This is Thailand

 |  April 25, 2012

1. Where can I get hold of a decent second hand car in Chiang Mai?

Kwan, Intern: As well as visiting one of the many car sales rooms around the city, the two main websites I have come across which are useful for used car hunting in Chiang Mai are and From these you can get a good idea on pricing and what’s out there. In the websites there are names of second hand car dealers which you may want to visit, or you can connect with individuals who are selling a car. You can also find information on second hand cars from magazines, available in newsagents. In and around the city car owners often advertise parked cars with a sign in the window and a phone number. You can also use the classified pages in Citylife or other publications to search for cars for sale. If you make an appointment to see a car, try to bring someone who knows about cars with you. You may be able to ask a recommended mechanic to go with you if you give them a small fee. If you go with a Thai person you might get a better price too.

2. I’m always suspicious of the floating white meatballs in my noodle soup. Already not a fan of any type of processed meat, dare I ask what are luk chin actually made from?

Kwan, Intern: A friend once informed me that they sometimes put pigs testicles into the balls and that’s what can make them crunchy. Anyway, higher quality luk chin are made from minced meat (usually pork, beef or fish), mixed with pepper, salt, alkaline water and a little flour. It’s the alkaline water and flour which makes the meat ball have the springy texture. After all the ingredients are mixed together, the person making the luk chin will separate the mixture into small round balls, note it is quite entertaining to watch the speed at which they can do this, and boil the balls until they are completely cooked. Luk chin of a lower quality have less meat in and more flour and they can contain cheaper animal parts such as gristle and fat. One of my favourite places which does top rate luk chin and fish dumplings is ‘Rot Nueng’, a long standing Thai restaurant famous with locals opposite the Porn Ping Tower Hotel on Charoen Prathet Road.

3. I’m quite partial to the old shot of lao khao,Thai rice whiskey, to warm my cockles, but someone told me it can make you blind, similar rumours exist about Irish potcheen, is this true?

Kwan, Intern: Although this is a rather rare occurrence, yes in some cases it can. The pot or still in which the homemade whiskey is distilled can be a factor affecting the safety of the whiskey produced, rather than the ingredients which is normally, just glutinous rice and has nothing toxic in it at all. Stills made from copper or stainless steel are fine, but those made of aluminium or tin are not. Villagers, the typical producers of lao khao, unfortunately sometimes use an aluminium or tin still. The rice is boiled until cooked and mixed with ferment, a bi-product from kneading sticky rice, and Thai herbs. It is then, sterilised with heat and put into a clean container. Finally it is distilled. And this is the crucial stage whether or not the liquid will become harmful or not. In the distillation process, if an aluminium or tin still is used the chemical compound methanol is created. Methanol can cause blindness. Due to these dangers the government doesn’t legally allow villagers to sell home brewed rice whiskey. Only lao khao produced in a factory which has used the correct distillation equipment is sold in shops. So, if you want to drink this traditional drink just make sure it’s a good quality one.