It wouldn't be right if I didn't spend some time on the splendor that is Thai food. For under a dollar you can fascinate (and sometimes scorch) your taste buds on some of the most delicious food under the sun. Chile, garlic, cilantro, basil, lime, curry, coconut, and peanuts mingle in indescribable proportions in a land where "spicy" means painful and "not spicy" means pretty damn spicy.
The Thai people live up to their legendary friendliness and are always glad to explain the various dishes to bewildered farang foreigners. When language barriers make this difficult I have found that pointing at pretty much anything results in a sensational meal. Last night I had a fantastic Thai version of nime chow from a street vendor, hand made with tofu and fresh vegetables with green chile and cilantro sauce on the side. Also, just when I thought I had run out of new fruits to try, enter the mangosteen, a small purple fruit filled with tiny white globes that taste like a cross between a mango and a nectarine.
Its no wonder that cooking classes are so numerous and popular with visitors to Chiang Mai. Sampling authentic red curry or pad thai and experiencing the symphony of flavors within each dish inevitably leads to a desire to unlock the secrets of the cuisine and bring them home. I get the feeling, however, that these are not the types of dishes that can be replicated faithfully, so I defer to the masters and eagerly take on the role of appreciative taster.