We had a good rest once we got home, and then ventured out for dinner in the old part of town. We used our guide-book and found a great little place- what appeared to be a hole in the wall opened up into a courtyard restaurant filled with antiques and tropical plants. We had traditional Lanna food (northern style) – traditional enough we didn't care for most of it! We had a baby eggplant salad, a northern style curry (not like the curries you eat in US Thai restaurants), and fried rice wrapped in an egg patty – something like an omelet. The curry had young jackfruit, which is something like an artichoke heart, at least when served in curry. We didn’t like it much.
(cute restaurant per our guide book)
(authentic northern food we didn't like much - of course the morning glory fried in oyster sauce - in the middle- was great!)
After dinner we decided to save money and walk several blocks further to the Night Bazaar in order to find the killer robot T-shirt Ty really wanted. We ended up walking through the hotel neighborhoods we had toured earlier when we were picking up and dropping off our other elephant tour members. The hotel district was buzzing with night life – neon bars, Thai women waiting for tourists to show up (whether it was a general night life kind of waiting, a specific customer kind of waiting, or if they were hired by the bar to create a sense of crowds already visiting, was hard to say). It was hard to walk through this party scene since it’s nothing we are interested in, and fulfilled a lot of the stereotypes about Thai tourist culture. But it was also goo to see what we had been sheltered from so far. We passed a local boxing ring for muay thai, but there was no fight that night. The paths to the ring were lined with repetitions of the exact same bar every 10 feet – pool table, drink station, dressed up Thai girls bored and texting while waiting for tourist men to show up. Literally both sides of the alley were lined with the same bars, all matching the ones adjacent, and all empty since this was the low season for tourism. It was also still early for the night scene, maybe 9 o’clock, but we did see one white family including a very young boy (maybe 8 years old?) playing checkers in front of one of the bars. In fact, I saw another young boy and his father at another bar – granted it was early but it still seemed very strange to have children in a place like this! It wasn't seedy (yet – perhaps because they were all empty) but it was very clear the intentions of the entertainment being provided.
(Thai nightlife in the low season)
We made it to the Night Bazaar and bartered somewhat successfully (for us- we still got rebuffed most of the time), for some more gifts and souvenirs. We tried to do the “doctor fish pedicure” (where fish eat your dead foot skin) as our friend Kelly requested – but one look at the SWARMS of fish, and my stomach churned and I almost ran away! Sorry Kelly! I'll show you pictures and you'll understand! I had pictured a fish here, a fish there, a little nibble...there were at least 100 fish per foot all munching away!!
(Night Bazaar doing it's thing)
(ew....no, these feet do not belong to us!)
We made the long walk home from the Night Bazaar in a light rain – we had forgotten this would be double the walk since we had stopped for dinner on the way – but we also got to experience how far the exterior stalls extended beyond the market. We saw more parts of town outside the old city, so felt we were seeing another side of Chiang Mai. But the long walk also meant we got very tired and cranky. Almost back to our hotel, we remembered the North Gate Jazz CoOp a few doors down, which we had forgotten to check out every night of the week. We decided just to walk by and check it off our list.
I had read about the surprisingly good jazz in Thailand and Chiang Mai in particular. The current king is a jazz instrumentalist and has played here and in the US with some jazz legends such as Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, Herbie Hancock, and Thelonius Monk! The king is apparently a saxophonist worthy of being hired by Benny Goodman (he made an offer), and plays several other instruments as well. As a result, there was a trend in the 60's jazz scene of coming to Thailand to play, as well as the king playing in the US when visiting there. What we heard at the Jazz CoOp was the legacy of that period – and I dare say some of the best live jazz I have heard, even coming from the Bay Area. In college, I dated a jazz trumpeter and got exposed to a lot of great music and shows. Sadly (and I kick myself to this day), I didn't take time to learn and understand who I was listening too, so good jazz is more of a memory to me than part of my musical collection. Regardless, after seeing some big and small names play great sets at UC Davis (where very good jazz plays regularly on campus), and Yoshi's in Oakland, and some smaller shows (and many CDs) on the side, I can say this jazz tonite is my favorite show yet. The drummer, bassist, saxophonist, and guitarist were Thai. Another sax and trumpet player where white – presumably expats staying there long term.
The bar is set on a busy road in old town (so, relatively “busy”) just across the street from the moat and old city walls, between perfectly normal businesses by day. There is a small main room, a small upstairs overlooking the main room, and a large front to the patio and street, where we filled the sidewalks. The scene was heavily expat but plenty of thai came as well. As usual, as many folks were there to be seen as to listen – but we got a great table by the band and got to watch up close. They were all really, really good, both as individuals and as an ensemble. We stayed for about an hour until the house closed, enjoying Thai beer, local hipsters, and great music. What a great way to end our last night in Chiang Mai! When the show closed, we walked all of half a block to our hotel and crashed.