In the Market and Chinatown, Chiang Mai, Thailand

As we continue our tour, Chris leads us into a flower market.The festival of Loy Krathong has just passed and the market is still filled with intricate floral arrangements. These are crowned with candles. When lit, the whole thing is set afloat. Despite the ephemeral nature of these arrangements, they are created with great care. Along with bright blossoms, many are elaborate, with intricate patterns made of carefully folded leaves and petals.

Pink and white lotus blossoms are a common temple offering and are sold by many vendors.

Lotus seed pods are also for sale. They seem out of place here and I wonder how they are used. (Later I will learn that they are eaten as a snack!)

Sweet smelling rings of jasmine blossoms are also available from many vendors and Chris buys all of us simple, fragrant necklaces of jasmine buds.

There are many things I don’t recognize mixed in with the mums, orchids, and lotus blossoms – including packages of something that has been neatly wrapped in banana leaves.

While I am immersed in the awesome variety of flowers sold here, Lane notices the market’s more quirky elements, like the sign hanging above bundled branches of pussy willow.

We leave the flower market and enter the city’s Chinatown simply by crossing the street. With it’s bold colors, fanciful dragons, and other dramatic ornamentation, Chinatown presents quite a contrast to the real flowers for sale in the dimly lit flower market.

The color and drama outside is carried into the Chinese Buddhist temple as well, where we are greeted by a chaotic mix of color and light.

Back outside, Chris revives us with crunchy Thai snacks before continuing our tour. Yum, yum.

Our next stop is the food market. This is where the people who live in this city dine and shop for groceries. The market itself is located in a large concrete structure – it feels like the lower level of a large parking ramp. It is dark and damp and a little rank. Stalls selling the Thai version of fast food are just now being set up in anticipation of the evening rush. On the other hand, those selling grocery items are already

We pass long tables piled high with not-necessarily-fresh-smelling fresh fish, bloody meat, and freshly fried pork skins. However, it is the dried seafood that most intrigues me.

I know that Thai food uses dried shrimp, but here are dry bundles of almost every type of seafood imaginable, including odd stacks of neatly bundled dried squid.

Meals in Thailand should be really interesting.

Later in the evening, dinner at the Gallery Restaurant does prove interesting, but not in a particularly frightening way. I order the red snapper in banana leaves with mango. It doesn’t taste at all like I am expecting, but it is good, if a bit spicy. I think most of the others are also a bit surprised by their orders. Annette quickly figures out what is most interesting about our meals – each of the five dishes we have ordered has a completely distinct flavor. What a diverse cuisine!

Dessert for me is lychee ice cream, which tastes just as wonderful as I expected it to.

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