I come to a stop at the intersection by Chiang Mai Gate and wait for the pedestrian light to turn green. A tall farang with forest green hippie pants and a linen tunic towers next to me. I try not to stare at his long goat-like beard and turban of dreads that sits wrapped on his head. He’s clearly been here too long and I begin to wonder if my appearance will alter over the next few months in this town – not quite that drastically, I hope.
Once I reach the other side of the busy street it’s time to begin searching through the maze of food stands that convene along the length of Bumrung Buri Road.
There is a woman in a colourful hijab cooking up banana and egg roti with chocolate sauce drizzled over top. Next to her another vendor hastily packages mango sticky rice into styrofoam containers for a growing queue of customers. And just a few steps over, a man is chopping up a boiled duck with a cleaver.
I, however, am not looking for any of those stands, especially not the last one. I am here on a quest for what promises to be the best fruit shake in Chiang Mai – I am looking for Mrs. Pa.
For two consecutive days I have not been able to find her, but on Tuesday night I spot her small stand near the moat. Fresh mangoes, papayas, apples and limes are piled on and around her work station. I walk up slowly, unsure if I recognize the woman behind the counter as the Mrs. Pa from the CNN article, but sure enough it’s her.
I’ve hit the jackpot!
With no menu to order from, I point at the ripe mangoes and ask what other fruits go well with that. She suggests pineapple and passionfruit for “a little sour”, and a few minutes later I am sipping away at a refreshing blend of fruits with a tangy hint. Not bad Mrs. Pa, not bad!
I am back the following night looking to try something new and I ask her what’s good. Her fruit selection is slightly different today and she blends carrots, apples, oranges and limes into yet another delicious smoothie. I take a big sip of the foamy orange mixture in my cup, and she replenishes it with more from the blender. Nothing goes to waste here.
It probably comes as no surprise that I am back again for a third time the day after that. It is still early in the night and the market has by no means hit its peak, yet Mrs. Pa’s fruit stand is swarming with a mixture of thirsty locals and foreigners.
I stand back and watch the different smoothies being served up and I ponder what to get this time. It’s the magenta blend of fruits whirring around in the blender for the customer ahead that catches my eye.
“What’s that fruit?” I ask Mrs. Pa and she slices a dragon fruit before my eyes to reveal a vibrant pink interior. I can hardly believe my eyes; isn’t dragon fruit supposed to be white with black seeds? It’s decided, “I’ll have that one!”
Three days in a row – she has gained a new convert.
In every country I go to I have what I call a ‘food mamma’. This is usually someone who makes great local food on budget, with a little love for cooking sprinkled in. I found a food mamma who cooked tofu stew in a little basement restaurant in Korea, a food mamma who made pho and fresh spring rolls for me in Hoi An, and now I have found another food mamma who makes amazing fruit shakes just down the road from my apartment in Chiang Mai.
This is going to be a good summer.