Tasting the goodies in Chiang Mai
Our local guide looked at us as if she saw water burning.. “What? You don’t want to visit the three country point? You’d rather go to the local market with me??” It was obvious that she wondered if we had maybe enjoyed the local mushrooms too much but we eagerly nodded yes to her question. We didn’t want to go to the three countries spot only to get a stamp or two extra in our passports (tempting as it may sound) A Stamp without me actually having been to a country doesn’t mean so much to me.
We had been traveling the area with Laa for the last four days and we knew she wanted to be home on time that afternoon, due to the upcoming Loy Krathong celebrations. If she would have to go to the three country point and back she would be home late. So it didn’t take a lot of convincing to persuade her to take us to the market in her home town. And what fun it was!
Markets always have an irresistible pull when I am abroad. The fresh produce market that is, I do not care for any clothing market or other junk. Meat, fish, vegetables and fruit: that is the kind of stuff I want to look at. But in a normal situation you’d walk across such a market, wonder about all the things on display but you wouldn’t necessarily try or buy anything. That for instance the mysterious bamboo packages you see in a lot of markets around Asia. Looks cute, but what the hell is inside?
Laa quickly told us there are different kinds. In one there is a package of raw meat. Guaranteed to make us westerners really ill. but in another, that Laa kindly bought for us, is delicious banana and coconut.. I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference just looking at those package until I opened it. (which I am sure would have been a pretty sight had I opened the raw meat one…)
All around us it was busy. It was the last day before Loy Krathong festivities would start and people ran past us, left and right and pushed us out of the way. Which makes sense, because – let’s face it – if you’re rushed, the last thing you need is a couple of fat European tourists who block the way! On our left side someone was searing of the hair on some pig legs, on the right someone was gutting a fish and straight ahead there was a small stall with lots of little orange plates… Orange plates with… well, yes what were we looking at??
Laa started giggling and pulled us closer. Grasshoppers!! In a moment of weakness (or madness) – when we were still safe and at home – I had mentioned I would definitely eat a grasshopper when in Thailand. So Tom started laughing and before I knew it the guy behind the stall was in the complot and before I knew it I had one of those little insects in my hands.
They weren’t very big but did look very much like an actual grasshopper (well, duh.. of course they would!) complete with wings and legs and all. I couldn’t escape the fact anymore so just put the thing in my mouth without too much thought. Was it good? Well it tasted mostly salty… And those little legs and wings stuck in my throat. Laa had failed to mention that you would normally peel those off before eating. Ha! But I had my mission accomplished!
A little further they sold a curry decorated with giant beetles. Laa took one, expertly removed legs and wings and plopped the thing in her mouth while we looked on in horror. I guess to each there own! I’ve mentioned the hype thing already last week and I think I mentioned before that I don’t believe it is a custom that is going to stick. But who knows: it might become the new powerfood!