“What’s that?” my friend asked, pointing at a bubbling pot full of black soft lumps of unidentifiable food.
We were at the Elephant Gate night food market in Chiang Mai with Coco, our tour guide for the evening. Coco paused and considered my friends question, not knowing that his answer was going to land me in some serious shit.
“Umm it is sausage”.
“What type of sausage?” my friend asked, looking at me with growing contempt.
Coco paused again, the traffic and horns of Tuk Tuks streaming by behind us meant he needed to speak quite loudly.
“Chicken sausage”, he replied.
“But why is it black? If it’s chicken shouldn’t it be white?” my friend persisted.
The big Thai lady who owned the food stall watched the exchange with growing amusement, almost like she was watching a tennis match, her head swiveling left to right at the back and forth between my travel buddy and Coco as he was pressed for more information about the Chicken sausage.
Coco paused, swept his dark hair back with his hand and switched to using Thai with the amused food stall owner. After a brief exchange he turned back to my friend now 100% sure in his answer.
“It is chicken blood, it’s Chicken blood sausage”.
My friend turned to me, clearly displeased.
Earlier that day we had been strolling through a butchers market, blood dripping on the floor and animal carcasses being chopped up all around us. I used to live above such a market when I first moved to Hong Kong, so I am pretty immune to seeing where all my meat comes from. My friend however was horrified, and even more horrified when I suggested we eat at the cooked food market in the basement of the building.
My instinct when unsure about what to eat at a market is to always go for the busiest food stall, because it has the seal of popularity among the locals and the food must be fresh because they are getting through vast quantities of the stuff at quite a significant pace. We ordered two different bowls of unknown mystery meat and soup and set about digging in.
“What’s this black stuff?” my friend asked, inquiring nervously about what we later knew to be chicken blood sausage.
“I think it’s just a type of tofu”, I mumbled.
Chiang Mai had a welcome slower pace compared to Bangkok. The highlights included booking the night food tour through ‘Chiang mai Street Food Tours’ and exploring the various temples of the old city. The old city is perfectly square and surrounded by a moat and the remnants of a protective wall, it’s easy to navigate and worth spending two unhurried days walking around to soak up the atmosphere.
For me there were a few highlights outside of the old city. For bars in Chiang Mai my favorite for chilled daytime drinking was Sala Lanna riverside bar. They have both a riverside restaurant and rooftop bar so be sure to check them both out. For sunset drinks we went to Oasis Rooftop bar which is technically in the old city but in the far north-east corner. Finally, we also checked out Xanadu Pub on the rooftop of the Furama hotel, my advice would be to only go here for the view, the service and food was pretty average.