21/11/2008 – Hello to Chiang Mai
Being on an open carriage meant that once one person was up and about, we all were. Not that I was getting much sleep. The breakfast they brought was truly awful – the sausage was less than half an inch (and Jimmy’s had a hair on it), the ham looked like dog food so I made an egg sandwich out of the fried egg and bread.
The morning on the train was pleasant though. The scenery was stunning and I allowed myself to be consumed with my daydreams as I watched the lush green foothills rise and fall.
We arrived in Chiang Mai 14 hours after leaving Bangkok and caught a taxi to SpicyThai Backpackers which is a hostel Jimmy and Kelly have been to several times. Its a great hostel situated in a residential street with free Internet, breakfast, TV and dvds and more. The people at the hostel are known for their friendliness and Jimmy and Kelly are good friends with them.
We settled in, showered and changed then went to Smoothie Blues cafe for food. I had the most delicious cup of tea and sandwich. I keep forgetting how much I love a good cup of tea and how mood-altering it can be for me.
When we got back to the hostel Noom asked if we wanted to go Rat catching at his family’s farm where they had spent the day harvesting the rice. So we jumped in his car and headed to the farm via an ice cream parlour owned by an awesome artist who had decorated the cafe in with artwork. It was rad.
At the farm we clambered over to the corner of the field where they were smoking out the rats and bashing them on the head when they came out the other hole. I think they caught 6 rats in total. We were then invited back to Noom’s family home to cook and eat the rats, and I thought that it’s not often you get the opportunity to try something so different and I was eager to see a part of the real Thailand that I didn’t get to see in Bangkok and Phi Phi.
At the house we were treated so well by Noom’s family, his Dad running out to the shop to buy a bag of Chang beer which the boys drank (Kelly and I don’t like beer unfortunately). I tried some rice wine mixed with water, but it tasted too strong for me. We then sat in the kitchen and watched the men prepare the rats for dinner. The head is removed but the rest of the rat is used. They used a small machete-like knife to bash the rat into mincemeat. Even the tail went in! The rat was then mixed in large bowl with a chilli paste mixture which I helped to do. Finally it was cooked in a wok on the stove. The preparation was done by the men, I think the rat dinner is an annual ritual at harvest time. I felt really privileged to be allowed to witness and included in this occasion.
We spent the evening enjoying the company of the Thai family and when dinner was ready we sat on the front terrace on the floor, as is done in Thai culture, to eat the Rat with Sweet Basil and Chilli with sticky rice. It didn’t taste too bad. The level of chilli meant you couldn’t really taste that much of a meaty taste. Sometimes you’d get some bones but nothing you couldn’t crunch through. The sauce was delicious and the sticky rice was fantastic. The whole experience was amazing, I`m so glad I had that opportunity.