Overeating in Pai, Part 2: Savory Eats

This is my third post about our recent 3-night trip up to Pai, a slow little mountain town that’s popular with the backpacker crowd and tourists seeking relaxation.  Like I said in my previous post about cakes, pies and coffees in Pai, about the only thing to do in Pai is eat!  I don’t want you to think we only ate sweets and drank coffee while we were in Pai – we had some savory Thai food too!

Our favorite spot in Pai was Charlie and Lek’s, a great little restaurant that also has cooking classes.  We found a dish there that we haven’t seen anywhere else in Thailand – Pad Thai made with shaved green papaya instead of noodles!  If pad thai and som tam got together and had a love child, it would be Green Papaya Pad Thai.  IT WAS SO GOOD, as shown by Kevin’s face in the photo below.

Green Papaya Pad Thai at Charlie & Lek's

Green Papaya Pad Thai at Charlie & Lek’s.  Kevin is bursting with excitement for this food.  Naturally, we returned three days in a row to get this dish.

Red Dragon Fruit Shake and Watermelon + Lime Shake at Charlie & Lek's

A Red Dragonfruit Shake and a Watermelon + Lime Shake at Charlie & Lek’s

Green Papaya Salad at Charlie & Lek's - so so so good.

Close up of the Green Papaya Salad at Charlie & Lek’s – so so so good.

We also enjoyed some delicious Thai food from Na’s Kitchen.  The pad see iew may have been the best we’ve had so far in Thailand.  We also continued our love affair with Som Tam at Na’s – it did not disappoint.

Mango Shake at Na's Kitchen

Mango Shake at Na’s Kitchen

Great Pad See Iew at Na's Kitchen

Great Pad See Iew at Na’s Kitchen

Som Tam on the left, Sticky Rice in the basket on the right, and Pad See Iew in the back.  All for $4.

Som Tam on the left, Sticky Rice in the basket on the right, and Pad See Iew in the back. All for $4.

We splurged and decided to get burgers one night after realizing we hadn’t had any beef for almost 2 months!  We visited Maya’s Burger Queen to satisfy our beef craving.


Maya’s Burger Queen

Hawaiian Burger? Yes please.

Hawaiian Burger? Yes please.

The Hawaiian Burger, check out how big that pineapple slice is.

The Hawaiian Burger, check out how big that pineapple slice is.  Wish the beef patty had been bigger, but it was still super tasty!  And just $3.

Fried Chicken Burger - delicious.

Maya’s Fried Chicken Burger – delicious.

Homemade French Fries

And of course, we got Homemade French Fries

The cheapest meal we had in Pai was at Chew Xin Jai, a Chinese and Thai eatery with vegan and vegetarian food.  You get a plate full of rice with 1 scoop of food for 30 baht, 2 for 35 baht, 3 for 40 baht, or 4 for just 45 baht.  Cheap, filling, and pretty tasty.

Vegetarian food at Chew Xin Jai

Vegetarian food at Chew Xin Jai

No vacation in Thailand would be complete without some street food.  We started at the end of the main road in Pai and ate our way down the street back to our hotel on the last night.  It was fabulous.  Not pictured: an ear of corn on the cob that I scarfed down before we had time to take a photo…

Curry Puffs, 3 for 20 Baht

Curry Puffs, 3 for 20 Baht

We had a chicken BBQ skewer for 20 Baht

We had a chicken BBQ skewer for 20 Baht

We stopped for some Beef Curry and Rice from the Indian Food street vendor for 60 Baht

We stopped for some Beef Curry and Rice from the Indian Food street vendor for 60 Baht

She also had delicious Samosas for just 5 Baht apiece!

She also had delicious Samosas for just 5 Baht apiece!

We capped our street food dinner extravaganza off with a Chang beer at our hotel bar, where we sat and enjoyed some live music.

Chang Beer, what some locals lovingly call "elephant pee"

Chang Beer, what some locals lovingly call “elephant pee”.  WE MISS PACIFIC NORTHWEST MICROBREWS.


We want to hear from you!

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten on your international travels?  My favorite meal is still a cook-your-own-hot-plate meal we ate in a dark alleyway in Hanoi, Vietnam last year. We were sitting on tiny plastic stools at a tiny plastic table in a tiny little alley with motorbikes racing by.  Sometimes it’s more about the surroundings than the food!


Overeating in Pai, Part 1: Cakes, Pies and Coffees

We recently took a little 3-night trip up to Pai, Thailand to get away from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai.  Pai is a slow little mountain town that’s super popular with the backpacker crowd and tourists seeking relaxation.  There’s not a whole lot to do in Pai other than eat and relax, so we did as much eating as possible.  What could be more appropriate than overeating in a town whose name is pronounced “Pie”, anyway?  Also, writing about your overeating burns off some of those excess calories.  Ok, I may have just made that up, but I’m hoping it’s true.  Here are some snapshots of the tasty cakes, pies and coffees we sampled in Pai.  Stay tuned for a second blog post of all the non-sweets we had in Pai.

Cakes and Pies in Pai

First stop for some sweets was All About Coffee, a fun spot we found through some fellow traveler’s blogs online.

All About Coffee

All About Coffee

Kevin had the Binoffi Pai on the left, which was sort of like a banana cream pie with chocolate drizzle.  I had the Mango Cheese Pie on the right, which was pretty much a cheesecake with mangos on top.  Super delicious, but a bit expensive.

Binoffi Pai and Mango Cheese Pie

Binoffi Pai and Mango Cheese Pie

Next, we learned that Thai folks interpret “Ice Cream Sandwich” concept very literally.  We picked up this concoction below for just 10 Baht. It’s literally an ice cream sandwich – a piece of sandwich bread filled with scoops of coconut ice cream, a scoop of sweet sticky rice, sweet coconut drizzle, and peanuts.

The Infamous Thai-Style Ice Cream Sandwich

The Infamous Thai-Style Ice Cream Sandwich

We also made a visit to the Witching Well restaurant, which we’ve read has delicious cakes and desserts.  Their decor is also fun and unique.

Fun Decor at Witching Well

Fun Decor at Witching Well

Menu and Decor at Witching Well

Menu and Decor at Witching Well

Decor at Witching Well

Decor at Witching Well

Kevin ordered the Apple Crisp, and I got the carrot cake.  Both tasty, both cost 70 Baht.

Apple Crisp at Witching Well

Apple Crisp at Witching Well

Carrot Cake at Witching Well

Carrot Cake at Witching Well

We also stumbled onto this street vendor, serving up delicious coconut pancakes.  We got two with coconut + corn, and two with coconut + banana.  SO GOOD.  Don’t miss these if you’re in Pai – it was the best dessert we had there!

Coconut Pancakes

Coconut Pancakes – don’t miss these!


Coffees in Pai

All the cakes and pies made us lethargic.  Naturally, we sought out some high-caffeine high-sugar beverages as a pick me up.  During our visit to All About Coffee, we also snagged some tasty drinks.  Kevin got a Siphon Coffee, black, and I had an Upside Down Coffee, which is a shot of espresso on top of sweetened condensed milk.

Kevin's Siphon Coffee

Kevin’s Siphon Coffee

My Upside Down Coffee

My Upside Down Coffee


News Flash: Melanie is now addicted to coffee

News Flash: Melanie is now addicted to coffee

Kevin kicked back and relaxed at All About Coffee

This is as relaxed as Kevin gets, enjoying some reading at All About Coffee.

We discovered a little cafe called Cafein in the center of Pai with two rocking chairs right by the street.  This cafe is situated right across from a motorbike rental place, so we killed several hours watching brand new motorbike riders come up and shakily ride off on their newly rented motorbikes.  We saw some of them again later with knees and elbows wrapped in gauze!

Our favorite spot in Pai

Our favorite spot in Pai

Green Tea Latte at Cafein

Green Tea Latte at Cafein.  Spoiler alert – all that green coloring is not natural.  My tongue matched the drink after I finished it!

Iced Lattes at Cafein

Iced Lattes at Cafein

Wonderful Cafein

Wonderful Cafein

Another favorite spot was Cafe d’tist, just down the street from our hotel.  They had tasty iced drinks for just 50 baht, and we really liked their Iced Lattes and their fun decor.

Iced Latte at Cafe d'tist

Iced Latte at Cafe d’tist

Cafe d'tist

Cafe d’tist

Cute little rocking swan at Cafe d'tist

Cute little rocking swan at Cafe d’tist

Enjoying some Iced Lattes at Cafe d'tist

Enjoying another round of Iced Lattes at Cafe d’tist

A stray dog hanging out at Cafe d'tist

A stray dog hanging out at Cafe d’tist

Not all our caffeine came from coffee in Pai.  We also stopped by Art in Chai, a little coffee house that’s super popular with backpackers.  Art in Chai is known for their Masala Chai.  For each glass, the barista uses a mortar and pestle to freshly pound up all the spices that go into that cup.  We met a few people at Art in Chai who came to Pai on week-long vacation and are still here two years later.  A lot of people seem to come to Pai and just never leave!

Art in Chai, backpacker's paradise

Art in Chai, backpacker’s paradise

Masala Chais at Art in Chai

Masala Chai Teas at Art in Chai


I’m almost embarrassed to post all of this.  Yes, we were only in Pai for 3 nights, and yes, we really did eat all of these sweets.  If you could win a vacation award for eating cakes, pies and coffees, we definitely won on this trip!  YOLO, right?

We want to hear from you!

Where in the world have you had your best coffee?  There will always be a special place in my heart for Vietnamese coffee, which tastes almost like chocolate.


Getting to Pai from Chiang Mai

Off we go, to Pai!

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to Pai we go!

The Road to Pai

The road to Pai from Chiang Mai is a stomach-churning nausea-inducing blood-pressure-increasing 80-mile-long nightmare.  According to legend, the road has 762 hairpin turns and is one of the most dangerous stretches in all of Thailand.  Zoom in on the map below to see all the twists and turns as the road nears Pai – it’s quite the ride!  In spite of it being just 80 miles, the drive usually takes 3-4 hours unless you’re a crazy daredevil.  Being the idiots that we are, we still wanted to make a trip to the cute little mountain town of Pai, Thailand, but it was harder than we thought it’d be to decide how to get there!  We visited no less than 8 travel agencies here in Chiang Mai to assess all of our options.

Option #1: Fly

The quickest way to get there is to take a half-hour flight with Kan Air, a tiny airline that only serves a handful of towns in North Thailand.  But they only make the trip Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday, and only once per day!  Their flights are close to $60 one way, and were mostly sold out for the next few weeks.  Also, as a former Boeing employee, I tend treat small domestic airlines in foreign countries with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Option #2: Public Bus

The word on the interwebs is that a bus fare to Pai costs 150 Baht, or about $4.60. I’ve read that the “air conditioned” busses don’t have very good air conditioning, so what ends up happening is that you’re just stuck in a hot bus with windows that won’t open!  Non-air-conditioned busses also make the trip to Pai, but  stories of fruit rolling around on the floor and random loose chickens deterred us from bussing it.  We’ve only been in Thailand a month, after all, so we aren’t sure we’re ready yet for that experience.

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Option #3: Motorbike

We were encouraged by several strangers to attempt to motorbike up to Pai.  Now that we’ve seen the road, we are about 95% sure that motorbiking to Pai would’ve killed us.  Neither of us has driven a motorbike before, so a 3-hour trip through the mountains in the rainy season with tons of hairpin turns would have been an absolute disaster.  I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now if we had attempted to motorbike to Pai.  This road is definitely for advanced motor bikers only!

Option #4: Aya Minivans

When we started looking into the Minivan option, we found that the most popular van operator, Aya Service, has a plethora of terrifying reviews online.  Phrases like “don’t use this company if you value your life” and “someone threw up everywhere in the van” were commonplace. Some people’s reviews even said their drivers were acting erratic, like they had used some sort of drugs to stay awake.  More than a few people mentioned that the Aya drivers go way too fast, hustling up to Pai so they can load up a new vanful of passengers and race back down to Chiang Mai.  We even read a post online claiming that the passengers in one Aya van revolted, forced the driver to pull over, put him in the back seat, and a passenger finished out the drive up to Pai!

Before I snapped this photo, I asked Kevin how he felt about our upcoming journey...

Before I snapped this photo, I asked Kevin how he felt about our upcoming journey…

Reading these reviews had us rethinking our trip to Pai altogether.  It made us nervous for the trip no matter how we got there, as shown by Kevin’s face in the photo above.

Option #5: The winner, a Minivan with Terminal Green

Luckily, we found Terminal Green!  This company operates the same style of 16-passenger minivans as Aya Service, and their tickets are the same price.  The fare for a ride up to Pai is 180 Baht (about $5.50) and includes pickup at your hotel/apartment.  The ride back down costs just 150 Baht (about $4.60), and ends in Chiang Mai’s Old City, close enough to our condo that we could just walk home afterwards.  We could hardly find any reviews online for Terminal Green, but we felt “less unconfident” about them just because of the lack of bad reviews online.  It seemed like the least evil of all options.  To book the Chiang Mai to Pai portion, call Terminal Green at 081-960-9283 (and be sure to request seats in the front of van!)  The return journey can be booked at the Terminal Green storefront in Pai.  Seats on the return journey are first come first served for the trip back to Chiang Mai, so you have to arrive early and throw some elbows to sit in the front.

The Journey

We each took some Bonine for motion sickness before leaving the house to head to Pai.  This turned out to be a great idea – highly recommend a Bonine pill or two.  A Terminal Green van picked us up near our condo at 9:45am and drove us over to the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station to load up into another Terminal Green minivan.  Try to show up with an empty bladder – it costs 3 Baht to use the filthy bathrooms at the bus station.  Do you at least get toilet paper or soap since you paid 3 Baht?  No way, man!

This is the ticket counter at the Arcade Bus Terminal where you can buy tickets to Pai

The Arcade Bus Terminal Ticket Counter

We loaded up into the van, packed like sardines.  One seat even had two passengers – a mom with her 5 year old daughter on her lap!

One last selfie before the drive - hopefully not the last selfie ever...

One last selfie before the drive – hopefully not the last selfie ever…

By 10:30am, we were en route to Pai.  We were probably the only passengers who wore seat belts.  Even the driver didn’t buckle up.  Luckily, the air conditioner worked well and it wasn’t too warm!

Please Expect Seat Belt

We chuckled at this sign in the van: “Please Expect Seat Belt”

We stopped at a rest stop halfway up to Pai. Using the bathrooms at this stop cost 3 Baht, toilets were of the squatting variety, and it did not include toilet paper or soap.  Sigh.

We were glad we brought snacks along – it was a long drive and the food at the rest stop was expensive (and by expensive I mean $3/meal) and it looked like it had been there for more than a few days.  After eating our makeshift egg sandwiches (not egg salad… just a boiled egg wrapped in a piece of bread… we are simple folk), we piled back into the van.

Our trusty van which got us safely up to Pai

The trusty steed which got us safely up to Pai

En route to Pai, we drove through a herd of cows on the road and passed several big semi trucks on the windy road.  We arrived safely at the bus station in Pai at about 2pm, hungry, tired, and with a Bonine hangover.  Luckily, no one threw up in our van.  Success!

If we had to make the trip up to Pai again, we would definitely use Terminal Green.  They were one of the cheapest options for getting to and from Pai, and we never felt unsafe.  We liked both of our drivers – they took their time getting us safely through the mountains and always passed slower cars/motorbikes carefully.  We did spot a few Aya vans that seemed like they were really zooming around other cars on the road – several zoomed passed us on our journey – so we were happy with our choice to use Terminal Green.

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever had a terrifying journey on your travels?  We want to hear all about it!  Please leave us a comment with your story.


Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, A Budget Breakdown

A beautiful temple in our front yard: Wat Suan Dok

The beautiful temple in our front yard: Wat Suan Dok

The main reason Kevin and I picked Chiang Mai for the starting point of our adventure abroad is because of its reputation for being a dirt cheap place to live.  Luckily, we love Chiang Mai for lots of other reasons too: the wonderful locals, the delicious food, the beautiful mountains surrounding us, the ease of getting around the city, and the huge expat community.

We are both officially unemployed now, without much reliable monthly income.  Luckily, we make enough money from renting out our house in Seattle to cover many of our expenses here, and Kevin still makes a little residual income from past app successes.  However, we saved up and set out for this year abroad knowing that it’s highly likely that more money will be going out than is coming in.  And we are ok with that.  The whole point of this year is to experience new cultures, as well as to spend all of our time learning and working on projects we are really excited about.  In order to do that without worrying too much about finances, we came somewhere cheap!  So how much are we spending in Chiang Mai?

The Budget

Note: When this post was published, the exchange rate was about 32 THB for $1 US.


  • Seattle Rental Income (Rent minus Mortgage minus property manager fees): $860
  • Unpredictable App Income
  • Begging for money in the Old City (just kidding, mom and dad, we’re not really doing this)

May’s Expenses

Cost (THB) Cost (US) Note
Rent ฿14,000 $430 41 sq. m 1-bedroom apartment
#8211; Water ฿225 $7 #8211; Electric ฿1,400 $43 We run our aircon a LOT.
#8211; Cell Phones ฿749 $23 #8211; Internet ฿641 $20 We upgraded the free "Internet from Hell" that came with our place
Massages ฿1,630 $50 Three 1-hour Massages each
Coffee ฿4,837 $148 Cafes are our work space!
Food: (We only cook breakfast now!)
#8211; Restaurants, Cafes, Food Stalls ฿7,466 $93 40% of this was at Pun Pun! #8211; Farmer's Market ฿2,283 $70
#8211; Grocery Store ฿841 $26 Booze ฿971 $30 One large beer here will run you ฿55 at the 7-11 Transportation ฿480 $15 Travel ฿0 $0 No travel in May! We were settling in, and plan to pick this up soon. Miscellaneous ฿1,757 $54 Soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, toiletries, etc. Travel Insurance ฿2,050 $63 IMG Global's Patriot International Insurance with Adventure Sports Rider Grand Total ฿39,330 $1,203 For 2 people per month in Chiang Mai

What Does $1,200 per Month Get you in Chiang Mai?

A great 1-Bedroom Apartment

Enjoying the apartment pool

Enjoying the apartment pool

We love our apartment!  It is brand spankin’ new, has two aircon units, a washing machine, a hot water heater, cable TV, and a great well-stocked kitchenette.  It also came with the slowest internet ever, so we pay each month to have our own wifi network that is much faster.  We use either the pool or the gym every single day, so we’re definitely getting our money’s worth.  Our landlord also sends a cleaning company over every month for a top-to-bottom scrub.  For more info, photos, and a video tour of our apartment, check out my previous post about our apartment search.

Delicious Market Fresh Breakfast Supplies

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We cook just one meal a day now – breakfast.  Every few days, we head to the Ton Payom market, where the farmers bring their goods and set up shop.  We always buy eggs, mangos, lychees, bananas, bok choy, sugar snap peas, baby corn, a bell pepper, tomatoes and onion and rarely spend more than $7 per market trip.  Sometimes we pick up a whole pineapple from the gal down our street for 50 cents.  Sometimes we impulse purchase food from “cake guy” who sells this amazing coconut cake for 30 cents per piece.  More often than I care to admit, we stop to buy Kanom Krok from a street vendor from 20 Baht.

Tasty, Cheap Thai Lunches and Dinners

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This has got to be the best thing about living in Thailand.  There is delicious, fresh, wonderful, crazy inexpensive food all around us!  It makes me want to use a gratuitous amount of exclamation points!!!  The most fantastic thing about being in Thailand semi-long-term is that it takes away the fear of ordering something that won’t be good.  If you’re only in Thailand for a week, you kind of want to play it safe and order things you know you’ll enjoy.  If you’re here for a long time, you may discover a surprising love of dishes with lots of chili paste in them (I used to refuse to even eat onions or garlic, people!  I’ve come a long way.)  Plus we rarely spend more than $2/person per meal.  I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Local Cell Phone Service

We have a family plan with DTAC, a Thai cell service provider.  In order to get this plan, we walked into their store, were helped out by an English-speaking employee, and left an hour later with Thai Sim Cards in our iPhones we brought from home.  For 700 Baht (plus tax) per month, Kevin and I each get 1GB of 3G data (and unlimited slow data if we go over that amount), we get 200 text messages, and 300 minutes apiece.  DTAC allows you to tether with their data plan, which means we can create a wifi hot spot from our iPhones.  This is great if you sit down at a coffee shop to work, then realize their internet speed is abysmal.

The occasional ride in a Tuk-Tuk or Songathew

Unfortunately, we don’t have a motorbike.  This is certainly the best way to get around in Thailand, but we’ve so many stories about foreigners being pulled over and forced to bribe policemen that we haven’t been brave enough to wade into the murky waters just yet.  We take the occasional ride on a Songathew, which is a red pickup truck with bench seating in the covered truck bed.  Songathew rides cost 20+ Baht per person depending on where you’re going.  Tuk-Tuks are a different animal – these are sort of tricycle-style motorcycles with a bench seat behind the driver.  He’ll take you straight to your destination and will generally cost at least twice what you’d spend on a Songathew.

Heavenly Massages

Green Bamboo, 1-hour Massage for 200 Baht

Green Bamboo, 1-hour Massage for 200 Baht

Coming in second behind the food, massages are another great reason to base in Thailand.  The most we’ve ever spent on a 1-hour Thai Massage is 250 Baht, or $7.70.  (We also typically each leave a 50 Baht tip, or $1.50.)

Travel Insurance

Many people travel without any sort of medical insurance, but I’m a little too high strung for that.  Before leaving home, we paid $760 for a 1-year Patriot Travel Medical Insurance Policy with added Adventure Sports rider from IMG Global.  This is essentially a catastrophic coverage plan that we’d use only if something major were to happen.  It also provides us with Identity Theft Assistance and Lost Luggage coverage.

Lots and Lots of Coffee

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Rarely does a day pass when we don’t hit at least 2 coffee shops.  We typically spend 3-4 hours at each spot working on whatever project is top priority that day.  This means we spend quite a bit on coffee, but we justify this to ourselves because we rented a fairly small apartment and spend $270 less per month rent than we had initially budgeted for.  Also, we’re from Seattle, which means coffee runs in our veins instead of blood.

A coffee in Chiang Mai can run you anywhere from 50-80 Baht ($1.50 to $2.50).  You can find bubble tea for just $1, and we have a favorite bar with Wifi and beers for just $1.  Life is good.

You Should Move Here Too

Do you see how inexpensive Chiang Mai is?!  One of the reasons we’re blogging is to try to convince other people to throw caution to the wind and spend some serious time abroad.  Hopefully this will help sell Chiang Mai as a great spot for a “mini retirement”, or even a full-on retirement (they have special retirement visas aimed specifically at folks over age 50)!

While there are certainly significant financial implications to consider (like getting ahead on retirement savings) before quitting your job and moving abroad, I think we’ve made a case here that it’s possible to really minimize your expenses in Chiang Mai.  We certainly don’t pinch pennies (er, pinch Baht?) – we live in a brand new “western-style” apartment with a pool and gym, we run our Air Conditioner a lot, and we’re eating as much fresh, healthy food each day as we want to.  It’s definitely possible to live here for much, much, much cheaper than we do.

Here are a few budget-isms we have found interesting:

  • We are now horrified to spend more than $2/person per meal
  • All our monthly expenses, including rent, are paid in cash
  • Can you believe our water bill was only $7?!
  • Electric bills are paid at the 7-11 store, so that’s something to get used to! I think the US should learn from this – it’s far more pleasant to pay your electric bill somewhere where you can also buy a beer.

We want to hear from you!

Are you surprised at what it costs to spend a month in Chiang Mai?  Have we convinced you to quit your day job and move over here to join us?

Tuesday Taste: The Pad Thai Family

It’s official, we’ve found our favorite place to snag some good ‘ol Pad Thai in Chiang Mai.  Luckily, they’re just a 5 minute walk down the street from our apartment.  Their food stall is located on Suthep Road.  This super friendly Pad Thai joint is family run, and sets up outside a closed storefront every night at about 5pm for dinner.  Dad takes your order, Mom cooks the Pad Thai, and their kids help out around the food stall.

Here’s Pad Thai Mom and Pad Thai Dad, hard at work on that Pad Thai:

Mom and Dad, makin' that Pad Thai

Mom and Dad, makin’ that Pad Thai


Look at that Wok:

Check out the enormousness of that wok

Check out the enormousness of Pad Thai Mom’s wok

At this Pad Thai eatery, they serve your meal up with a big plate of romaine, bean sprouts, green onions, and lime.  It’s like getting a free salad with your meal.  They have a dine in option:

The "Eat In" option for Pad Thai

The “Dine In” option for Pad Thai

But we enjoy the takeout option the most because we could sit at home in our air conditioning and keep away from flies and mosquitos.  Take out Pad Thai comes wrapped up in banana leaves secured with a short stick, or as Pad Thai Dad puts it, “Thai Style Takeaway!”

Pad Thai takeout, wrapped up in a banana leaf

Pad Thai takeout, wrapped up in a banana leaf

And voila, here’s the deliciousness bursting forth from the banana leaf:



Whether you do dine in or get takeaway, it’s 30 Baht for your plate of Pad Thai, which is just south of a $1 US.  If that’s not a good reason for friends and family to book a $1,000 flight over to visit us, I don’t know what is.  Safe travels, friends!

Packing for a Year in Southeast Asia

What do you pack when you’re going to spend a year traveling Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, The Philippines, and Indonesia?  We’re still not 100% sure about the answer to that question, but here’s a peek at what we brought along with us for our year-long adventure.

Folks close to us might be familiar with how picky we are about things we purchase.  When we registered for our wedding, we spent weeks researching and agonizing over the best products, appliances, housewares, etc, and we do the same with our travel gear.  Almost everything we linked to below (except where noted) absolutely has our endorsement and should be considered Kevin-and-Melanie-approved.  If you choose to buy any of these things for your own travels, we hope they serve you as well as they have us!



The Bags - this is everything we brought!

The Bags – this is everything we brought!

Our goal was to be able to carry everything we brought on our backs.  No roller bags allowed!  We also didn’t want to bring so much stuff that it’ll be annoying to change locations every few weeks.  We are based initially in Chiang Mai for 7 months, then we’ll be hopping around Southeast Asia, so we need to be mobile.  We’ll be getting rid of the black bag in the back when we leave Chiang Mai and will each have just our North Face duffel and our laptop bag.  The black bag in the back was filled with sunblock, half-used shampoo and soap bottles, and other toiletries we knew we’d use up during our 7 months in Chiang Mai.

The Bags:

  • North Face Base Camp Duffel Bags (Size Small) – We absolutely love these bags, and have taken them to Europe, Belize, and now all over Thailand.  They hold up great and are fabulous in somewhat wet environments (after a boat ride in Belize, we were the only ones in our tour group with completely dry clothes in our bag!)  They fit well in overhead bins on most airplanes.
  • Melanie’s Timbuk2 Laptop Bag – Perfect for a small laptop, can carry everything but a small child.
  • Kevin’s Laptop Bag – More manly, sans the sassy pink stripe that mine has


The Electronics

The Electronics

What can we say?  We love electronics…  Here’s what we brought and what we wish we had left behind:

  • Computers: 13″ Macbook Air & charger and 13″ Macbook Pro & charger.  (Very happy we brought these guys – their 8+ hour battery life is fantastic)
  • Reading: Melanie’s Kindle Paperwhite with awesome case, Kevin’s Basic Kindle
  • Kevin’s Sony Headphones (best headphones ever) & iPhone Headphones
  • Melanie’s Bose Noise Canceling Headphones and In-ear Headphones (I got killer deals on both of these sets of headphones, but would still only give them lukewarm reviews.)
  • Melanie’s Fitbit One – An awesome clip-on pedometer that syncs to an app on my iPhone.  This thing tracks steps, mileage, flights of stairs, calories burned, and can even track your sleep. It has been put in the washing machine and dropped in the toilet and still survives.
  • Apple TV & Remote (wish we had not brought – even our upgraded internet is too slow to use the Apple TV)
  • HDMI Cable (Kevin’s Macbook Pro has an HDMI port, so we can hook it up to watch online TV Shows and Movies through the TV in our apartment)
  • Mighty Mouse
  • Two iPhones (we got Thai sim cards so we have local phone and data plans), with cords & chargers.  These also act as our camera.
  • Voltage Adapter/Converters


The Shoes

The Shoes

The List:

Melanie’s Clothes

Melanie's Clothes

Melanie’s Clothes

Quick-dry is the name of the game for clothing in a tropical country.  Have you heard of swamp ass?  If you haven’t, where do you live, Alaska?!  Well, if you come over here with only cloth underwear and non quick-dry shorts, you’re going to be living in your own little swamp ass hell.  Trust me, quick dry is the way to go.  Plus, you can wash laundry in hotel sinks, hang it up, and you’ll be ready to roll the next day!

The List:

  • A hat, because I’m the whitest person ever
  • 3 quick-dry dresses – I searched all over the internet for other travel dresses, but nothing can beat these, so I just have three different colors.  Please don’t judge me.
  • 3 pairs of quick-dry shorts
  • 1 pair of quick-dry pants that roll up into capri pants (definitely will need these – you should have your knees covered to visit temples)
  • 2 quick-dry t-shirts & 5 quick-dry tank tops
  • 2 normal bras & 3 sports bras
  • 5 pairs of socks (3 would’ve been plenty)
  • 3 pairs of quick dry underwear (5 would’ve been better) & 5 pairs of cloth underwear (these are nice to have to just feel normal every once in awhile, and better for sleeping, in my opinion)
  • 2 running outfits, plus 2 extra pairs of gym shorts
  • 2 hoodies (because how could I come over here without at least one piece of Seahawks gear.  Turns out 2 was definitely overkill, though.)
  • A long-sleeve white mesh shirt rated at SPF 50, for snorkeling
  • 2 swim suits, a one-piece for snorkeling and a bikini for beach lounging
  • Rain jacket
  • Scarf (for covering my shoulders if we visit any temples)
  • Pajamas
  • Beach skirt

Kevin’s Clothes

Kevin's Clothes

Kevin’s Clothes

The List:

  • 2 pairs of quick-dry shorts with a hidden zip-up security pocket
  • 1 pair of pants, with zip-off legs to turn into shorts
  • 2 pairs of swim trunks
  • Rain jacket
  • Hoodie
  • 5 pairs of socks (too many!)
  • 4 quick-dry t-shirts
  • 4 regular t-shirts
  • 1 cotton polo, for “dressy” days
  • 3 quick-dry boxers
  • 3 regular boxers
  • 2 pairs of gym clothes
  • 1 pair of jeans (only wore ‘em on the flight here, it’s too hot here for jeans)
  • Leather belt with a bottle-opener belt buckle



The Drugs & Toiletries

The Drugs & Toiletries

“Western” toiletries are a little bit tough to find here, and you have to pay a premium when you do find them.  We brought along a LOT of toiletries, mainly because we couldn’t bring ourselves to just throw them away when we moved out of our house.  If you’re willing to use local brands, you’ll save a lot of money.  For example, you can find a Thai brand of deoderant for just $0.60 US!

The List:

  • Sunblock (7 bottles) – bring as much as you can fit!  It’s so expensive here!
  • Deoderant (Kevin brought 3 of his fave Old Spice brand, which we have yet to find in any stores here)
  • Electric toothbrushes and chargers – can’t go a year without these puppies
  • Daily Multivitamins – these are impossible to find here, and counterfeit versions run rampant. Best to bring along if you rely on these for your nutrients.
  • Birth control, 14-month supply – because seriously, WHO could stand to be pregnant in 90+ degree temperatures.  Birth control pills are available over the counter here very cheap, but it was also cheap and easy to stock up through my health insurance before we left.  I’m glad I did.
  • Bonine, the best motion sickness medicine out there.  Best to bring this along, I don’t think it’s easy to find here.
  • Ciproflaxin (prescription antibiotic for traveler’s tummy, we never, ever travel without this.)
  • Allergy medication
  • Excedrin, ibuprofin, and immodium
  • Chapstick, because Burt’s Bee’s isn’t sold in Thailand, so sad.
  • Electric Razor
  • Misc. lotions, shampoos, soaps
  • Hand sanitizer, because not all bathrooms here have soap
  • Melanie’s makeup
  • Foot scraper – really glad we brought this.  Wearing flip flops everyday doesn’t promote soft feet, need to keep those calluses in check!
  • Bug spray
  • Cortizone cream for bug bites
  • Bandaids and antibiotic ointment
  • Hair brush and comb
  • Note: don’t even think about bringing a hair dryer.  If you must have one, buy it here so you don’t have voltage compatibility problems, but you should know I think you’re crazy for blow drying your hair when it’s 90+ degrees outside.


The Miscellany

The Miscellany

The List:

  • Keen travel purse, with about six hundred hidden pockets
  • Bag for dirty laundry (someone gave me this for High School graduation a decade ago, it is finally having its 15 minutes of fame)
  • Vacuum pack bags, for maximizing your bag space
  • Sunglasses
  • Steripen, a UV light pen for sterilizing tap water if we’re in a pinch.  Highly recommend!
  • Head lamps (We brought 2, one would’ve been fine.  Power outages are fairly common everywhere we’ve visited, and these serve us well when that happens!)
  • A hat for Kevin
  • Travel journal, moleskin notebooks for writing down ideas, and pens
  • Kevin’s snorkel goggles and mask (Prescription masks are tricky to find here, but if you don’t need prescription lenses, you can easily borrow or rent them at any beach destination.)
  • Dry sack (small size)
  • Day pack (we swear by these day packs, they are cheap and awesome)
  • Travel lock and cable, to secure our bags to a stationery object in hotel rooms
  • Platypus pack-flat water bottle
  • Super portable external hard drive that doesn’t require an external power source
  • Money purse for occasions where we feel like we need to wear our valuables under our clothes (haven’t used it yet, you could easily skip this if you have clothes with a security pocket)
  • Travel kleenex, for those “Oh no, there’s no toilet paper in here!” moments
  • 2 books Kevin wanted to read: RESTful Web Services and Into the Wild (we will leave these in Chiang Mai)
  • One piano music book
  • Passports
  • 2 credit cards, 3 debit cards, $1,000 US Currency (for emergencies) and our driver’s licenses

It’s definitely easier to pack for a year-long trip when you’re facing just one climate: HOT.  We hope this list will be helpful to others thinking about making a similar trip.  If nothing else, we hope this list makes you understand why we seem to be wearing the same four outfits in ALL of our photos.

We want to hear from you!

What’s the one thing you never travel without?  Sunblock?  Ambien?  Chocolate?  Let us know!

Tuesday Taste: The Chicken Shack


Kevin and I discovered a restaurant last week in the Nimman neighborhood of Chiang Mai that we’ve decided to make a part of our regular lineup.  We’ve lovingly dubbed it “The Chicken Shack”.  One of the toughest things to me about traveling abroad is being bold enough to walk into a restaurant that doesn’t have any sort of english menu.  Sometimes you get lucky and someone working there speaks a little English, but we’ve gotten pretty comfortable lately with pointing and using hand gestures to try to order our food.  We’ve also mastered the art of creepily lurking outside a restaurant, spying on people ordering and paying for food until we have a vague idea of what we’re getting ourselves into and how much it’ll cost us.  Sure, there are plenty of restaurants in Chiang Mai that cater to tourists, but we’ve found that in general those places are less tasty and can cost several times more than the little hole-in-the-wall places we’ve come to love.

The Chicken Shack is located on Nimman Soi 11, just west of Siri Manklajarn road.  You can smell the chicken grilling from a block away… just follow your nose.  For those with a less acute sense of smell, here’s a link to the Google street view.


We went in for lunch and ordered a whole chicken with rice (the photo above is just my half!) for 150 Thai Baht (less than $5), plus a plate of Som Tam for 40 Thai Baht (just over $1).  This was definitely a little bit of a splurge for us now that we’ve grown accustomed to spending less than $2/person per meal.  Luckily, we were uncomfortably full for several hours, and we weren’t hungry again until maybe 8 hours after eating.  Actually, I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but it was a lot of bang for our 6 bucks!


For folks unfamiliar with Som Tam, it’s made with shredded green papaya, garlic, fish sauce, tomatoes, peanuts, carrots, green beans, and spicy chilis.  It is one of our all time favorite Thai dishes.  If you don’t like spicy, be sure to try to let them know – this usually packs quite the punch!  For anyone wanting to try this at home, here’s a recipe.  My sister-in-law Beth will sometimes make a version of this using all shredded carrots instead of papaya – carrots make a great substitution when you live somewhere without access to good tropical fruit!


We want to hear from you

Have you had any crazy dining experiences on your travels?  Have you ever accidentally eaten something you normally wouldn’t be up for because of a language barrier?  What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever eaten?  Please leave us a note to let us know!