on Christmas morning clutching Santa’s stockings – eager to find out the treasures within..

Andrew unpacking our Monk Basket. We took it in turns to take an item out

Andrew unpacking our Monk Basket. We took it in turns to take an item out

We can happily report that the entertainment value of Monk Baskets is equalled by the utility and sensible-ness of their contents. Here’s what we got in ours for the equivalent of £5.50..

The contents of our Monk Basket

The contents of our Monk Basket

  • A sachet of instant ginger drink
  • 2 sachets of instant green tea
  • A packet of instant noodles – ‘oriental’ flavour
  • A small plastic bowl
  • One bottle of water
  • A bottle of washing up liquid
  • A dishwashing sponge
  • 5 sticks of incense
  • 2 small candles
  • A large box of matches
  • A sachet of electrolyte beverage
  • 10 Paracetamol 500mg tablets
  • A toothbrush
  • A very small tube of toothpaste
  • A single, individually wrapped toilet roll
  • What we think might be an orange apron for dressing a Buddha statue
  • And a bright orange bucket

We’ve used, or can make use of everything except the Buddha Apron. We’re using the Monk Basket itself as a makeshift kitchen bin, although I think that might put us in negative ‘tham boon’.

Illusion Art in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Art in Paradise introduces itself like this:

An illusion is a sensory perception that causes a distorted or altered impression. Since illusion is not the opposite of reality, the effect of illusion one experiences is neither true nor false.

The illusion of depth in paintings and installation art are presented on two dimensional surfaces by combining a variety of art elements, special techniques and professional skills. This transforms ordinary artworks into extraordinary three-dimensional interactive environments.

Art in Paradise Chiangmai welcomes you into the world of fantastic illusion art, where you can create your own activities and be fully immersed in the interactive 3D artworks.

That makes it sound quite serious but this is not so much a museum as a playground. We had a great time playing around with the various pictures and setups. For some it was obvious how to put ourselves into the picture, but for others we had to be a bit more creative. The museum was really quiet when we visited (apart from a group of schoolkids at the beginning but they soon overtook us) so we had loads of time to take photos and act silly without a queue of people waiting. On the down side it meant that there wasn’t usually anyone around to take a picture with both of us in.

Remember that everything here is flat – including the ‘picture frames’.

20140105-220652.jpgAndrew fending off Jaws

20140105-220658.jpgSharing a coke with a polar bear

20140105-220709.jpgGiraffe escaping from her frame

20140105-220718.jpgJulie making friends with a panda

20140105-220725.jpgWiping a window…

20140105-220731.jpgVan Gogh’s sunflowers

20140105-220738.jpgUs with a very up-to-date shepherdess

20140105-220745.jpgAndrew meditating in a lotus pond

20140105-220752.jpgJulie on a rope bridge

20140105-220758.jpgLooking at the rope bridge from the ‘wrong’ angle gives an idea of how these are set up

20140105-220806.jpgAndrew and a giant toilet roll

20140105-220813.jpgIn the 3D room

20140105-220818.jpgMagic carpet

20140105-220823.jpgPuppet Andrew

20140105-220831.jpgAngel Julie

20140105-220838.jpgTarget practice!


20140105-220851.jpgAndrew on the cover of Time magazine

20140105-220859.jpgGiant Andrew and tiny Julie in the final exhibit

Top tips for getting the most out of a visit… Be willing to be silly, take a full size tripod if you have one (my mini gorillapod didn’t work for most of the scenes as the perspective only works when looked at from eye level) or a big group of friends.