It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me when I say that I’m terrible at directions. No matter how hard I try, my mind sort of switches off as the landscape flashes by, and before I know it, I’m where I need to be through no effort of my own.
So maybe it was a bad idea to go to Lampang for the express purpose of trying out some beef noodles I had eaten a few years earlier that I remembered were pretty good. My directions to the hapless, Chiang Rai-born driver we hired for the day: “There are some famous beef noodles at a stall near a temple in town. There is lots of greenery around it.” If we were lucky, this would be enough. How big can Lampang be, amirite?
Not a surprise, then, that we got lost. Many times. It turns out there are lots of temples in Lampang, the third-largest town in Northern Thailand and home to a large deposit of lignite. Go Lampang!
There are also lots of different definitions on “famous beef noodles”. Whereas I meant “delicious noodles with beef in them”, other people took it to mean “the closest noodle shop to where I am right now at this moment”, “that place that I heard might have noodles across town”, and “the barbecued pork on rice place”.
We bulled our way onto various temple grounds, disturbing monks doing their laundry and workers eating their lunches. We squeezed our van into various dead-end alleys and one-way thoroughfares. Worst of all, we walked — from one end of a road to another, up and down sidewalks, investigating every sign. Let me tell you (please! Let me!), it’s not cool in Northern Thailand’s third-largest town at the moment. It’s not even a little breezy. More than once, we thought: maybe these noodles aren’t that good? Maybe we’ll eat somewhere else? Somewhere close and convenient?
But that’s not what we’re about. The whole point of our existence is to find that One Special Place that will serve us something good and/or do it in an interesting way. It took about three hours to chance upon the one man — a driver of the horse-drawn carriages for which charming little Lampang is known, if Lampang is known for anything at all — who told us to go straight, turn left, turn right, and then left again. Simple! Beef noodles were to be ours, after only half a day spent searching.
Niyom Pochana — known also as “Oyo” (I don’t know why) — is actually located in the shadow of Muangsat Temple (I knew there was a temple somewhere) on Charoenmuang Road. Its specialty is actually its meatballs, both beef and pork, as well as its generous additions of boiled pork, freshly-blanched beef slices and stewed beef atop soft rice noodles, a clear pork bone broth and a handful of shredded cabbage leaves.
Don’t be late, because the meatballs can and do run out. Perhaps, next time, barring any more delays (I mean, I can’t get lost again, right? Right?) I will get as many brimming bowlfuls of beef meatballs as I can possibly eat. At least we found the place, and I can rest easy and sated knowing that our hours-long search was worth it.
(All photos by @SpecialKRB)