It’s been a long time between posts as Tom and I have settled back into the comfort zone of home in New Zealand. Now that we’re out of holiday mode there’s plenty of time to look back at our final parts of the trip. It hasn’t happened just yet but I’m sure we’ll be missing Southeast Asia very soon.
After Chiang Rai we headed further South to Chiang Mai and it marked a momentous occasion – drinking a flat white that actually looked and tasted like a flat white…
We were also treated to yet another night bazaar. By this point in the trip we were a bit over them to be completely honest so here is the solo shot we took. More baggy pants, incense and buddha statues. Yup.
I think this sums up Thailand perfectly. It’s comfortable for us Western folk but just a little bit different.
There’s a bustling art scene in Chiang Mai. Near the main entrance to the old city (separated from the rest of the city by a giant brick wall) we found a bunch of creative folk selling their unique wares and this guy who sounded like a Thai Neil Young.
The next day, despite declaring ourselves ‘templed out’ after Angkor Wat, we felt like we should check out at least one in Chiang Mai. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is situated on a mountain so it’s a bit of a hike. To get there you need to take a tuk tuk from the North gate of the old city. I’d recommend getting a shared tuk tuk (the red utes). Expect to pay 50 baht per person each way in a shared vehicle or 400 baht for a private tuk tuk. The only downside with shared is that you have to wait for ten people before they will leave but this doesn’t take long as it’s a popular tourist spot. Once we got there we understood the attraction, it was stunning.
The hazy view from the top was incredible.
The great thing about Thailand is that it has such a varied landscape. One minute you’re chilling atop a mountain in a serene temple and the next you’re at a mall watching a movie followed by a Japanese/Korean fusion buffet…well you do if you’re us anyway.
There are so many tours on offer in Chiang Mai that it’s rude not to try at least one touristy thing. We couldn’t face another elephant encounter after we rode them in Koh Samui when we first arrived in Asia. It was not a pleasant experience and despite most tour operators in Chiang Mai claiming they were different and treated the animals fairly, I didn’t quite believe it. Aside from elephants there are plenty of other options like rafting, trekking or even massage courses. Seeing as most of our decisions are made by our stomachs we decided on a cooking course and it was awesome.
We were picked up from our hotel and driven out to a market to gather ingredients for the day. This was the cleanest market we’d ever seen in SE Asia and the produce was beautiful. We saw coconut milk being made and tried some amazing deep fried bananas for brekky.
Next it was off to the organic farm that hosts the school. It’s such a beautiful spot about a half hour drive out of town. I feel a bit shit because I can’t remember our teacher’s name but we’ll just call it even because she asked if I was pregnant. It was about this point where my beer intake severely dropped. This may have been the moment judging by our awkward faces…
The great thing about the Best trip cooking school is that you choose your own menu from a generous selection and everyone can make their own choices (other places make you all decide as a group which five dishes to cook).
First up we made soup. I made Tom Yum Goong.
Tom made Tom Kha Gai. Both were delicious.
Making curry paste from scratch was a highlight. Apparently if you don’t have powerful wrists you’ll never get a husband in Thailand…mind out of the gutter, it’s so you can pound curry paste!
Each person makes a curry and a main so our lunch was substantial to say the least. We had Massaman and green curry plus chicken and cashew nuts AND stir fried chicken with holy basil to get through.
Just when you think the course couldn’t get any better, after lunch there is scheduled nap time. The surroundings are serene and so peaceful.
Until Basil the adorable pup decides it’s time to wake up and play…
After nap time you can choose yet another dish and then it’s dessert time. We chose Pad Thai and pineapple fried rice which we were able to get wrapped up in a banana leaf for dinner (funnily enough we didn’t have the appetite to eat them on site). Luckily we have separate dessert stomachs and the sweets went down a treat. This is one of my favourite things from Thailand – bananas in coconut milk. So simple but absolutely delicious.
Tom made sticky rice with mango.Nom
There are about a zillion cooking courses to choose from in Chiang Mai so if you’re thinking of taking one I would fully recommend these guys.Unlike a lot of schools (particularly in Vietnam), the chef here lets you take the reigns and the payoff is totally worth it. The group numbers are limited to six as well which keeps it nice and cosy. Just don’t eat at least 72 hours beforehand if you want to fit it all in.