Larb Lettuce Wraps & Bowls

Larb is a traditional meat salad found in Laos and Thailand. It is one of our favorite dishes to order on a Thai menu when we are trying to eat healthy because it’s light and really refreshing. What makes this dish bright are the many herbs and spices mixed into the meat mixture. It is usually served with sliced cucumber and sliced jalapenos for some kick. With everyone having different goals this time of the year in regards to their eating habits, we’ve made this recipe a little bit of a choose your own adventure story. Watching the calories? Serve the larb in lettuce wraps with lots of added vegetables. Needing a bit more? Serve the larb over a bed of white rice. This is a great weeknight dinner and made extra fun when everyone gets to make their own version!

Larb Lettuce Wraps

  • Servings: 8 lettuce wraps
  • Print

Our quick and easy variation of larb – a delicious, healthy and herby salad found in Laos and Thailand.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sambal oelek or your favorite chili paste
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • juice of one lime
  • bib lettuce – divided into 8 cups
  • 1 english cucumber, sliced
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • jalapeno, sliced for garnish (optional)
  • cooked white rice, if you plan to make rice bowls

Directions

  1. Prepare the vegetables. Mince the garlic, ginger and shallot and set aside. Thinly slice the red onion and set aside in the same bowl as the garlic mix.
  2. In a large sauté pan, sauté the pork over medium heat. You do not need to add any oil to the pan, the fat from the pork will start to render as it is heated. Use a spatula to break up the ground pork into bite sized pieces.
  3. Sauté for five minutes and add the garlic, ginger, shallot and onion to the pan and continue to stir and sauté for another 5 minutes. The onion should start to soften and the pork will be completely cooked through.
  4. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce and sambal oelek. Stir completely so that all of the ingredients are combined. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the sauce is mostly soaked up by the pork. Remove the larb from the heat, set aside, and add the lime juice.
  5. Lettuce Cup Preparation: Place a 1/4 – 1/2 cup serving of larb into each lettuce cup. Top with sliced cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapeno.
  6. Rice Bowl Preparation: Place 1/2 – 1 cup cooked rice on the bottom of a bowl. Layer with a 1/2 cup of larb and top with sliced cucumbers, cilantro, and jalepeno.


Semi-Homemade Massaman Curry

When Tuck’s mom and dad came home from Thailand, we were gifted with the ultimate arrangement of spices and curry mixes to try. We have loved making them these past few months and have found that modifying this dish is super easy and a fun way to experiment in the kitchen. Because we love spicy, we have added spicy Thai chilies to give the curry a kick. Feel free to incorporate vegetables that you have on hand and approach to make this a complete meal. We know that you probably won’t be able to find the exact packets that we used from Thailand but have included a link to something similar that you can purchase. Most mainstream grocery stores will have curry packets in the Asian aisle as well.

Semi-Homemade Massaman Curry

Makes: 4 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet Massaman curry mix (similar here)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into strips
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 – 10 thai chilis
  • chopped green onion (optional)
  • 3 -4 cups rice or 1 package thai rice noodles

Directions:

  1. Add the curry mix and 1/2 of the can of coconut milk to a pan and bring to a boil. Be sure to stir thoroughly until the mix is fully incorporated into the coconut milk.
  2. Add the chicken and onion and cook for 5 minutes. The chicken does not need to be fully cooked through.
  3. Add the water and Thai chilis and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Keep the lid off the pan so that some of the water can evaporate.
  4. While the curry in cooking, cook the rice or noodles according to the package directions.
  5. Serve the curry over rice and noodles, hot. Add the green onions on top for garnish.

Dinner at Gaggan Anand

A brief summary of how Tuck’s parents plan their winter vacation: Step 1: San Pellegrino updates their 50 Best Restaurant List. Tuck’s mom then reviews which of those restaurants have an episode on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Last February she found one about was Chef Gaggan Anand and his progressive, avant-guard restaurant, Gaggan, in Bangkok. It was ranked 4th in the world by San Pellegrino. Step 2: Tuck’s mom requests a reservation at said restaurant for sometime during the baseball offseason and starts praying to the food gods that they get in. Step 3: Tuck’s mom and dad “coincidentally” watch the same episode on Chef’s Table. Step 4: Tuck’s dad really wants to go! “How amazing does that look?!” he usually says. Step 5: Tuck’s mom magically has a reservation and has already booked plane flights to eat at said restaurant.

The Story: The story above pretty much summarizes how we booked our trip to Thailand. It may seem absolutely absurd to most people to plan an entire trip around the world for one dinner, but food is our favorite hobby (hello, food blog). If said hobby happens to take us somewhere new and exciting, even better. Chef Gaggan has become famous for his “rebel” attitude when it comes to fine dining; he brings to the table a completely new approach to haute-cuisine. Eating a meal at Gaggan Anand gives you all of the taste, flavor, and surprise of the elite fine dining experience with absolutely none of the pretension that usually comes with. You are supposed to let loose and sing along while you enjoy a 25 course dinner. It was truly one of the most incredible dining experiences we have ever had.

The Reservation: This part of the experience is the only aspect that was a little stressful and less traditional than other dining experiences we have encountered. You can submit for a reservation via their website for any particular day- to our knowledge there is no length of time too far away. If you are dying to go here and traveling to Bangkok we would recommend submitting requests for each day that you are available to go. There is nowhere on the form to submit for multiple days, and if the one day you request is not available you aren’t given any alternatives. It can take between two or three weeks to get a response, so don’t bother refreshing your email every 30 seconds like we did in the days that follow your reservation request. There are two options for seating at Gaggan Anand and you have to request which of the seating options you want at the time of your submission: “Arena G” is the regular restaurant with 4 (ish) seating times. “The G Spot” is a community table with a single seating each night. The menu is the exact same as Arena G but the alcohol pairing is included with this seating and you have significantly more interaction with the chefs while you eat. At the time of our reservation, reservations for Arena G were about $300 per person (no alcohol) and $600 per person (with alcohol). We opted for Arena G and had a table for two at 9:30 pm. Here is where the reservation process gets a little tricky- once you receive an email that you have received a reservation, you have to pay the full price of the meal via Pay Pal and send them a copy of your receipt. You’re hit with a 5% Pay Pal fee which kind of stinks on a $600 tab, but otherwise it all worked out okay. They will email you once they have received your Pay Pal payment and you are all set to dine at Gaggan Anand – again this could take as long as a few weeks so don’t panic if you don’t hear right away!

The Experience (many spoilers ahead!): From the second we walked into the restaurant, we knew this was going to be unlike any other fine dining experience. Gaggan is a professed rebel and rock lover, and we were serenaded by the likes of Lizzo and The Foo Fighters throughout our three hour dinner. The decor in the restaurant is fun and contemporary with outer space vibes. The entire experience is relaxed; the waitstaff and chef crew clearly take their jobs very seriously but have a fun time doing it. Once we were seated we were presented with a teal box- the box contained pieces to a wooden puzzle and each piece had a picture of an emoji on it. Each dish of the dinner is presented and diners guess what emoji matches each course based on the explanation the waitstaff provides. Each table builds their puzzle throughout the dinner as opposed to receiving a menu of any sort.

As Gaggan says in the Chef’s Table documentary, his goal is to “assault” diners with food- 25 courses in all- and constantly surprise guests with what is coming next. Each course feels completely different from the one before- dishes are served piping hot and then ice cold, one is incredibly crunchy and the next is meant to be licked off the plate (literally). We did not receive a single eating utensil until the 14th course. The dish ware is exquisite and the entire meal truly feels like a giant surprise. We have never tasted many of these flavors, eaten these types of ingredients, or been as challenged to think outside the box of what Indian cuisine can be.

What we appreciated most about the experience was the balance of extravagance and simplicity in each dish. Every detail is thought out. The menu is a biography and reflection of Gaggan’s life and a collection of his experiences. The dish each plate is served on help reinforce those themes. For example, the dish pictured below was a cauliflower puree with raisin and chili jelly dots; it was represented by the rainbow emoji on our menu. The colors of the powders are all flavored with Indian spices and pays homage to the Hindu Holi Festival (the color festival that takes place in India every spring). In true Gaggan fashion, you are not given a fork to eat this dish- you are asked to lick it off the plate with your tongue. Dinner at Gaggan Anand was one of the best dinner experiences we have ever had. It felt new, exciting, and was just plain fun! If it wasn’t so far away from home, Tuck’s mom would already be plotting how to return.


Thai Chicken Curry

If you’ve been following us here for a while, you know that we at Tuck & Tate love us some Asian food. Thai curry to be one of those bites that tastes so warm and comforting, but can be overwhelming to cooks that are unfamiliar with Thai ingredients. After posting a very authentic khao soi recipe that Tuck’s parents learned while they were traveling in Thailand, we decided to create a second curry recipe that is a little more approachable. All of these ingredients can be found at your local grocery store.

The best part of cooking curry is that you can be as creative as you want with the vegetables and protein. This basic recipe will hold up well with any of those leftover veggies you have in your fridge. This is also a perfect recipe for eating clean in the new year. It can be vegetarian by swapping the chicken for tofu, and is already dairy free thanks to coconut milk for creaminess and flavor.

Thai Chicken Curry
Makes: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs canola oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 red and yellow bell pepper
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tbs red curry paste
  • 2 cans low-fat coconut milk
  • 1 bag snap peas
  • 2 cups of cooked rice

Directions

  1. Chop the onion, eggplant, red and yellow peppers into bite sized pieces.
  2. Heat a soup pot to medium heat. Add the oil, garlic, and ginger and saute for 2 minutes. Add the onion, eggplant and peppers and cook for 5 minutes or until you see the vegetables starting to brown and soften.
  3. Move the vegetables to one side of the pot and add the chicken thighs. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side so that the chicken is browned. Stir in the vegetables.
  4. Add the curry paste and coconut milk to the pot. Stir well to combine and bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the snap peas. Cook for 20-30 minutes on simmer.
  5. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Khao Soi (Northern Thai Chicken Curry)

Public Service Announcement: this recipe is no easy feat. It takes a run to your local Asian grocery store and the purchase of some unusual ingredients all before you even start your work in the kitchen. That being said, if you have traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and had the gloriousness that is Khao Soi while you were there, you will find that the recipe is more than worth the effort. For those unfamiliar, Khao Soi is a chicken curry dish found exclusively in Northern Thailand. Most restaurants in the region have their version on a menu, and it is sold for about 30 baht ($1 USD) per bowl.

The components of Khao Soi are: soft egg noodles on the bottom, a coconut based red curry soup broth, dark meat chicken, and crispy egg noodles on top. The dish is served with accompaniments on the side including a wedge of lime, sliced shallots, and some sort of pickled green vegetable. Tuck’s mom learned how to make Khao Soi at a cooking class in Thailand and quickly replicated it for Tate’s mom, who has been craving this dish since her trip to Thailand in 2012.

Khao Soi (Northern Thai Chicken Curry)

Makes: 4 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients for Khao Soy Curry Paste:

  • 4 tbs red curry paste
  • 4 tsp fresh ginger
  • 4 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 4  tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp coriander seed 
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin seed

Ingredients for Khao Soi Curry :

  • 8 tbs khao soy curry paste (one full recipe above)
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 package chicken thighs (around 1.25 lbs)
  • 16 oz coconut milk *
  • 16 oz chicken stock
  • 4 tsp sugar 
  • 4 tbs fish sauce

Ingredients For Toppings and Base:

  • 2 lbs fresh egg noodles, separated **
  • thinly sliced shallot
  • 1 lime, segmented
  • chopped cilantro (not traditional but we prefer this over pickled vegetables)

Directions:

  1. Make the crispy noodles. Heat 1 cup of vegetable oil in a small sauce pot over medium high heat. Separate 1/4 of the egg noodles (.5 lbs) to be used for the crispy noodles on top of the curry. Fry the noodles in batches in the oil until the noodles are crispy. If you are using fresh noodles, this should only take about 1-2 minutes per batch of noodles. Set each batch onto paper towels to drain and season with a pinch of salt. When all of the .5 lbs of noodles have been cooked, turn the oil off the heat and set the noodles aside until ready to serve.
  2. Make the khao soi curry paste. Combine all of the khao soi curry paste ingredients in a small blender. Blend thoroughly so that the ingredients form a rough paste.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large soup pot. Add the khao soi curry paste to the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat so that the ingredients start to release their flavors. Add the chicken thighs to the pan, searing on each side for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock to the pan. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a constant simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken thighs are cooked completely through.
  5. After 30 minutes, remove the chicken thighs onto a cutting board. Use two forks to pull the chicken into large, bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken back into the pot along with the fish sauce and sugar. Cover and keep on low heat until ready to serve.
  6. Cook the remaining egg noodles (1.5 lbs) in boiling water. If using fresh noodles, this will only take about 1 minute. Cook the noodles and drain immediately.
  7. Divide the noodles evenly into four bowls. Top with a generous portion of the chicken curry. Top with the crispy noodles you made in step 1 and serve with the shallots, cilantro, and wedge of lime.

Notes: * You can use whatever combination of chicken stock and coconut milk that you prefer, so long as the liquids total 32 oz. If you prefer a creamier, heartier curry use only coconut milk. If you prefer a lighter version of this dish use primarily chicken stock. ** The type of noodles that are traditionally served in this dish are similar to an egg noodle linguini. You should be able to find this type of noodle at an Asian grocery store.


9 Days in Thailand

Day 1- Bangkok

Thailand Tip: Navigating Suvarnabhumi International Airport. If you land late at night, like many flights into Bangkok, we suggest taking a cab from the airport to your hotel. When you reach baggage claim at the airport you will see a number of cash exchange kiosks. This exchange rate is actually one of the best you’ll find, and we suggest exchanging a bit of cash here to get your trip started. Street food, taxis, and many restaurants are cash only, and we found ourselves spending more cash on this vacation than any other we had previously taken. Follow signs to the the official taxi stand of the airport- do not get a ride from someone offering them. There is a kiosk and you pull a ticket to see which cab you are taking. The cabs at the airport are cash only, and it will take about 600 baht to get from the airport to downtown Bangkok. Before arriving in Bangkok, make sure to have your hotel name and address (even cross streets) written in Thai and saved on your phone. Many cab drivers at the airport cannot read English and it is very difficult to explain where you need to go without this information.

See Wat’s Up: the primary thing to see in Bangkok are the main temples (wats) and Buddha’s located throughout the city. The “must see” temples and Buddha’s are the Emerald Buddha located in the Grand Palace, the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), and Wat Arun- a military temple across the river from the main downtown epicenter. These temples are massive and depending on the heat, can be done all in one day or over the course of your time in Bangkok. Most temples require a cash ticket to get in. In general Bangkok is much larger than we anticipated, and while we thought we were going to walk most of the city we ended up taking Grab cars to many sites for a break from the heat and to avoid wasting time walking aimlessly from site to site.

Thailand Tip: Getting Around Thailand. We suggest downloading Grab, which is the Uber of Thailand. The rates are incredibly cheap and you can avoid many translation snafus by typing in the location of where you are trying to go in English and having it translated to Thai by the app.

Visit Chinatown at Night For Street Food: one of the busiest night markets in Bangkok is in Chinatown, on Yaowarat Road. The crowds are almost overwhelming, but there is street food for blocks and blocks. Don’t be afraid to head off the main road and onto some of the side streets, which have incredible options to choose from as well. If you are going to do a guided tour in Bangkok, we recommend doing a night tour for street food. The scene can be overwhelming and it really helps to have someone there to guide you along and help explain the different foods.


Day 2- Bangkok Dine in a Boat: we spent the morning traveling to a floating market, which was absolutely one of the highlights of our trip. We splurged and ended up using a private guide for this as opposed to a large tour group and we really enjoyed the private experience because we were able to ask our guide tons of questions about all the foods that vendors sell in the markets. After a 90 minute drive, we were taken by boat from the outer canals to the center of the floating market. From there you float from stall to stall and purchase any foods you want to try. We suggest coming hungry! After a lap through the canals we were dropped off to visit the shops on the streets of the market. The vendors sell mostly cheap souvenirs if that is your thing, but there are also some art vendors, spice vendors, and a number of sit down restaurants. We sampled a few things from the markets and purchased a few souvenirs before heading back to the hotel.

Must Try Foods at the Floating Market: boat noodles (noodle soup), fried bananas and vegetables, coconut water in a fresh coconut, mango sticky rice, street meat.

Dine at a Three Star Restaurant The Same Day: We traveled to Thailand specifically to eat at the restaurant Gaggan– a top restaurant in the world in 2019. There are a number of amazing fine dining experiences to have in Bangkok and the change in scenery is great when you are over eating street food. Gaggan, Nahm, Gaa, and Bo Lan are all excellent restaurants to browse through if you are looking for a high end restaurant to end your time in Bangkok. On your way, have a cocktail at Sky Bar, the rooftop bar at the Lebua Hotel that was featured in Hangover 2. Cocktails are very expensive but the views of the city are incredible. If the price tag for Sky Bar is too much, make sure you experience a rooftop bar somewhere else in the city- there are a number to choose from.


Day 3 – Travel Day- Koh Samui Thailand Tip: One thing we learned about inner-Thailand travel is that flight prices change dramatically depending on what route you take. For example, the flight from Koh Samui to Chiang Mai was half the price of doing the same trip in reverse. Look at the flight prices of Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways before deciding your trip itinerary.

Island Hop – if you are traveling all the way to Bangkok, we suggest you take a quick flight to one of the many islands for some beach time. We chose to fly to Koh Samui, and like many of the islands, feels like the Hawaii of Thailand. The island is primarily resorts along the the beaches with a few town centers if you are looking for something more urban. Most of the hotels sit along the north and east coastlines of the island, and prices range everywhere from $30 USD per night to staying at the Four Seasons for $500+ per night. We chose something in the middle of both the eastern coastline and price ranges, and stayed at the Silavadee Resort.

Visit A Night Market: there are two town centers in Koh Samui- Lamai and Chaweng. Each hosts a night market on Wednesdays and Tuesdays, respectively. After visiting the floating market in Bangkok, we quickly learned that night markets tend to sell the same cheap souvenirs, and if that doesn’t interest you, go for the street food. Vendors line the streets selling everything from pad thai to mango sticky rice to street meat. For just a few USD you can eat until you explode. The markets are pretty similar and many vendors will go to both during the week, but the Chaweng area has more shops and bars if you are looking to make a full night of it.

Day 4-Koh Samui – Make New Friends: One of the essential items on our Thailand Bucket List was to spend time with elephants. Finding an ethical elephant experience is extremely tough; Thailand has a history of using elephants in the logging industry, and after the government shut it down, the people who owned the elephants started using them for tourist attractions to continue making money. If you are looking for a sanctuary that rescues elephants and treats them well, you might have to do a significant amount of research. A quality experience will mean that 1) you do not ride the elephants 2) you aren’t “taking them for a walk “or “giving them a bath” and 3) that you can’t touch them more than giving them a pat on the trunk. It was discouraging to find that high end hotels and tour groups will still promote facilities that let you ride elephants or that openly treat the elephants like circus pets for human entertainment. My advice for researching sanctuaries is to sort the reviews of the sanctuary by lowest to best. I genuinely believe people take the time to comment about the treatment they witness because they were hoping to support a quality rescue.

My research path led me to find Samui Elephant Sanctuary. They are a small sanctuary that was established just over two years ago. While the experience was expensive compared to other options ($100 USD pp), we left feeling like our money was supporting a wonderful organization. The number one rule for visiting Samui Elephant Sanctuary is “no food, no friend.” It takes the staff many months to help assure the elephants that they are safe; humans will only interact with them if they are giving them treats, so that eventually they learn every human interaction is a positive one. Our three-hour visit included walking the grounds of the sanctuary, learning the stories of each elephant (seven total- all female) and about elephants in general, and giving them lots of bananas.

Get a Massage: You will see signs just about everywhere for Thai massage. A traditional Thai massage is a combination of pressure point massage and stretching. You are often times fully clothed for the massage as it involves much more movement than a traditional deep tissue massage. We had a beach-side massage that we found walking back from our hotel. We paid 300 baht per person for what ended up being 90 minutes (this is approx. $10 USD) and tipped another 100 baht after the massage was over. 300 baht is about the going rate for massages, and you will find that nicer hotels charge significantly more than this. Look at reviews online if a street location offers massages and you’ll be happy paying nearly nothing for an afternoon of relaxation.


Day 5- Koh Samui – Hop on a Motorcycle: You will quickly find that most people get around the islands via motorcycle. We rented a motorcycle for the day through our hotel and suggest you go a similar route if you decide to rent. The hotel charged us 250 baht for the day compared to 100 baht rates on the island, but for a few dollars more you won’t have to leave your original passport sitting in a shack downtown. Driving on the left side of the road takes a bit of an adjustment, but you’ll find it’s much easier to see some of the remote parts of the island this way. We went from the Silavadee Resort to the Tan Rua Waterfall. We hiked a small bit around the waterfall area, left the jungle and went to Fisherman’s Village for lunch. There are a ton of restaurants and cute shops in this area and it’s a great place to spend an hour or two. From Fisherman’s Village we hopped back on the bike and went to the Big Buddha. To finish the day we had High Tea at the Vana Belle Resort- an experience we highly recommend doing at a nice hotel on the island.

Day 6 – Koh Samui – Set Sail: One of the primary reasons we decided on going to Koh Samui was so that Tuck’s dad could scuba dive. Koh Samui has some of the best access to dive sites in the country, which are about an hour away on a speedboat. We booked the trip via The Dive Academy and highly recommend them for any scuba trips in Koh Samui.

Day 7 – Travel Day – Chiang Mai

Thailand Tip: eat ALL the khao soi in Chiang Mai. Khao Soi is a northern Thai, chicken curry, that can only be found in Chiang Mai and surrounding towns. Every food stall and restaurant has their spin on the recipe, and we could not get enough. It costs about 30 baht ($1 USD) for a large bowl, and we suggest eating it everywhere you can before you leave! You’ll miss it dearly when you are gone.

Chiang Mai was our favorite city in Thailand. We loved that we could walk most of the city; it was much smaller and more approachable than Bangkok. We also loved the night markets and the hipster vibes that we felt throughout the city. There are tons of cute coffee shops, art galleries, and boutique stores to peek your head in on the main streets. Visit A(nother) Night Market: we were very lucky that Ryan’s cousin Justin happened to be in Chiang Mai for three weeks before we arrived. He was our resident tour guide for the night and made our first night in Chiang Mai one of our most memorable of the trip.

The prominent night markets and food markets are located outside of the east gate of the main city. Ploen Ruedee is a very western feeling food market with a number of food vendors. Prices are higher here compared to other markets but the food is more approachable if you are having a hard time digging into the street food concept. Chill Square at Anusarn Market is another food market – it is larger than Ploen Ruedee and has more traditional local foods. The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, at the intersection of Chang Khlan Road and Loi Khro Road, is one of the largest markets in the country. There are thousands of vendors selling art, souvenirs, and food products. You can spend hours upon hours sight seeing at these nighttime markets!

Day 8 – Chiang Mai- Take a Hike: One of the main activities Tuck’s mom wanted to do in Chiang Mai was the Doi Suthep Hike. The Doi Suthep Temple is up a steep mountain just outside of downtown Chiang Mai. You can take a truck cab up to the top of the temple or you can hike from town, which is a steep 2 hour hike. If you are physically fit, this is one of our favorite things we did on our entire trip. Tips for doing the full hike are as follows:

  1. Use the instructions from this website to get to the start of the hike. The website has incredibly specific instructions, and without them, we would have never found the starting point. Bring extra cash to tip your Grab driver because it is nearly impossible to find this point specifically on a map.
  2. The hike starts with a 30 minute leisurely climb that brings you to the first temple- we don’t know the name of this temple but it was our favorite of all the temples we saw. Contrary to the website above, we didn’t see many orange flags on the route but we never felt lost. The temple looks like it simply grew out of the jungle and has a very different feel than the other temples throughout Thailand.
  3. Here is where things got a little tricky and the website above was less helpful. After you pass the first temple, you will hike until you reach the main driving road. The trail will look as though it has stopped and you will be sure you are lost. When you reach the road, cross the metal barrier and walk a few minutes uphill. Across the street you will see another entrance to the remainder of the hike. This next part of the hike is very steep and much harder than the first part. It took us about 90 additional minutes to get from temple 1 to the Doi Suthep Temple, and we were hiking pretty hard. It was SO rewarding and we suggest it if you are interested, but having water, quality shoes, and leaving early in the morning are essential. Once you cross the second steep part of the hike you will get to the same road again at a different point. Follow the road on the side of the street until you get to the Doi Suthep Temple entrance. You have to pay a small fee (always have cash on hand!) to enter. From the top you have incredible views of Chiang Mai.

Eat Where Anthony Bourdain Ate: All of Thailand is known for its street food, but one of the more famous stalls is the Cowboy Hat Lady outside the North Gate, at the Chang Phueak Food Market. Anthony Bourdain made the trip to see her, so you know what she’s serving must be some good stuff. The Cowboy Hat Lady serves stewed pork over rice and it is simple but incredibly delicious. So good, in fact, we ate there twice. There are a number of other food vendors outside the North Gate, and we sampled fresh coconut, khao soi, and pad thai on the nights we ate there.

Day 9 – Chiang Mai – Take a Cooking Class: One of the signature activities in Chiang Mai is to take a cooking class. We booked a class at the Yummy Tasty Thai Cooking School via AirBnb Experiences. Noodle, our host, picked us up at our hotel and took us to a local food market. She gave a great presentation about different Thai ingredients, how to pick them, and what dishes they are used in. After the market trip was a quick drive to her cooking studio. We loved this class and recommend it to anyone in Chiang Mai because you each get to pick 5 dishes to make during cooking class. This means that between the two of us, we were able to make two soups (Tom Yum and Tom Kha Gai), two appetizers (Green Papaya Salad and Thai Spring Rolls), two noodle dishes (Pad Thai and Pad See Ew), two curry pastes and two curry dishes (Khao Soi and Massaman Curry), and two desserts (Mango with Sticky Rice and Coconut Sweet Potato Rice). We paid $55 total for the two of us, left so full we needed a nap afterwards, and learned so much about Thai food. An absolute must-do if you are in Chiang Mai!

Thailand Tip: Book a cooking class for the beginning of your stay in Thailand, particularly if you are struggling to enjoy the food while you are there. This helps explain the ingredients and makes things feel much more approachable when you are looking at menus when you are out to eat. Shop Around Town: we loved Chiang Mai because the city is meant for walking and street shopping. There are tons of shops, boutiques, art galleries, and cute restaurants to experience- most of which can be found on the main streets. Soi Prapokklao (runs north to south) and Soi Ratchadamnoen were two of our favorite streets to window shop.