Vol. III No. 43 - Saturday October 23 - October 29 2004
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FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

A Lanna delight for locals and tourists

Crossbows in the jungle

In Search of the Chili Crab

A Lanna delight for locals and tourists

Sunday Walking Street and Markets - a good place to find bargains

Nopniwat Krailerg

Weekends are a period for relaxation for everyone. They are days for us to take a rest, escape from traffic congestion, and recharge our batteries before starting on our busy weekdays.

No smoking signs on display for sale

The Sunday Market is another alternative that can add color to our days and relax our minds. It is a market located right in the heart of Chiang Mai City, on busy roads filled with vehicles during weekdays but incredibly turned into a pedestrian mall on Sundays. At this market, you will see Chiang Mai locals, Thai and foreign tourists all doing their shopping.

Monks on Walking Street observe wooden bird carving.

This Sunday pedestrian market has existed for over three years. It sells various categories of goods, clothes, souvenirs, home decorations and food. It begins on Thapae Road at the Thapae Gate and runs through Ratchadamnoen Road to the Klang Wiang intersection where it splits into two ways, one running towards Wat Chedi Luang and another heading to Three Kings Monument.

Sunday is a good day for shopping.

If you walk it all, you will need to be fit, as it is not a short trip! During your stroll you will see products for sale displayed on the ground. Goods being sold at the market are of various kinds including Lanna handicrafts and art, produced by Lanna people and hill tribes.

 

Amongst the indigenous people found there are Hmong hill tribe folk who bring their traditional clothes, skirts, silverware, earrings and bracelets to be sold, as another way to earn a living.

Asking for donations

Cotton clothes produced by housewives in many neighboring districts are available at bargain prices. Saa paper, Saa paper products, oil paintings, and artists who will sketch you on the spot abound at the walking market.

Thai instrumental bands, which perform beautiful songs using traditional Sa Lor, Sor (fiddle) and Sueng instruments can be listened to on your walk.

Looking for the best bargains for gifts and/or souvenirs.

Prices of these goods are not too expensive because most of them are sold by their producers, unlike purchasing from the middleman at other markets where they are sold more expensively.

After a tiring walk, you can find refreshment around the Klang Wiang intersection or even take in a foot massage. Thai desserts, ice cream, juice (in bamboo cup) and fresh fruits are also recommended choices to refresh you while taking a break.

Ceramic water jars

The Sunday Walking Market is one we would recommend to you. The market provides you with various choices of inexpensive gifts and decorations to add color to your homes or gifts to delight your friends.

This Sunday market is one of the campaigns promoted by Chiang Mai province in cooperation with Chiang Mai Municipality, the Chiang Mai Commerce Office, and rural development division of Chiang Mai Municipality.

Previously, some complaints were made that some vendors were bribing officials to snare good locations to sell items such as underwear, revealing clothes and plastic toys imported from China. Now the market has changed and vendors that are only supposed to sell Lanna products.

The Sunday Walking Street and Market has a charm and beauty in itself and is a very relaxing way to finish the week.

This little shopper shows a lot of interest in the toys on display.

Lanna products on sale


Crossbows in the jungle

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

Antonio Graceffo

Litee Akha, the champion marksman of Northern Thailand, set the butt of the large crossbow against his flat belly. With both hands, he expertly pulled the powerful string into place. There was an audible “click” as the trigger popped into the ready position. He removed the short bamboo arrow from his mouth, rubbed it with natural beeswax, and set it in the groove, atop the ancient weapon. Holding the bow in a straight line, away from his body, he took careful aim, and pulled the trigger. The deadly projectile flew threw the air, straight and true as any shot ever fired by William Tell, hitting the target, dead center.

Crossbows in the jungle

We all applauded, causing him to smile brightly. His teeth, darkened by countless years of chewing betel nut, remained invisible in the growing darkness. “Tomorrow I will teach you,” said Litee Akha, “But tonight, we drink whisky and eat bugs.”

Learning to use a traditional crossbow was something I had always wanted to do. Since coming to Asia, drinking the fiery, most likely poisonous, liquid that the hill tribes referred to as whisky, has become old hat. But I still couldn’t stomach the fried bugs.

The short bamboo arrow is rubbed with natural bees wax and set in the groove on top.

My host was Darren, a Brit, who owns Rose Guesthouse in Chiang Mai, whose Thai wife grew up near the tribal village. After they were married, they built a house as a weekend getaway but it soon became a kind of community center for tribal people, who would pop over to watch TV, help in the garden, or in this case, teach archery.

Setting up.

Some of the older boys went out into the garden to catch frogs, which would be cooked on the grill. Darren turned on the outside lights, so the village children could catch the thousands of flying insects, who hovered around the bulbs. Once caught, they were placed in a bucket of water, so that they couldn’t fly away. Later, the women and children sat on the floor, picking the wings off the bugs so that they could be fried, and eaten like popcorn.

Holding the bow in a straight line, away from the body, it needs careful aim, before pulling the trigger.

Luckily, Darren was grilling about 90 kilos of pork! When the bugs were offered, I made some excuse about having eaten bugs for lunch, and tore into the fresh cooked pork, like I hadn’t eaten in months.

The next morning we manly-men, Darren and I, lead by Litee Akha, armed with cross bows and machetes, set out on our hunting safari. It would have been more authentic, had we been going quietly, on our bellies, like Marines. But instead, we had a gang of about twenty village boys following us, shooting anything and everything with their sling shots. The fun thing about being in the woods with hill tribes is that they find food everywhere. The kids kept scaling trees, or hacking up roots, to share edible plants with us. Of course, the noise was deafening. I would almost rather have been in Bangkok during rush hour.

Nobody knows that these are not wild water buffaloes, but have bells around their neck.

“If I were an animal, I would have run away by now,” I told Darren. “Can you still get your story?” he asked. “Yeah, just keep the kids out of the picture, and snap a photo of me shooting those water buffalo over there,” I said. “But they are domesticated farm animals,” Darren pointed out. “The readers won’t know that,” I protested. “They have bells around their necks, and some of them are tied to trees,” was his reply. “Well, just try not to get the bells in the photos. And, if you can, try not to make me look so fat.”

With the whole village standing one meter behind me, snickering, I readied my weapon, and tiptoed up on the water buffaloes, or were they oxen? They may have been cows for all I knew. Anyway, the photos were somewhat believable.

“Have you got your story, now?” asked Darren. “Sort of. But since we are hunting, I would feel better if we had a photo of us actually killing something.” One of the hill tribe boys pulled a badly mangled, dead frog from his bag, and laid it on the ground. To his credit, Litee Akha had more scruples than me, refusing to shoot a dead animal. But as always, the dollar won out in the end, when I offered to buy not one, but two cross bows, if he would let me photograph him shooting the dead frog. When he went over to retrieve his arrow, he looked like a visitor to a county fair, eating shishkebab on a stick.

“You aren’t going to print that,” asked Darren. “Of course I am. But don’t tell anyone it was staged,” I said, swearing him to secrecy. I had learned to shoot a cross bow and how to catch and eat bugs. The hill tribes had learned how to fake a magazine layout. Everyone walked away a winner. You can contact the author at: [email protected] or contact Darren, to visit the hill tribes and shoot a crossbow and eat bugs at [email protected]


In Search of the Chili Crab

Almost as difficult as finding Nemo

Rebecca Lomax

It was early on a Friday morning when the cook and I set out for a weekend in Singapore, compliments of Silk Air and the Meritus Mandarin. We breezed through Immigration and Customs - they even offered us candy during our brief wait - and were out into beautiful Singapore Changi Airport before we knew it.

The tiny Wak Hai Cheng Bio Temple, one of Singapore’s oldest, is dwarfed by the modern city skyline. One of the many beautiful sights we enjoyed.

Changi Airport could be a shopping destination unto itself with Prada, Ferragamo, and Dior shops interspersed among stores featuring gold, diamonds and jade. Orchids and pools filled with koi abound. You can even sip tea and be serenaded by a string quartet while you wait for your next flight. But we had other things to do, so we bought two shuttle bus tickets and headed into town to the stylish Meritus Mandarin Hotel.

The incense lanterns where we sent prayers heavenward to locate the crab seemed to work.

Our room overlooked busy Orchard Road, named for the nutmeg and pepper plantations that formerly lined this present-day consumers’ paradise. Huge trees shade the busy, multi-laned road but are dwarfed by the five star hotels and upscale shopping malls. A brief neighborhood walk before heading out to dinner showed us safe sidewalks absent of litter and cross streets with lights that were scrupulously obeyed by drivers.

On our search for the crab we had to queue for taxis, what a bore!

Determined to find the best of local food, and being from New Orleans, we decided to try the local seafood specialties at the Marina. The guide books and our concierge both told us that the local specialty known as “chili crab” was not to be missed. It is offered at any number of seafood restaurants, but we decided to try to find the original.

We tried it all during our search. Boat Quay and the central business district.

According to Roland Lim, proprietor of Roland’s Restaurant, his mother concocted the first chili crab “way back in 1956.” The Lims later emigrated to New Zealand, but son Roland, knowing a good thing when he tasted it, came back to Singapore and opened his own restaurant featuring mom’s creation.

Finding Roland’s was a little like Finding Nemo. Nobody seemed to be able to tell us where the street was located. But on faith and growling stomachs, we ventured forth and eventually found the huge warehouse of a restaurant that served heavenly food. No ambience, just food.

We ordered the chili crab, of course, but we also ordered crispy fried baby octopus tossed in a sweet soy sauce and topped with cilantro (coriander), fried calamari and soft shelled crab. The baby octopus was served first, and was amazing. Tiny, crisp sweet bits, with the sauce coating caramelized over each bite. The calamari and soft shelled crab were also world class.

Then came the piece de resistance, the chili crab. The enormous local crab sat hot and steaming on a bed of delicious tomato, chili and egg sauce. The crab had been taken apart, the shell cracked for ease of eating, and the entire thing reassembled for presentation. Sauce had been poured over it, guaranteeing a messy but delicious eating experience. How can I describe Roland’s except to say that the cooking part of our partnership went in search of recipes and invested a tidy sum in a new cook book the next day.

Did we enjoy the famous “hawkers’ stalls” of Singapore? Of course. Did we shop at the kitchen supply houses? Definitely. But we never found another dish so simple, yet so delicious as the chili crab.



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