Board Game Cafe: Chubby Cat, Chiang Mai


You know what's cool? Board games are cool.


Once a week I spend four or five hours sat in a brightly-lit Board Game Cafe called Chubby Cat, trying to choose the most valuable sushi cards, get the highest tower of tiny plastic cappuccino cups or desperately trying to convince everyone that we really should learn how to play Settlers of Catan because a Tinder guy once said it was amazing.


Our lives are becoming more and more dominated by our screens. I write online, meet new people online, chat with my mum on Skype, arrange events on Facebook, post photographs to Instagram, talk with friends on Messenger, use Whatsapp when I'm forced to and I've just purchased Age of Empires 2. And you know what, that's OK. I love my online life.

But human connection is way, way better.

There's more to board games than cardboard and counters. I honestly believe that playing them brings people closer together and results in more meaningful human connections and interactions. Some board games encourage you to share your glorious imagination, some get you teaming up with other players to strive for a common goal and some result in the kind of hysterical laughter that lights you up for hours.

All kinds of people want to spend their evenings arguing over who gets to be the yellow piece.

Board games have a reputation of being for kids, geeks and hipsters. If you think that, well... you're wrong. It's not just Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts and single-gear bicycle riders that have encouraged entrepreneurs to open thousands of board game cafes all over the world.

Chubby Cat is my favourite board game cafe in Chiang Mai so far.

It's welcoming, clean and cheap. It's not fancy - in fact, it's pretty basic - but it's stocked with the biggest selection of games I've seen so far in Chiang Mai.

Chubby Cat has wide appeal. I see all kinds of people there - travellers, Thai uni students, teachers, digital nomads, volunteers AND geeks and hipsters. I'm pretty sure that kids are welcome at Chubby Cat, but I hardly ever see any.

It costs just 30 baht an hour, and you take your own food and drink.

The evening food stalls on nearby Suthep Road sell rice, noodles, soup, meat, snacks, smoothies, dessert - you won't be hungry. There's a 7-11 right next to Chubby Cat for cheesy puffs, water and beer, and a coffee stand that sells delicious freshly ground 30 baht coffee.

Turn up with friends, food and drink; choose from the Big Shelf of Games; and play.

The Big Shelf has games like Settlers, Snake Oil, Game of Thrones, Sushi Go, Cappucino, Ticket to Ride, Exploding Kittens, Love Letters, Doggy Go, Meeples, Pandemic and more. I can't remember them all, but there's gonna be something you love there.

You know another thing I love there? The guy who owns Chubby Cat.

He's this friendly, smiley guy with a really nice voice. His time at Chubby Cat is spent time watching YouTube videos, playing computer games and teaching us how to play different games. Every so often he'll wander over to check who's winning, nod his head and wander back to his computer. The cards in each game are lovingly encased in plastic wallets to protect them from grubby paws and it's clear that games are this guy's life. He's great.

Embrace the analog. Come play games with me?

Find Chubby Cat here:


Oh and by the way, the most valuable Sushi Go! card is definitely the wasabi, followed immediately by a squid nigiri. You're welcome.


Store Directory: Maya Chiang Mai Shopping Mall

Looking for a specific shop in Maya Chiang Mai?

Maya Chiang Mai Store Directory

Basement 1: Strolling Mart


  • Anatara Thai Massage
  • Bangkok Clinic
  • Beauty Buffet
  • Beauty Cottage
  • Boots - pharmacy, health & beauty
  • Gust Cake Bakey
  • Life Ford Paris
  • Make Up More
  • Mister Donut
  • Naiin - books & magazines
  • Pharmacare Plus
  • Phung Noi Bakery
  • Rimping Supermarket

G Floor: Cosmo Boulevard

  • American Eagle Outfitters - fashion
  • CC-OO - fashion
  • Clinique - beauty
  • Dhara Devi Bakery - including delicious macarons
  • Espada - fashion
  • F:Lab Fashion & Cafe
  • Guess - watches
  • Herb Basics - bath & shower, home scents
  • Ikon
  • Jaspal - fashion
  • Jelly Bunny - scented jelly shoes
  • Lyn - fashion
  • Naraya - bags
  • Nohmex - handicrafts
  • NYX - makeup
  • Panpuri - home scents
  • Perfume Shop
  • Starbucks Coffee
  • Teddy House - bears & bear fashion
  • The Face Shop - beauty products
  • Time Deco - watches
  • Villains SF - shoes
  • Wacoal Body Clinic

2 Floor: Stylish Avenue

  • 71 Export - fashion
  • Adidas - sportswear, fashion
  • American Tourister - suitcases
  • Auntie Annie's - pretzels, coffee, bakery
  • Bangkok Clinic - skin whitening, body firming etc
  • Blue Corner - fashion
  • Bratpack - fashion
  • Busaba - accessories
  • Crocs - shoes
  • Delsey & Florsheim - suitcases
  • Eye Class - glasses
  • Eyes Gallery by K Optic - opticians
  • Giordano - fashion
  • Lee - fashion
  • Levi's - fashion
  • MC Jeans
  • Nixon - watches
  • NYLA - fashion
  • Riotino - fashion
  • Sabina - underwear
  • Shoes Fantasy
  • Sports World
  • Tsuruha - drug store
  • Viva Loco - colourful fashion, accessories and random tat
  • Wacoal - underwear
  • Watsons - drug store, health & beauty
  • Wrangler - fashion

3 Floor: Digitech Street

  • AIS - mobile phone service provider
  • Asia Books
  • Big Camera
  • Cat Telecom
  • Daiso - cheap Japanese products
  • Dtac - mobile phone service provider
  • Government Savings Bank
  • Jaymart - mobile phones
  • K Love Phone
  • Kasikorn Bank
  • Muang Thai Life Insurance
  • Oppo - electronics
  • Samsung
  • Sinet - internet service provider
  • Six Star Travel
  • Somjai Stationary
  • Thai Life Insurance
  • Thai Rent A Car
  • TMB Bank

4 Floor: Food Bazaar

  • Black Canyon Coffee
  • Coco Ichibanya
  • Fin Sushi
  • Fuji
  • Guu Roti
  • Hakoneake
  • Jeffer Steak
  • KFC
  • Krua Rincome
  • Miyabi
  • Miyazaki
  • MK Restaurant
  • Mon Chou Chou
  • Natthakarn Southern Food
  • Shabushi
  • The Duke's
  • Tudari Express
  • Yayoi

5 Floor: Cinematic Arena

  • CAMP - 24 hour coffee shop, cafe & co-working space
  • Disney Store
  • EX10 Karaoke & Game
  • Maxx Professional Fitness Gym
  • Play House
  • SF Cinema

6 Floor: Nimman Hill

  • Myst
  • Roof Bar

Store Directory: Central Festival Chiang Mai Shopping Mall

Looking for a specific shop in Central Festival Chiangmai?

1st Floor

Beauty & Health
  • Beauty Cottage
  • Boots
  • Etude House
  • P&F Superdrug
  • Watsons
Food & Drink
  • Amazon Cafe
  • Baby Bee
  • Saint Etoile
  • Unique Fresh
Other
  • Amaxs Health Furniture
  • Boomerang
  • Eye Lab
  • Karnkanok
  • Pro Clean
  • Quick Print
  • The Spring
  • Time Clinic

2nd Floor

Beauty & Health
  • Clarins Skin Spa
  • Sephora
Fashion & Accessories
  • Accessorize
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • Burton / Dorothy Perkins
  • Calvin Klein Jeans
  • Cath Kidson
  • Charles & Keith
  • CPS Chaps
  • Fred Perry
  • H&M
  • Jaspal
  • La Senza
  • Lacoste
  • Mango
  • Marks & Spencers
  • Miss Selfridge
  • MNG Touch
  • Omega
  • Pepe Jeans
  • Superdry
  • Topshop / Topman
  • Uniqlo
  • Victoria's Secret
  • Wallis
  • Zara
Food & Drink
  • Cold Stone Creamery
  • Doppio by Ristr8o Coffee
  • Starbucks
  • The Terrace
  • Vieng Joom On Tea House
  • Wine Connection
Jewelry & Watches
  • Dilavie
  • Jubilee Diamond
  • Pendulum
  • Prima Diamond
  • Sea & Hill Pearls
  • Thong Yaowaraj

3rd Floor

Beauty & Health
  • Skin Food
  • The Body Shop
  • Yves Rocher
Fashion & Accessories
  • Adidas
  • AIIZ
  • Bata Shoes
  • C&D
  • Camel Active
  • CC Double O
  • Celio
  • City Chain
  • Crocs
  • Daks
  • Espirit
  • Fit Flop
  • Geox
  • Giordano
  • Guy Laroche
  • Hush Puppies
  • Jelly Bunny
  • Kimono
  • Lee
  • Levi's
  • Lyn
  • Lyn Around
  • MC Jeans
  • New Balance
  • Paul Frank
  • Payless
  • Playboy
  • Pronto Denim
  • Rotelli Shoes
  • Samsonite
  • Skechers
  • St James
  • Sunshine
  • The North Face
  • Trucco
  • Veenuch Watch
  • Viera
  • Watch Station
  • Workshop
  • Wrangler
Food & Drink
  • Auntie Annes
  • Mister Donut
  • Mrs Fields
Optical
  • Lens & Time
  • Oakley

4th Floor

Banks
  • Bangkok Bank
  • Bank of Ayudhaya
  • Government Savings Bank
  • Kasikorn Bank
  • Krung Thai Bank
  • SCB Bank
  • TMB Bank
Food & Drink
  • Freshy Freeze
  • Love Mango
Electrical Appliances
  • Digi Life
  • Fisher & Paykel
  • Grand IT
  • IT City
  • Samsung Electric
Communications
  • Banana IT
  • BKK Telecom
  • Chiangmai Teleshop
  • CSC
  • Fair Phone
  • Happy I Case
  • HT Mobile
  • Jaymart
  • JBS Mobile
  • K Love Phone
  • Lanna Shop
  • M Shop
  • M&D Mobile
  • N Mobile
  • OK Phone
  • P.A. Phone
  • Pra Mobile
  • Pro M Mobile
  • Queen Phone
  • RI.Mobile
  • Samsung Maewang
  • Smart Phone & Tablet
  • Sure Life
  • Tai Mobile 4
  • TG Phone
  • TG Smart Phone
  • Tree Mobile
Camera Shops
  • Big Camera
  • Photo Hut
  • Photo Pro
  • World Camera
Services
  • AEON Thana Sinsap
  • AIS
  • Dtac
  • First Choice
  • iStudio
  • Muang Thai Life Insurance
  • Nokia
  • Siam Smile Cards Insurance Card Health
  • Sinet
  • Sony Center
  • Syn Mun Kong Car Insurance
  • Thai Life Insurance
  • TOT
  • True Move
  • Umay Plus
Other
  • Better Vision (opticians)
  • Music Collection (instruments)

5th Floor

Beauty & Health
  • Bangkok Clinic
  • Beyond The Sea Clinic
  • Bronze Day Spa
  • Cut & Curl
  • F.B. Medical Clinic
  • First Drug
  • Harly Hair Center
  • Madame Organic
  • Marvelous Clinic
  • Nitipon Clinic
  • Paradise Clinic
  • Pimnara Spa
  • Pornkaseam Clinic
  • Rajdhevee Clinic
  • Romrawin Clinic
  • Rue Royale
  • Slim Up Center
  • Sparsha
  • The Essence Medical Spa
  • White Perfect Treatment
  • Wuttisak Clinic
Food & Drink
  • Chester's Grill
  • Coffee World
  • Gelate
  • Gloria Jean's
  • Jeffer Steak
  • Jian Fishball Noodle
  • K Cuisine
  • Kane Mochi
  • Laem Cha-roen Seafood
  • Machita
  • Miyabe
  • Pang Ping Cafe
  • Saap Saap
  • Wagaya
  • Wawacha
Optical
  • Optical 88
  • Optic Square
  • Tokyo Optic
Other
  • Daiso (products from Japan)
  • K Starzone (products from Korea)
  • Quality Express (travel shop)
  • Wall Street (language school)
  • Major Cineplex Cinema

Which is the best shopping mall in Chiang Mai?

There are five main shopping malls in Chiang Mai. Here's the lowdown, maps to each included.



Central Festival - my number one choice

Check out Central Festival Chiangmai store directory here.

  • Has the most shops out of all malls in Chiang Mai
  • Lots of cheaper and expensive Western brand clothes shops
  • Lots of sports shops
  • A whole floor dedicated to mobile phones, computers, cameras, other tech and internet providers
  • Big Major Cineplex cinema
  • Decent air-conditioned fairly cheap food hall
  • Lots of restaurants, ice cream shops, bakeries, coffee shops and a tea house
  • Ice skating, Fun Planet with dance machines etc
  • Hairdressers and barbershops
  • All major Thai banks
  • Opticians
  • Lots of beauty clinics
  • A language school (Wall Street)
  • Bag and shoe repair shop
  • Tops supermarket
I go to Central Festival Chiangmai if I need new clothes or to go to the cinema.



Maya - my number two choice

  • Way fewer shop choices than Central Festival
  • Western brand clothes shops are mostly expensive
  • Nice air-conditioned food hall in the basement
  • Quite a few good restaurants, ice cream shops, coffee shops and bakeries
  • Big SF cinema
  • Most major banks (not Bangkok Bank though)
  • Mobile phone and internet service providers
  • EX10Karaoke & Game with dance machines, kareoke, racing games etc
  • 24 hour cafe with fast Wi-Fi (CAMP)
  • Rimp
  • Hairdressers and barbershops
  • Beauty clinics
  • Sky bar
I go to Maya because it's in a good location near Nimmanhaemin, to use CAMP, to go to the cinema and to shop for groceries at Rimping.



Central Airport Plaza - my number three choice

  • Old (but fine) Major Cineplex cinema
  • Robinsons department store
  • “Northern Village” local handicraft zone
  • Quite a few Thai brand clothes shops, a few Western brand clothes shops
  • Restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream shops
  • Beauty clinics
  • Most major banks
  • A whole floor dedicated to mobile phones, computers, cameras, other tech and internet providers
  • Opticians
  • A pretty cool boutique shop floor in the basement

Promenada Resort Mall - a bit too far out to go to unless there's an event on

  • Mostly coffee shops and restaurants
  • Great SF Cinema
  • Opticians
  • Most major banks
  • Massage
  • At night, there's live entertainment and Thai food

Kad Suan Kaew - my last choice (unless I'm going bowling)

  • Robinsons department store
  • Bowling
  • A sports shop
  • Tops supermarket
  • You can get passport photographs taken here

Should you wash fruit & vegetables in Thailand?

In short: yes. Scroll down to the bottom to find out the best cheap way.


Thai-PAN just released a report revealing that fruits and vegetables sold in Chiang Mai markets and supermarkets are pesticide contaminated at a harmful level.

I used to wash my fruits and vegetables. I stopped, because I thought I was being paranoid. But seems not.

Samples of the fruits and vegetables that we eat every day in Chiang Mai were shipped off to the UK for pesticide residue testing. I can't read Thai, so I did some digging. According to this Bangkok Post article, the report states that "46.6% of samples contained residues higher than the accepted safety standard level." The article doesn't specify if this is a Thai or UK safety standard level, but whichever it is - it's higher than it should be, right?

I find the results pretty sad, and I don't know if this is something I should worry about. What do you think?

The worst part for me is that "fruits and vegetables collected from modern trade outlets where consumers pay higher prices did not have much higher safety standards than those in wet markets, with 46% of produce from modern trade shops."

I (usually) specifically shop at supermarkets rather than fresh markets when I can because I thought they would be less likely to sell pesticide-contaminated products - especially when they outright state that they're clean.

The Bangkok Post article says that "25% of the products certified as being organic, which were supposed to be free of chemicals, were found to contain chemical residues exceeding the accepted standards." I don't buy organic, but I do try to buy produce with 'pesticide free' and 'pesticide residue free' stickers on them, specifically so I don't have to waste time washing them. This report is saying that the pesticide-free and pesticide-residue-free stickers on the products I buy... could mean nothing?

I wish they'd tested salad; that's the one thing that's a real bitch to wash and dry.

The image below, produced by Thai-PAN to show the results of the testing, shows that all of the red chillies, oranges and guavas tested had pesticide residue exceeding the standards. Most of the basil, yard long beans, kale, dragon fruit and papaya exceeded the standards. And a good percentage of mangoes, Chinese cabbages, morning glory, tomatoes and cucumbers failed too. But yay for clean baby eggplants, cabbages and watermelon!

source: http://www.thaipan.org/node/831

Sample size matters, though

According to Fruitnet.com, "the testing was based on 138 samples of fresh produce taken from various retail channels in the Greater Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ubon Ratchathani areas during mid-May."

I'd really like to know how many fruits and vegetables of each variety were tested. If just two oranges were tested, as I think Ploenpote from the Bangkok Post said here, that's just not a big enough sample size. Sure, it indicates that there could be a problem here, but it's not enough to say that ALL oranges in Thailand are above the safety standard. Does anyone know how many samples of each variety there were? Let us all know in the comments please :)

Banned, highly toxic pesticides found

Ploenpot said that the UK testers also found banned chemicals like carbofuran and methomyl on the cucumbers and oranges. I looked those two pesticides up. 

Wikipedia says that "carbofuran is one of the most toxic carbamate pesticides." Apparently it's particularly toxic to birds, and can be used to kill lions. I don't know about you, but I'm not that happy about inadvertently eating lion poison. Though obviously it's in much smaller quantities, so maybe it's nothing to worry about... the Wikipedia entry goes on to describe the effect of carbofuran in humans: 

"Carbofuran has one of the highest acute toxicities to humans of any insecticide widely used on field crops (only aldicarb and parathion are more toxic). A quarter teaspoon (1 ml) can be fatal. Most carbofuran is applied by commercial applicators using closed systems with engineered controls so there is no exposure to it in preparation. Since its toxic effects are due to its activity as a cholinesterase inhibitor it is considered a neurotoxic pesticide."
I wonder if poor farmers here apply carbofuran to their crops in a closed system with engineered controls, especially when this Greenpeace report states that "in order to save
labour costs associated with spraying, farmers often mix pesticides themselves,
creating a “cocktail” of several chemicals without considering their synergistic effects."

OK. How about methomyl? ................. crap.

"Methomyl is a carbamate insecticide introduced in 1966. It is highly toxic to humans, livestock, pets, and wildlife." -- Wikipedia

Switzerland won't import a whole bunch of Thai produce because the pesticide level is too high

I Google-translated this article from RTS.ch, written in French, which was shared on social media today. Apparently, mini-peppers, Thai aubergines, basil or pepper products grown in Thailand are no longer exported from the country.

How to remove pesticides from your fruit and vegetables

  1. Grow your own fruit and vegetables. Not really an option for me, and probably not for lots of you reading this.
  2. Don't worry about where you buy your fruit and veg from, and wash it before consumption. Heather over at Daily Mom says that you can do it by filling a large bowl with 1 part vinegar and 4 parts water and soaking your fruits and vegetables for 1.5 - 2 hours, then rinse and eat. White vinegar is super cheap here in Thailand.
  3. Alexandra from HealthyChild.org recommends discarding the outer layers of leafy vegetables before soaking.
  4. Eat more fruit and veg from 'The Clean 15' and less from 'The Dirty Dozen'.
I've seen some kind of detergent in Rimping that was labelled to be specifically for washing fruit and vegetables, too. 

Do you think restaurants wash their ingredients?

If you know anywhere that does this, let me know in the comments section :)

Escape Hunt Chiang Mai Review


When I received an invitation to be locked into a room and try to escape from it, I was pretty darn excited.

Does that make me weird?

Well, fine. I couldn't wait to get to Escape Hunt, right in the middle of the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai.

Escape Hunt Chiang Mai review

Escape Rooms are a big deal right now, and new ones keep opening up all over the world. Probably coz they're so much fun.

At Escape Hunt in Chiang Mai, teams of two to ten get locked in a room and try to escape from it by finding clues and solving puzzles.

Images of Saw-esque scenarios swam through my head. Would a masked villain whisper cryptic clues over the intercom in a raspy, zombie-ish voice? Would I have to chop off someone's leg with a rusty hack saw? My own? The possibilities seemed endless.

Three friends and I arrived ten minutes before the game and were greeted by a decidedly un-scary Thai lady dressed in a Sherlock Holmes style outfit. I was a little disappointed - where was the horrifying mask!? - but she was incredibly lovely, laid-back and helpful. We learned that we were to figure out The Tale of the White Elephant, a mystery set in the 1500's Lanna Kingdom.

Ms. Holmes briefed us on our mission in pretty much fluent English: we would be locked in a room, and had to decipher clues and solve puzzles to find where the mystical white elephant had hidden himself. 


Upon finding him, we would restore prosperity back to Chiang Mai. We had one hour to do it. If we hadn't found the white elephant within sixty minutes, Ms. Holmes would come and chop our legs off with a rusty hack saw.

Before leading us to the room, Ms. Holmes anointed my forehead with a special potion to open my third eye. She said it would definitely help. I believed her.

We were feeling pretty confident. We were three teachers and one writer, and at least 75% of the group is pretty smart.


We stepped into the first, dimly lit room and Ms. Holmes locked the door behind us. It was very exciting. The room was tiny, and after searching around for a while we found clues. Some clues were pretty cryptic and hard to find - there was a lot of pulling on things, overturning furniture, deciphering codes, listening to hidden speakers, finding footprints, shining light into pitch-black corners... I'm not going to reveal too much, though.

All you need to know is that it was a ton of fun, and sufficiently challenging. I don't think I've high-fived that much in such a short space of time... ever.


After blazing our way through a series of rooms, making plenty of mistakes and asking for help just once, we completed our mission with time to spare. Prosperity was restored to Chiang Mai - I don't know about you, but I'm pretty relieved. Our reward was tea and biscuits in the lounge area. Perfect. We drank tea and took a ton of photographs with suitably Sherlock-Holmes-y props.

Escape Hunt Chiang Mai review

Escape Hunt is really fun and different, and I definitely recommend it.


It's great for friends, and I would definitely do this with my family too. It's suitable for all ages - kids will really enjoy the mysterious adventure of it all, and it's not all so difficult that they'd feel left out. It's not scary at all. Couples could get really into this; it would be a fun way to challenge yourselves. I'd say the optimum team size is four to six people.

Essential Info

Open daily from 10am to 8.30pm
The Pavilion Building, 2nd Floor. Head behind McDonalds at the Night Bazaar.
Tel: 052001066

Psst - book online to get a 10% discount.


Thai Akha Kitchen Cooking School, Chiang Mai: Review

Akha-style Thai food is delicious.

Never heard of Akha? Well, they're one of the many hill tribes living in Northern Thailand. They have their own language, and a distinct culture and social system. All their villages are entered via an elaborately carved 'Spirit Gate', and their houses are segregated by gender. If you've been to Chiang Mai, you'll probably recognize their black jackets embroidered with colourful patterns and distinctive head-dresses.

Akha Thais have really great food.

Last Saturday, Abbie, Darko and I donned our aprons and created eleven delicious dishes at the Thai Akha Kitchen Cooking School, in the heart of Chiang Mai Old City. With the assistance of our friendly and knowledgeable teacher, Niti, we made a mountain of amazing food, including Hill-tribe salad, curries, stir fries, soup, homemade spring rolls and desserts - yum!
 
Psst - I've got My Chiang Mai Everything readers a sweet 20% discount off all classes at Thai Akha Kitchen. Details are at the bottom of this post!

If you know me, you'll know I'm really not a morning person, so I very much appreciated the hot filter coffee on tap at 8:15 a.m. As my (vegetarian) friend Abbie and I were consuming our caffeine, we were greeted warmly by Niti. Soon, our friend Darko also arrived, and we set off for a local market, picking up more cooking-class-students on the way.

Local Thai markets are chaotic spaces filled with people, colour, smiles, food, blood and noise.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai market

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai meat

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai fish

Our group wandered around the market, lead by Niti. She pointed out things of interest - did you know that every single part of the banana tree can be consumed!? - and purchased several delicacies for us to try, such as crunchy pig tails, Thai olives and various sweet snacks.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai market onions garlic

When we got back to the classroom, we sat at our clean, individual cooking stations and listened to Niti chat about her Akha life - she's a very interesting lady and a captivating speaker with genuine warmth and a fun-loving attitude.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai Niti

After learning about the Akha tribe, we tied our aprons and began to cook.

At Thai Akha Kitchen, students can choose what they want to cook from an extensive set menu.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai cooking station

We all pitched in to help Niti make papaya salad (som tam), sticky rice, fried spring rolls, Akha soup, Akha salad, Akha tomato dipping sauce, mango sticky rice and pumpkin in coconut milk.

At our own cooking stations, each student made one curry, one stir-fried dish and one soup using either meat and prawns or vegetarian-friendly ingredients, like tofu. I chose to whip up a green curry, chicken with cashew nuts and hot and sour prawn soup. Yum. Here's what we chose from:

  1. Red, green, massaman or penang curry
  2. Chicken with cashew nuts (gai ped med mamuang), chicken with basil (pad kapow), sweet and sour chicken or pad Thai.
  3. Hot and sour prawn soup (tom yung koong), chicken in coconut milk (tom kha gai), or clear soup with tofu.

We made SO MUCH food.

Niti showed us how to make curry paste from scratch, using a heavy stone pestle and mortar.

Apparently, if a Thai girl can make curry paste without clinking the mortar on the pestle, she will make a good wife. If she's a clinker, though, watch out! She'll be a lazy wife for sure. Nowadays, Niti revealed with a wink, most people use a blender.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai curry paste

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai curry paste

We rolled up our own spring rolls, and took them to be deep-fried by Niti.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai spring rolls

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai spring rolls

They were so crispy and delicious.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai spring rolls

Niti made (almost) everyone laugh by speaking with relish about 'fuk' - the Thai word for squash!

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai fuktong

The word for pumpkin is fuktong, and Niti really enjoyed telling us this fact with a big cheeky smile.

Everyone had a lot of fun.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai fun

Niti revealed the secret ingredients used to work magic in a Thai kitchen - specific ingredients to add as you cook.

We had a great time exploring their uses. Everyone had their own ratio preferences. If you want to know the secrets, you'll have to go to Thai Akha Kitchen yourself ;)

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai secret ingredients

I loved the actual cooking, but the best part for most people was eating delicious home-cooked Akha-style Thai food.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai food

After we'd finished cooking and eating, Niti gave each of us a booklet full of recipes we'd made that day.

Thai Akha Kitchen Chiang Mai discount

Wahoo! Thai Akha Kitchen want to give a 20% discount on all day or evening classes to My Chiang Mai Everything readers.

Simply message Thai Akha Kitchen using this contact page, and mention that you're a My Chiang Mai everything reader. Then, they'll book your places for you and apply the 20% discount - easy.

I recommend the outstanding Thai Akha Kitchen to people wanting to make a variety of Thai dishes.

The class gave us a fantastic overview of Thai cuisine, and Niti was a fabulously friendly, knowledgeable and fun teacher. I'm extremely happy to have discovered the secret ingredients of Thai cooking - I had always wondered what I was doing wrong!

Essential info:

  • Here's their website.
  • Classes cost 1000 baht for the full-day class, and 900 baht for the evening class.
  • To get the 20% discount, don't use the online booking method. Message them here to say you're a My Chiang Mai Everything reader.
  • A driver will pick you up from your city-centre accommodation.
  • You'll learn how to make eleven Thai-Akha dishes.
  • Free-flow local Thai coffee is available for the entire class.
  • Everyone eats together at the end of class.
  • Here's their Facebook page.
  • The instructors are awesome.
Here's a map!


Need pro photos in Chiang Mai? Loving Light Studios is amazing.

James De La Cloche creates truly kick ass photographs.


That's him, there, in the photograph above. He owns Loving Light Studios right here in Nimman, Chiang Mai, Thailand. He takes beautiful photos of people, properties and products - check out his portfolio here.


I realised that I could do with some professional photographs. So, I contacted James via Loving Light's Facebook page to ask if he would take some of me. This was a big deal - I'm really uncomfortable with being in front of a camera. The idea of being inside a professional photography studio terrified me, so of course I had to do it. I like doing (some) things that make me uncomfortable.


I was SO pleased with the photographs. Here's what happened.

James was awesome right from the initial correspondence. He was friendly, professional and had a great sense of humour. I told him that I tend to pull a stupid shark face in photographs, and that wasn't really the look I was after. He assured me that there would be no shark faces, and he'd love to shoot me (ha!). I warned him that I was rubbish in front of a camera. He said that he was particularly skilled at encouraging nervous subjects to chill out and relax. So, feeling reassured, we arranged a time and date for a 30 minute shoot. He'd take a bunch of photographs, and I'd get every one he took during the session, unedited, delivered via Dropbox. Then, I could choose ten for him to edit professionally. 

Unbelievably, the cost for everything was only 1,500 baht.

I pulled up at Loving Light Studios in the happenin' Nimman area of Chiang Mai, next door to Drunken Noodle. Feeling nervous and excited, I took in the huge prints of James' beautiful work on display - a rock and roll bride and groom, a sultry sophisticated woman, a man leaning against a wall. James greeted me in the swish reception and we headed upstairs to the studio.


First, we spent a while chatting. I'm pretty sure this was to build rapport with me and help me to relax - it worked.

James is incredibly friendly, charming and full of love and joy.

He's undeniably passionate about photography, has a particular penchant for exploring colour and movement, and really loves soap (he makes his own). He's a British guy with a beautifully rich voice and French heritage, which explained the surname. As we spoke, I noticed that his photography equipment and computer were really impressive - a sleek Mac computer, expensive camera lenses and huge, professional studio lights.

Before long, it was time to stand in the glow of the studio lights in front of the white background. I was feeling awkward, to say the least. James asked me to share a favourite childhood memory with him, and took photographs of me while I spoke. Afterwards, he said that this was so he could explore my natural expressions.

I was feeling a little more used to the camera by this point, but still pretty nervous.

James asked me what my favourite music was. I guessed it was to get me in a fun, relaxed mood, so I decided I wanted to listen to Horrorpops - they're fantastic, and I love the band members' styles. It helped so much, but James still wasn't convinced that I felt 100% comfortable. So he turned on a fan and blasted it into my face. Aha!

The fan was the answer.

I have no idea whether it was the white noise, or that there was something else to focus on, or WHAT - but I immediately felt better and my photograph-face began to improve. James spoke to me, made me laugh, asked me to think about different things and even made silly noises (apparently I respond to humour like a small child at times, haha). He was fantastic, and I was feeling more and more comfortable by the minute.

Over the next 30 minutes, James took hundreds of photographs of me.

Laughing, staring, headbanging, dreaming of a handsome man, thinking about my family, imagining that the camera was my friend, mother, lover.

When the session was finished, we said goodbye. A day or so later, James uploaded every photograph he'd taken to Dropbox and asked me to choose ten to be professionally edited. Man, it was hard to choose ten! But I did, with the help of my mum, and a few days later he uploaded the edits. My personal preference is a cooler tone, so I re-edited a tiny bit - though my boyfriend thinks that James' colour choice is much better, haha. Here's a sample - unedited, edited by James, then re-edited by me. Click for a larger version!




I love these photos!

If you want pro photos taken by James too, send him a message via Facebook or his website. I hugely recommend him. 1500 baht get you 30 minutes in the studio with a bunch of photographs and 10 professional edits. 3500 baht gets you one hour in the studio or in a location of your choice, all the photographs from the day and 5 professionally edited shots. 6000 baht gets you all that plus pro hair and makeup before hand. Pretty sure this is what I want to try next!

After this session, I sent Recycle Creative James' way. JUST LOOK AT THIS PHOTO BELOW. Wow.

Experience real Chiang Mai: A Local Friend


You're either thinking about coming to Chiang Mai or you've already booked your ticket. Yay!

Travellers in Thailand who journey north are richly rewarded with lush mountains, cascading waterfalls and vibrant cities. Chiang Mai is the best city in Northern Thailand (though admittedly, I may be a little biased). This incredible, multi-faceted place has something to entice every kind of traveller. Families will adore 3D art museums, cat cafes and rainforest expeditions. Couples can spend languid days splashing around in waterfalls, taking care of elephants and dining by the river. Music lovers can listen to incredible live jazz, mosh to local metal bands and jam with Thais and travellers in sweet hippy hangouts. History and culture buffs can tour temples, museums and out-of-town historical sites. Foodies can find delicious, off-the-beaten local eateries and modern city-centre restaurants serving international cuisine.

➳ Psst! I got my readers a SWEET freebie, details are at the bottom of this post ;)

It can be difficult to experience the real Chiang Mai.


Especially if you're here for a short holiday. Spend any time at all trying to plan what you're gonna do in Chiang Mai, and you'll know that there's so. much. information out there. Websites, blogs, videos, forums and guidebooks – it's easy to get overwhelmed. Travellers here for just a short while simply don't have time to waste.

Younique Travel planners Chiang Mai off the beaten path

So, how are you supposed to explore the real Chiang Mai?


You've got three options:

  1. Have a friend in Chiang Mai.
    They'll share their knowledge about all the awesome things going on in the city.
  2. No local friend?
    You could spend a lot of time ploughing through those never-ending travel resources to create your own fabulous plan.
  3. But if you're too busy for that...
    (and let's face it – who isn't) there's a fantastic, super-easy alternative, and I freaking love it.
I was enjoying a glass of wine (or three!) last weekend with new friends, talking about how we had no clue what to do or where to go when we first arrived in Chiang Mai. We all made mistakes. Travel in Asia is phenomenally rewarding, but definitely frustrating at times. Beautiful, exotic Chiang Mai is no exception.

When I first arrived in Chiang Mai, I came directly from India.

Like a lot of you, I didn't have time for thorough research and planning. 


Though I did lots of amazing things like trekking in the rainforest and travelling to the summit of Doi Inthanon, my lack of preparation resulted in me grimacing my way through some pretty awful touristy situations… cramped tours, unethical elephant riding, and eating meal after meal of bland, boring food.


I experienced enough to fall in love with the city. But now I've discovered so much that I wish I'd known about back then.
Younique Travel planners Chiang Mai cooking school

Let's fast-forward to now – I know the city really well and when friends and family visit, I know exactly where to take them. My new friends and I all agreed that having a local friend is just the best. So one guy at the table, Paul, told us about his new company. Oh my gosh, I love it.


The alternative: Younique Travel


Younique are Chiang Mai experts. They're your local friend who knows the city inside out.


Do you like to befriend locals? Explore off the beaten track? Discover the best temples that Thai eople actually worship at? Eat and cook real local food? Experience the city's modern, real-life side? Meet people from all over the world? Younique is definitely your cup of tea.


I wanted to test Younique out for you guys, so I contacted them to arrange a free 15 minute Skype chat.


Katie asked me questions like "so, what do you love to do?” and "what kind of holiday do you enjoy the most?” I said that I loved independent travel, motorbiking, being in nature, meeting people, kayaking, live music and cooking. I could see Katie taking notes.

"How about a short self-guided hike through the rainforest to see a hidden Thai temple?"
"I know a great little place to eat local food – it's really friendly and they'll serve you truly authentic dishes, not tourist-style Thai food."

I was impressed. After excitedly sharing ideas, Katie said she'd be delighted to create an itinerary for me and arrange a second, more in-depth chat.


I was unsure… I like to be pretty independent, and itineraries sound way too restricting for my travel style.


Katie understood, and explained that the itinerary was going to be a list of experiences and events that she reckoned I'd love, but it was entirely up to me if I wanted to actually do them. I could be as independent, or not, as I liked. For example, if I wanted the experiences booked for me or hire a private local guide, they'd sort everything out for me. Sweet.

She explained that the itinerary would include a number I could call if I ran into any problems – like if something was unexpectedly closed. I liked what I heard, so I said sure - let's go for it.

At our next, more in-depth Skype chat a few days later, Katie emailed my personalised itinerary to me.


Woah – she'd really listened to what I wanted. She'd obviously dug deep to find experiences I'd like.

My itinerary was packed with things like motorbike rental, cycling at a local lake, Thai food with free desserts thrown in (heaven!), Thai massage, cooking at an orphanage, kayaking in the countryside, Latin dancing with Thais and peoples from all over the world, obscure art galleries, meet-up events, a cooking class, live music and a gorgeous local hike to a hidden rainforest temple. I was very happy to see that there was plenty of down-time factored in. Trying to do too much makes for a really crappy holiday, trust me.
Younique Travel planners Chiang Mai art village

Younique is like having a local friend help you out with the planning.


Some of the experiences listed on my Younique itinerary are things it took me years to hear about or discover for myself. Like, I only learned about Latin dancing a few weeks ago, I hiked up to gorgeous Wat Palad just a month ago and I still haven't been to Corner Bistro's popular hip hop and fries night.

I stayed in Younique's clean, modern accommodation in the fashionable Nimmanhaemin area. It's not everyone's favourite place, because it's increasingly Westernised - but I love the vibrant diversity. Being centrally located was great, too. It was light and airy, had freezing cold aircon and the work desk was wonderful. The little envelope of exclusive Younique vouchers on my bed was very exciting. Here's Andy modelling:

Younique Travel planners Chiang Mai accommodation

Younique Travel planners Chiang Mai apartment

I got you a FREEBIE.

I loved my experience with Younique so much that I've hooked up with them.

They've agreed to give the whole Chiang Mai travel planning service away FREE to the first five readers who like My Chiang Mai Everything's Facebook page and email Younique to say:


"Amy of My Chiang Mai Everything says hey!"

Those lucky five will get the 15 minute chat, a personalised itinerary, and the second in-depth chat. For FREE.

Yay! Get a move on and take advantage of this freebie.


You'll discover way more than what's in the guidebooks. You'll find out about places and activities recommended just for you. Your itinerary will include a number to call if you have questions or need help while you're in Chiang Mai. You'll spend wayyyyy less time trawling through Google search results.

Spend your extra free time with friends and family, eating ice cream sundaes and following me on Facebook – you'll get loads of insider tips from me, and a regular stream of photographs and updates from beautiful Chiang Mai to keep you excited.

Younique Travel planners Chiang Mai hill tribe

Massage and feast at Let's Relax Spa and D.Bistro Restaurant, Chiang Mai Thapae

Have you been working too hard lately? You need a spa day ;)

I've been working very hard for the past month or so on some truly fantastic and inspiring projects, and I'm really excited about them. But, once I get my teeth into a project, I find it incredibly difficult to take breaks to stretch, move, eat, drink and sleep. I'm sure it's no surprise to you that my shoulders, back and hands were super tight after such silly work habits.

Let's Relax Spa Thapae Chiang Mai

Let's Relax Day Spa fixed me. Pim, I think I love you.

Oh, my. My masseuse, Pim, was an angel. She was incredibly strong and talented, and she wasn't at all "fake". She was super-smiley, but her smiles were real. She chatted away as we walked to the private massage room, and it didn't feel like she was just going through the motions. She tried to understand my really bad Thai, and we had a great laugh together.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Let's Relax Spa and D.Bistro are nestled inside a gorgeous, European-style building.

I knew it was fancy the moment I parked my motorbike and looked up! A guard welcomes guests in, and all the staff greet you with warm smiles. Lemongrass, jasmine, frangipani and sandalwood aromas fills the air, and sunlight spills through huge windows. The whole place is light, airy and cool, and pretty wildflowers and orchids decorate the clean, clutter-free surfaces. Let's Relax Spa Thapae is definitely fusion: modern, slightly industrial European chic meets Lanna. I love it. I was very excited to begin my Aromatherapy Oil Massage.

My experience began with choosing which Siamese Wellness Lab massage oil I wanted to use.

Sweet! I love these little touches that personalise a spa treatment. I was torn between Sweet Bloom, bursting with heady feminine floral scents, and Green Tea, because I'm currently obsessed with green tea latte smoothies. Because I've been so very work-focused recently, I decided to use this spa treatment to begin focusing on my feminine strengths of intuition, receptivity, collaboration and feeling. I really need to improve my masculine / feminine balance right now, so Sweet Bloom won!

After filling out a questionnaire, I met Pim. We stepped inside an elevator and traveled to the top floor, where all the private treatment rooms for oil massage are found. The room had two massage benches, robes, towels, flowers and a shower. Pim left me to take a shower and wash with shower gel, shampoo and conditioner crafted by Siam Wellness Lab. I was very impressed that they included conditioner - most places only provide shower gel and shampoo, and I *need* conditioner. That definitely earned them a point! I've never really bothered with fancy bath and shower products before.... woah. It was like washing with essential oils. My skin felt so nice and dewy after using the Relaxing shower gel. I want some. Please.

Let's Relax Spa Thapae Chiang Mai

I dressed in the black knickers Pim gave me, and lay on the soft massage bench. 

Pim was just, magic. Let's Relax Spa - you've got one kick-ass masseuse.

She began by warming the Sweet Bloom oil and dabbing it on pressure points on my face, neck and shoulders. I'd made the right choice, the scent was so light, romantic and feminine. When I was breathing deeply, she worked on my neck and shoulders. I couldn't believe how sore and tight they were. Pim kneaded in exactly the right places.


Then, she massaged my feet, legs and back for around 40 minutes. She listened when I wanted more pressure, and when I asked her to be softer on my sore shoulders. Her final movements were designed, I think, to wake me up and re-invigorate me, but I was super spaced out. It was divine.

Lunch date in D.Bistro restaurant

After the massage, I met my friend Abbie for lunch in D.Bistro restaurant. Just like the reception area and coffee shop in the front, light pours in to the restaurant and I love their awesome industrial style softened by wildflowers and orchids. The restaurant is located behind a little garden showcasing Thai artists' sculptures - look out for the really cute terracotta caterpillars!

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai

We really spoiled ourselves. D.Bistro's food is so. freaking. tasty.

Oh. My Gosh. I haven't eaten anything else today! Enjoy this photo essay of indulgence:

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai burmese curry
Homemade roti and Burmese curry

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai nam prik ong
Lanna pork and chili dip served with rice crackers and cucumber.

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai tom kha gai hed
Aromatic coconut milk and chili soup

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai pad thai
Pad thai

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai chicken katsu
Chicken katsu curry

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai mango sticky rice
Mango sticky rice

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai Summer Paradise dessert
Poached baby pineapples in cinnamon honey syrup and ice cream

D.Bistro restaurant Chiang Mai fried banana fondue
Fried banana profiteroles dipped in chocolate fondue

The food tasted even better than it looks. The Thai food was full of fresh, aromatic flavours and locally sourced ingredients. The puddings were insanely decadent. Clearly, a lot of thought and preparation had gone into each dish and it paid off - this was certainly some of the best Thai food I've eaten in Chiang Mai. My favourite dish was probably the sumptuous poached cinnamon pineapples with ice cream. It was so very pretty, and tasted just like Christmas. It's been particularly chilly here in Chiang Mai, and everyone's wearing jumpers and jeans, and I see fairy lights everywhere... so I've been feeling really Christmassy! The dessert was perfect.

After eating, we took a peek inside the deliciously aromatic Blooming shop, where you can buy hundreds of Siam Wellness Lab products. I want them. I want them bad. I only ever use cheap products from Tesco, and I'd feel so incredibly fancy using these essential-oil-filled ones.

So, would I go back to Let's Relax Spa, or eat again at D.Bistro?

All the yes! I recommend Let's Relax Spa to people who prefer a more modern, casual, city-style spa. It's elegant, opulent and a truly refreshing take on the Chiang Mai spa experience. D.Bistro is great for special lunches, casual romantic dates or grabbing coffee and cake with a client. It's amazing value for money - the humongous Summer Paradise and banana profiterole desserts were 120 baht each, and most mains cost around 150 - 200 baht.