Many people want to go beyond touristy activities and want to meet the locals while traveling. If you’re like me, not only do you want to meet the locals, but you also want to taste their food. You don’t want the food that’s served at restaurants for tourists. You want the food that’s being cooked in people’s homes.
I got just the opportunity to do that when Withlocals invited me to experience a dinner prepared by a local just outside of Chiang Mai. Nicky, the host, really goes all out with this dinner. He doesn’t want people to just experience the food. He realizes that food is so interlaced with the culture of a place, that he gives you a complete all-day experience of his village, Mae Wang.
At the end of the day, his family prepared me a delicious Thai meal with foods that included foods I had never tasted before.
Here were some of my highlights of the day:
1. Shopping For Ingredients For Our Dinner At A Local Market
I love Asian markets, and I had so much fun getting to pick out the fruit we would eat for dessert that evening. Nicky will also guide you around the market, if you want to know what any of the unique Asian ingredients are.
2. Getting To Spend Time In One Of The Karen Hill Tribe Villages
The hill tribe tours that you will find in Thailand mostly take you to villages that have been staged and set up for tourists. The village we visited was a real local village, and we got to watch life going on as normal. I was in awe of their simple houses and furnishings. I fell in love with the pigs, the ducks, and the chickens.
Walking around the village made me realize how much we take for granted. Our technology in modern society has made things easier, but what have we lost as a result? People don’t gather together the way they do in these villages. I don’t hear the sound of laughter the way I did in simple villages like this one.
People don’t seem to have time for anyone because there is too much to do. But in these villages, where they even weave the clothes they are wearing, community and time together is what daily life is based on. Everyone is helping everyone else. How have we lost this? It gave me a lot to think about.
3. Playing In The Rice Fields
We walked in the rice fields surrounding the village, and I was in awe of the scenery. Butterflies in vibrant colors flitted among the flowers. I ate dripping honey off of honeycomb that was still covered in bees. Water droplets formed works of art on fallen leaves. Spirit dogs protected the fields, while beautiful women in their sixties worked the fields. I was in awe of how much life was going on around me on this small section of earth.
4. Visiting The Mae Wang Waterfall
This was no gentle trickle of water, but was quite the roaring gush. It was a gorgeous setting, but I avoided the rickety bridge!
5. Watching The Bamboo Rafters
I am always amazed by what local cultures build their rafts and boats from, and this was a scenic way to relax after lunch.
6. Spending Time In The Mae Wang Village
Spending time in Nicky’s village was among the highlights of the day. We visited a coffee farm where a bird had built its nest in a bunch of bananas, and I found the coolest caterpillar ever.
What I enjoyed the most was that the families and neighbors were just sitting around being with each other. They weren’t texting on their cell phones. The kids weren’t playing video games. There was no TV on in the background. It was just people, hanging out, getting to know one another, laughing together, cooking together.
They were making a snake curry when we visited. I even tried some of it, and it was suprisingly delicious!
The curry was made from a snake that had been killed, and herbs and leaves that were found from the village. New people would arrive with bits of things they had collected to throw in the soup. And, I think I know why the curry tasted so good. The real ingredient of this curry was love.
7. Dinner At Nicky’s
The whole family worked hard to prepare us a huge meal full of local specialties. The pork curry was my favorite. I was in awe of all the food that Nicky’s wife was able to prepare with only a wok.
The evening ended in stories of how villages like these are being changed as things are modernized. Many of the children are leaving the villages to go to the bigger cities.
We contrasted this with life in America where many people are going back to growing their own food, living more off the land, and canning their own food. Many people in the US are tired of living a hectic pace, and they’re moving away from cities, towards lightened work schedules, and creating their own jobs.
One things for sure this day was one I will not soon forget. I am thankful for the hospitality that Nicky and his family showed me. I will not be taking the smallest things that I have for granted. (I now consider myself lucky to have a chair, windows, a bed).
But I also realized something else. Those who have the most in this world?
They are the ones who have each other.