Pizza Nite is a gathering of FOUR (4) friends (me included) for pizza-making. Why only 4? Because if bigger than 4, I get stressed! It can be anytime during the day or evening(not just 'nite'). Everyone makes their special pizza for sharing. We will all be assembling our own pizza together. 4 people, 4 pizzas. 2 pizzas at a time will be baked. When we are finished, the next 2 pizzas will be baked - this way, the pizza will always be hot.
pizza ingredients - everyone brings everything they need to make their pizza - dough, sauce, cheese, toppings, etc. Please have everything already cut-up at home, so we save time and only assembly is needed. You can take home whatever ingredients you didn't use or donate it to the next Pizza Nite group.
diet restrictions - please state your diet restriction. Since we are sharing our pizza with everyone, let's all make pizza everyone can eat. One way to do this is make imaginary lines on the pizza (4 slices) and assign a slice to a particaular person (eg - for the vegetarian, don't put meat on that slice but put meat on the other three slices)
drinks - everyone brings their own drinks. But if you feel like sharing your wine or beer with everyone, then cheers to you!
clean up - if everyone helps out in cleaning up, I will remember you in my prayers (and keep you in the short list)
How to make pizza dough
Three ways to bring your pizza dough to Pizza Nite:
buy uncooked pizza dough from a pizza joint(easy and fun)
buy a ready-made cooked pizza crust from the grocery(easy but not fun)
make your own pizza dough from scratch, as follows: (challenging and most fun)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup warm water (between 85° and 115° F)
2 tbsp yeast (I like my dough a little yeasty. You can use less)
2 tbsp sugar or honey (I use Muscovado sugar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Making the sponge/poolish Mix water, sugar, yeast and 1 cup regular flour in a bowl. Cover until it starts to bubble (first rising, around 45 mins). This can now be used. However, if you want a more flavorful pizza dough, keep this covered in the fridge overnight or a full 24 hours.
Kneading Mix the rest of the ingredients (flour, salt and oil) and start kneading (tip: press on with your body weight, not just your arm power). The dough should be soft without being sticky. Too sticky, add flour. Too hard, add water. You're done when the dough bounces back when you poke your finger onto it. Cover until double in size (2nd rising, around 45 mins).
Scaling and shaping Punch the dough to take the air out. You can cut it up and use only what you need. You can cut it up into 3 and shape them into balls - one of those balls should be good to make one 13" regular pizza. You can freeze the 2. Flatten one ball into a circular shape. I usually flatten it on the same tray I will bake on so I don't have to make a transfer - I just apply a little oil on the tray before flattening. Using both hands, one on top of the other, press from the center outwards to stretch it in all directions. You can flatten it more by using a rolling pin (or wine bottle). Take a fork and put puncture holes all over the dough to keep it from bubbling up while cooking (which also holds the sauce in place). Wait until double in size (3rd and last rising).
the dough is now ready for baking
For a more complicated pizza dough but much better, here's a video by Vito Iacopelli
How to make pizza sauce
Two ways to bring your pizza sauce to Pizza Nite:
buy a ready-made pizza sauce from a pizza resto or from the grocery
make your own pizza sauce from scratch, as follows: (challenging and most fun)
Basic Pizza Sauce
ripe fresh tomatoes (use just enough for sauce consistency)
fresh peeled crushed garlic (according to taste)
bunch of fresh basil (in Thailand, there are 3 types...use the sweet basil with green stem, not purple) or oregano
1 small can, tomato paste (great thickener and holds the sauce together)
teaspoon of sugar (not to sweeten, but to reduce acidity)
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper
generous amount of olive oil (quarter cup? really, up to you for consistency)
puree the fresh tomatoes in a blender and strain on a sieve. Keep the liquid and the pulp.
combine basil leaves, garlic and the tomato liquid in a blender and liquify. Transfer all to a pot and heat up. Remove immediately the moment it boils. Strain the liquid and discard the pulp
add the liquid, sugar, the tomato pulp, salt, pepper and tomato paste in a blender and puree again
on slowest blender setting, start pouring small amount of olive oil into the sauce until well blended. Adding oil last prevents the oil from separating
sauce is ready. Pack in serving size containers and freeze
All-Male Pizza Nite Pizza Nites in Chiang Mai have always been dominated by female friends. Now, it's an all-male revue from yoga and the biohackers group. All of them Pizza Nite virgins!
Biohackers I'd been attending Jason's Wim Hof breathing & ice bath sessions, together with his Biohacker meetups. It's an interesting group with innovative forward-thinkers who devour information and act on their mandate (not just intellectualizing). In short, this new group are grounded people who deal with the nuts-and-bolts of reality without the pretentious spirituality***. There are a few of them who resonate but for this Pizza Nite, I could only invite 2 - Jason and Kevin. I only met Kevin last Wednesday at the ice bath and at the Biohacker meetup. First 5 minutes and I already liked him.
Calum I haven't seen Calum in over a month. I hosted Saturday yoga because of him, and now, this tradition has continued, sans Calum. It was good to have him back at Saraan, even if it is not about being on the mat.
pizza crew: me, Kevin, Jason and Calum
Ending Thoughts We started at 1pm and ended up almost at 5:30. We downed 2 red bottles of wine and 7 pizza pies (Jason made 2 and Calum made 3). Our talk ranged mostly about global state of affairs - the jab, who are the good guys, what's next, etc. Jason leaves soon for the US, I will leave soon and even though there seems to be a quieting down with the plandemic, things are still unpredictable. These guys will ride it through. They're ahead of the game - they're smart, they are critical thinkers, and they're thinking 2 steps ahead already.
I felt good about this Pizza Nite. There is something to be said about male-energy.
*** In comparison, it's NOT the 'woke tribe' I used to hang out with, who chant OM while they burn you at the stake with heaven in their minds amid a train wreck underneath their self-righteous carapace.
(Jan 24, 2022) With my visa extension coming to an end, there is now a sense of urgency in everything - Pizza Nite included! The more Pizza Nites, the better. In a way, it's also a goodbye to the friends I'll be leaving behind.....more »»
Bus Station Train Station Chiang Mai International Airport Nong Buak Hard Park - free yoga classes daily
Arun Dara Villa - 7 exclusive rooms, 1 swimming pool for every room, grand opening
Nawa Sheeva Hotel - big rooms, high ceiling, salt-water pool, restaurant, cafe
Nawa Saraan Hotel - low density (4 spacious rooms), stone garden setting, Koi fish pond, Old City location
Arun Suite - 3 bedrooms in a 3-storie guesthouse within Old City, ideal for families
Tawan Bike - motorcycle rental | +66 91 635 2863 | Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Chiang Mai FYI / Tips
crop-burning season in Chiang Mai is between late Feb to early April. But laws change everytime. This year, 2019, there is a 61-day ban on burning so the farmers started burning early. When my plane was approaching Chiang Mai on Jan 24, 2019, there was already a thick blanket of smog covering the entire city (and beyond). But within the city itself, you won't feel it (but that doesn't mean the air is healthy). To monitor air conditions in real time, refer to site: Chiang Mai Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI)
hot season begins March and lasts until June
wet season begins July and lasts until September
best time to visit Chiang Mai is mid-September to mid-February - after the monsoon and before the burning
you have to try Khao Soi, this is north Thailand's culinary staple
the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located in the Old City
to exchange your dollars to Thai Baht, the Super Rich Money Exchange give the best rates. There are many branches scattered around Chiang Mai
get a red cab (songthao) outside the train station for Baht 50 (instead of paying B100 if inside the train station) to Old City - if you haggle nicely enough...I did!
shared red taxi (songthao) - B30 standard fare plying all over Old City
for only B50/day, best to rent a bike to go around the Old City - it's a 2.5km2 with lots to discover
FREE daily yoga classes from 9:00am to 10:15am at Nong Buak Hard Park (southwest corner of Old City). Resident and passing-through teachers take turns conducting yoga classes.
Blues/Jazz Bars in Chiang Mai
North Gate Jazz Coop - at Chang Phueg Gate, great Tuesday jam session, Blues on Sundays at 11pm by the Chiang Mai Blues band
Boy Blues Bar - at the Night Bazaar. Mondays at 9:30pm is open mic
My Secret Cafe - near Wat Phra Singh. Tuesdays at 7:30pm for the changing front-act and 9:00pm for the Panic Band
Taphae East - 88 Thapae Rd. (just north of Night Bazaar). Fridays at 9:30pm by Chiang Mai Blues Band
Chiang Mai Cost Index
B60 Chiang beer
B250 1 hour drop-in yoga session
B200 one hour Thai body massage at WAYA Massage(highly recommended)
B50 noodle soup with meat
B40 pad thai
B30/kilo wash-only laundry
B50/kilo wash+iron laundry
B100-150 dorm bed/night
B250 fan room/night
B30 internet cafe/hour
B170-190 Movies Sat-Sun and public holidays
B130-150 Movies weekdays
B100 Movies Wednesdays (movie discount day)
B750 1/2 day Thai cooking lessons
B900-1000 1 full day Thai cooking lessons
B400 Muay Thai boxing ticket
B2500 starting room rate at the luxury hotel, Nawa Sheeva(highly recommended)
B450 bus, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
B160-180 bus, Chiang Mai to Pai
B1250 bus, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
B1650 slow boat, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
B210 bus, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, 3-4 hours
B360 Green VIP bus, Chiang Mai to Mae Sai (Thai border town for visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar)
B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours
B200 motorbike rental, 24 hours
B273 #51 sleeping train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Book Online - direct booking with State Railway of Thailand. Best to register first. If going to BKK from CNX, click "Northern Line".
note -- big difference between booking direct with the State Railway and booking with an online 3rd party agent. 12GO was charging B1330 for the same trip that only cost me B941 with the State Railway.
note -- Oct 2022, I took the #10 Train from CNX to BKK, upper berth, 2nd class, a/c, sleeper, B941. The train was clean, fast, comfortable and modern. If you have heavy luggage that will cost more money in flight checkin, I would suggest this train. Otherwise, the flight now is so much cheaper it doesn't even make sense to take the bus or train.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train from Bang Sue Train Station
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
This process is BEFORE Covid 19. Not sure what it is now.
60-Day Thai Tourist Visa
NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.
Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
b) flight booking to Thailand
c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
d) filled-in tourist visa form
e) 2 passport pictures
f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
g) passport with at least 6 months validity
After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.
NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.
bring the following to the Immigration Office:
a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
b) Baht 1900
c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the journey...you just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!