Number three in the awesome series we love to call ‘Travelling with Halal Girl About Town’ is finally here (we know you’ve been desperate for it), and this week she’s taking us to Thailand. Although she is not literally taking us there, her advice is so great and helpful that we are desperate for a holiday to the point we are begging family members/colleagues/readers (hint hint) or just about anyone to take us somewhere sunny. We need sunshine because apparently it’s spring and tbh we are still layered up like a cake because it’s so cold. Anyway, enough of us, the real thing you want to read is how to make the best out of your future trip to Thailand, so read and try not to get jel because we think we have got that covered.
Halal Girl About Thailand
When you think of Thailand, the first place that comes to mind is Bangkok, followed by an assortment of beach towns such as Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui. Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, like the poor middle child, is constantly overlooked, even though it boasts the lushest greenery and serene settings in the whole of Thailand. Well, thankfully I’m here to show you why it is worth a visit!
Having been in Bangkok for a couple of days, we caught a domestic flight via Thai Lion Air to Chiang Mai (CNX) from the DMK airport. Leaving BKK at 10:15 am, the entire journey took 1h15m.
Where to Stay
After walking around the entire city, the best two neighbourhoods to stay in would be the Old City and the Riverside. The Riverside offers a serene stay near the beautiful flowing river and whilst you’re away from the main toten-minuteonly a ten minute walk to the centre. The Old City is ideal if you’re looking to be in the middle of all the attractions whilst staying near independent shops and restaurants.
What to See
Although we were short on time, Chiang Mai is a small city that is easy to cover in a day, by foot. I managed to cover the following in all but three days:
—> Elephant camps – Thailand is notorious for its unethical elephant camps dotted around the country. Please do not visit any camps that encourage elephant riding and instead visit a more ethical establishment like Elephant Nature Park, Baan Chang, and the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.
—> Karen Long Neck Villages – Sadly, members of these tribes are unable to integrate with the Thais due to their immigrant status and thus cannot find proper jobs to earn a living. If you do plan on visiting the village, have a chat with the women, play with the kids, and buy a few items from the numerous stalls dotted around; every little bit helps.
—> Night Markets – the £5 traditional Thai massages are to die for!
—> Tour the Old City
—> Taking part in a Monk Chat
—> Hiking up the mountain to see the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple
—> Bamboo river rafting
—> Shooting Club CM – highly therapeutic especially when travelling with your other half!
What to Eat
When in Thailand, the local dishes are what rule: tom yum goong, pad thai, papaya salad, green curry. Every bite is full of explosive flavours (I’m not kidding, their “no spicy” is the equivalent of our Nando’s XX hot sauce – phew), and the best part? It’s cheap as chips!
—> Kalare Night Market has a world food court and, although your halal options are limited to just the Middle Eastern stand, you can find traditional Thai dishes such as salt-baked fish and prawn pad thais.
—> Night Bizarre Market is a more modern and gentrified night market with a live band and numerous eateries. There was a variety of cuisines, from pizza to baos and tacos to hotdogs, and sadly, only two stalls served halal, which was an Indian and Middle Eastern hybrid *sigh*.
—> The weather can become extremely hot out there and you’ll start to break out in a sweat when walking around the city. Luckily, they have fruit carts dotted around the city so you can stop by and pick up the freshly squeezed juice, as well as sliced fruit (I suggest going for the traditional sticky rice and mango).
—> But when you’re feeling delightfully sinful, you must get a roti from any roti stand. Imagine a hot, crisp, sweet and salty roti that has been stuffed with sliced bananas, cooked in a healthy amount of butter, and drizzled in a classic Hershey chocolate syrup – phwoar. They do an assortment of flavours but be sure to get one with condensed milk!
—> If you’ve headed into the Old City and feeling peckish, avoid any of the obvious touristy restaurants, and keep walking further out until you find places that are a little more off the beaten track and have several locals dining there. This is where you’ll get real Thai food for just a couple of pounds. I strongly suggest ordering a steamed seabass with lime, chilli, and garlic.
HALAL RESTAURANTS IN CHIANG MAI
Although it was easier to find halal in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok, it was only by chance that we stumbled across a few halal eateries. However, the locals seemed more aware of halal/Muslims than they did in Bangkok so that was a plus when asking around.
Bulkowki Grill is a complete hole in the wall, which we stumbled upon whilst exploring the night markets. The concept is simple: you point out what you want from the menu (noodles, eggs, meat, other trimmings), the waitress will wheel you over a large simmering pot of soup and a barbeque, grill your meat, throw everything into the pot, and mix! Simple, yet really, really tasty and comforting. I really hope halal hotpots take off in the UK, because I could do with this almost everyday in winter!
Recommended: Korean fried chicken wings and the rib-eye beef hot pot.
We happened to be walking to the hotel from the Old City and stumbled upon Hilal Street where there were food stalls setting up. HALAL street food stalls. From spicy, lip-smackingly delicious chicken noodle soups to beef khao soi, and from freshly grilled satays to fried quail eggs, this is a halal street food lover’s dream come true! Just remember, this halal food market only operates on Fridays after Jumah prayers.
Recommended: Chicken noodle soup
Chiang Mai was my favourite part of our entire Thailand trip. Not only was it super chilled, but the people were incredibly friendly and helpful, there was an abundance of halal, and it was a stunning location. It made a great change from the busy city of Bangkok and the touristy beach towns along the coast!
MOSQUES in CNX
—> Ban Haw Masjid
—> Chang Phuak Mosque
—> San Pa Khoi Masjid
HOTEL in CNX
—> Puripunn Baby Grand Boutique Hotel – 5* – Halal food available on request
—> Four Seasons Hotel – 5* – Halal food on request
—> Shangri-La Hotel – 5* – Halal food available
—> Romena Grand Hotel – 3* – Halal restaurant on premises
—> ChongMoi House – B&B – Halal food available
TIPS for CNX
—> Do not forget to ask your hotel if they can cater for halal before your trip out there.
—> CNX is a city where you can get from one side to the other in 20 minutes on foot, so pack some comfortable shoes.
—> Book your trip at least three months in advance to make the most of the early-bird specials floating around.
—> Be sure to haggle when shopping; they’re happy to drop the price.
—> Wear respectable clothing when visiting the temples. Men will have to wear long shorts and t-shirts, whilst women cannot show their shoulders or knees. You can rent a cover-up at the temple if need be. Also, easy slip-on shoes are advisable as you will have to take them off when entering the temple.
—> Research the attractions thoroughly so that you visit ethical and humane tourist attractions!
—> Make sure you pack light if you’ll be travelling domestic – we were only allowed 15kg each.