I like visiting Thailand – and most of SE Asia – at year’s end. Lots of special events are happening then and even though the countries are not Christian, Xmas decorations are all over the place. It’s always interesting to see the versions of a Westerners holiday people of the East come up with. I usually have more time at that time of the year too, so I have the opportunity of travelling to different countries, or to visit new areas of countries I’ve already visited.
Above all else, though, the humidity and hot weather typical of SE Asia is at its less oppressiveness at the end of the year. Hard to believe, but I’ve even felt what had to have qualified as a cool breeze late at night in Bangkok in December. Only for a moment, only a small gust or two, but still. If you head up north to Chiang Mai, it can even get chilly. Take along a local from Bangkok and he’ll freeze his ass off.
Whatever time of the year I visit, I spend more hours out and about at night than I do during the day. Even in 100+ degree weather, it’s still cooler at night. And third-world big cities look a lot better at night too. Day or night, one of my favorite pastimes is eating and the street-side food carts of Thailand can’t be beat for grabbing a quick bite. I often haven’t a clue as to what it is I’m eating, and really would prefer not to know. I can usually identify bugs and avoid them, anything else is fair game.
Like the city, food carts take on a different look at night. Colors seem richer, you can see the steam rising from cooking fires, and there are always more people grabbing whatever it is that’s being offered so it appears it may be something worth trying. In areas I frequent I have my favorite vendors and favorite foods. Servings are always small though so a few minutes later, sometimes an hour later, there’s room for more and an opportunity to try something new.
Anytime I visit Chiang Mai I make sure I’m there during the Sunday Night Market. I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought anything at the market. Accept for food. I pig out. There is a vendor at one of the wats who serves fried banana with a coconut sauce that is pure heaven. Better than any others I’ve tried elsewhere. That is always my first stop of the night. And my last stop on the way back to the hotel too.
Anytime I can get away with skipping dinner and snacking the night away at food carts, I’m a happy camper. Thais tend to eat small meals and they eat them often as opposed to the Westerner practice of three big meals a day. In the heat, that’s a smart move. You never feel stuffed. It also allows for more variety too. Even eating every hour or so, at 10 – 15 baht a dish, it’s cheap dining, and one of my favorite things about Thailand.
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