Hello from Northern Thailand where it is now 10:00pm and a beautiful 65 degrees (sorry – just had to tell you all that!)
We took a 1 hour flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on December 21st (Wed). We immediately checked into what is now our new record for the lowest cost accomodation. We are staying in a guesthouse for $6.25/night and we have our own bathroom with hot water, towels, and toilet paper. What a deal! We immediately started walking around the Old City with the goal of visiting a few wats (Buddist temples). The Old City, where we are staying, is roughly one square mile and it is still bound by the old city wall and a moat. On our way to the wats we saw many monks as this is a place monks come to study. The photo below shows two monks inside one of the Buddist temples we visited.
The next day we hired a sawngthaew to take us to three sites outside of Chiang Mai. A sawngthaew is a small pickup truck with two benches in the back and a covering over the truck bed in the back (where the two benches are). The first place we visited was a snake farm. When we walked in a snake show was in progress so we took a seat and were entertained by the snake handlers doing strange things with the snakes (like catching them in their mouths when thrown to them). They also scared the audience quite a bit by pretending to throw the snakes at people when they would actually throw a rope. I have to admit it was funny seeing people freak out when faced with the possibility that a snake was going to come flying in their face (and it appeared they were deliberately targeting middle aged women). We wandered around the snake farm a bit more and saw a wide variety of snakes plus other animals such as monkeys, rabbits, mongooses, birds, and huge iguanas.
Next we traveled to an orchid and butterfly farm. It was only 50 cents to get in so we thought we might as well take a look. The orchids were beautiful and would have been a fascinating trip for any flower lover. Unfortunately, most of the butterflys were hanging in cocoons so we only saw a couple but they were very large and had a strange shape. In fact, they were so large they were sort of creepy looking.
Finally, we went to an elephant camp. Elephants were used in the logging industry years ago in Thailand but now they are protected and kept in camps. At the camp, we saw elephants doing a lot of activities including painting pictures. The elephants have each been trained to paint a different type of picture. We saw some elephants painting trees and flowers while others painted more abstract type of paintings. The paintings (ranging in price from $50 to $200) are sold in the elephant art gallery and the money goes to help care for the animals. Here is a picture of one of the elephants painting a picture:
Chiang Mai is a town that offers classes in just about anything you can think of and many people come here for this very reason. For example, you can take classes in aromatherapy, massage, Zen Buddhism, painting, jewelery making, Thai speaking and writing, yoga, dance, and even elephant handling. So, we signed up for a day long course in Thai cooking.
We started our course today by going to the local market and becoming educated about thai fruits, vegetables, spices, and curry pastes. Once we finished our shopping we went back to the classroom where we spent the day learning to make and cook:
Fried cashew nut with chicken
Chicken in coconut milk
Red Curry Paste
Red Curry Chicken
Spicy Noodle Salad
Fried Fish Cake.
We had a great time taking the Thai cooking class and our teacher was fantastic. In addition to cooking and eating all day, we also got a beautiful recipe book and learned that our photos from the cooking school would be put up on the Baan Thai – Thai Cookery School website. When we have more information about the website and photos we’ll let you know. In the meantime…here is a picture of Mike with some of our classmates.
Tomorrow we are taking a bus to a small town located in the mountains of northern Thailand. The town is called Pai and this is where we will be spending the next few days including Christmas.
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Tags: Category #20: Thailand