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Lots of small outlets to order from
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Sunday, 4-Apr-2004 00:00
Food Centers
There are quite a few food centers in Chiang Mai, mostly at shopping malls or hypermarkets. The food on offer is pretty much exactly the kinds that you would find at road-side food stalls. However food centers bring lots of these together under one roof, and provide a clean and airconditioned environment. Especially in the hot season, food centers (an shopping malls in general) become very popular places to escape the afternoon heat. Prices are very similar to street food, perhaps priced just 5 baht or so higher per dish. (They get you on the water & drinks :-D )

Do I like food centers? Well............ not really. But that could be because I don't like shopping and shopping malls in general. For sure they're a quick, cool, cheap and convenient place to grab lunch. But they're also busy and noisy, as food centers seem mostly located near areas that produce an incredible noise level, most notably kids playground areas, or worse, video games. As for taste, I think for the most part, 'real' restaurant and long established roadside food stalls have the edge. Some of of the operators of established restaurants or food stalls would actually open a 'branch' and rent an outlet at a food center complex. This is especially the case at the Airport Plaza food center near the Major Cineplex mall. I think the original places are usually better, though.

Still food centers are good because of the variety on offer. They're also easy because you can order from pictures or just by pointing at dishes. Most food centers use some kind of coupon system, where you buy an amount of coupons, say 50 baht's worth, and then pay using these coupons. Any left-over coupons can be exchanged back for real money afterwards. This system lets the food center operators keep track of business for each individual outlet, and it also reduces the opportunities for theft by employees.

Now then.. the best food center in Chiang Mai. For a long time I considered this to be the one at Airport Plaza. However most outlets are definitely a bit more expensive, and generally I think many of them should try harder and improve quantity & quality. So my vote goes to the food center at Carrefour, the big French owned hypermarket chain. Carrefour was renovated and extended last year, and the food center area is now huge. There are many outlets, good variety, low prices between 15-25 baht for most dishes, and always enough space to find a table. They moved from a coupon system to a bar-code card system, pretty much like the BTS Skytrain, where you get a bar-coded card that you can fill or re-fill with any amount of money. Then when paying you just hand over your card, they swipe it through a machine and you get your receipt. When the amount on the card is all used up they keep the card.

Residents of Chiang Mai will of course have no trouble locating Carrefour, for visitors, it's on the Superhighway ring road between the Doi Saket road intersection and the Sankamphaeng road intersection.

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