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Thai Cooking School

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

At the Smile Guesthouse I attend cooking school. A Dutch couple and a German girl and I each have our own “station” with a wok sitting on a gas burner. O (pronounced O?…the voice rising up at the end) teaches us “New Thai” cooking style that is an attempt to limit the amount of calories and fat in the food. Coconut milk, common to all curries and many other dishes, is normally high in fat but in new style it is diluted by half with water flavored with dried mushrooms. Girls now limit the amount of rice and noodles in their diets…not eaten every day but considered a treat. No wonder the Thai girls have such flat tummies!

For curries a little coconut milk is mixed with water in a wok. Prepared curry paste bought at the market is mixed with the water and milk and “fried” until it becomes dry. I make a “mistake” and try to mash the curry with my wok utensil…ending up with it all stuck on the back of the spatula instead of in the liquid! Everything is done precisely…the spatula is turned upside down and the paste is “chopped” and stirred into the water. More water is added until you have the right amount and consistency for a sauce. Then the chopped chicken, pork or beef or tofu is added (never fried ahead of time) along with strong tiny unpeeled garlic cloves, onions, a couple teaspoons of fish sauce, a little lime juice and half a teaspoon of sugar. Holy basil leaves are added last. For Tom Kha Gai soup, the coconut milk is never boiled because boiling separates from the fat from the “milk” and makes the soup look and taste greasy.

In the all-day class, we prepared six dishes…three curries, fish steamed in a banana leaf, (not my favorite) Tom Kha Gai (chicken in coconut milk soup and papaya salad. If green papya cannot be found you can fix it with shredded carrots…carrots and papaya taste the same we are told. We were supposed to eat it all afterward but of course it was much too much food for one meal. My left-overs are in my refrigerator in my room waiting for me to figure out how to reheat it for dinner tonight.

I leave for Lao soon.

Tha Ton Thailand

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Supuat drove me to Tha Tan…right on the Thai-Burma border directly north of Chiang Mai to see several minority groups, Lisu, Lahu, Akha and Longnecks, that live there.

Last year in southern Yunnan China, I visited Lahu, Lisu and Mien mountain people many of whom had migrated into Thailand years ago. The Karen and Shan and Longneck people in and near Tha Ton have been forced out of Burma by the junta who took over the Burmese government in the early 90’s. They do not speak Thai and they have their own languages, but Supoat, my guide, being from the area, speaks the local Chiang Rai dialect that is common to all the people.

About seven years ago Thailand launched a program to pave the roads into the mountains, so instead of trekking dirt trails we are able to drive into the villages. We visit the Lahu first.



Akha Woman



The Longnecks are refugees from Burma and do not have Thai citizenship so they are confined to small areas where the women weave items in small thatched shelters to sell to the tourists and the men grow rice on the mountainsides. The Longnecks wear gold-colored metal coils around their necks that actually does not elongate the neck but they look long because over time the shoulders slope down. I buy some lovely woven scarves for $1 each.



My driver with two smiling Longneck girls.

The last village is Lisu. We park in the schoolyard. Supoat knows the family we visit. The yard, with children, pigs and chicken running free is well-swept.


I notice a chubby woman sitting in a nearby chair…looking miserable. Questioning her we decide she is passing a gallstone. Her husband is out looking for their pig he can butcher to sell to their neighbors so he can have money to take her to the doctor in Chiang Mai. I commiserate with her…I know how painful gallstones are. She kindly invites me to stay and eat with the family but Supoat carefully refuses…we don’t want to trouble the family at this time and we need to be on our way back to Chiang Mai.

Slicing Palm for cooking


Leaving the village we pass under a colorful arch…past small piles of old clothing that used to belong to villagers who have passed on. The clothes are there for spirits who might need them when they come back, I ask. Yes, he says. In the background you can see smoke from “slash & burn” fires that take place this time of year when the locals burn harvested fields.


Faithful Tuk Tuk Driver

Saturday, March 25th, 2006
eWCBF9KYWi73omUCUHRffw-2006185115650300.gif Nice to have someone faithful to me. I trust Supoat, in his 50's, with soft face and warm bright eyes. I call him when I need him to drive me somewhere in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Breakfast at Smile Guesthouse

Saturday, March 25th, 2006
I have changed hotels. I am now at the brand new Bau-Tong Lodge with free WiFi that is down little soi 3 off Loi Kroh...for half the cost of the Galare Guesthouse where I was for the last three ... [Continue reading this entry]

Northern Style Thai Massage

Saturday, March 25th, 2006
This last week I found a very small, unassuming massage shop...very simple understated Thai Lanna-style salon with rough dark stained wood...a couple couches draped with yellow ochre and red umber raw silk cloth. Branches of pussy willow fill a huge ... [Continue reading this entry]

Chiang Mai Felt Like Home?

Sunday, March 19th, 2006
eWCBF9KYWi73omUCUHRffw-2006185115650300.gif Have been here three weeks and Chiang Mai did feel like home for awhile...just long enough to get oriented and find the good places to eat. I spent all afternoon today in my ... [Continue reading this entry]

Diamond Jubilee Of His Majesty

Thursday, March 16th, 2006
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand will celebrate his Diamond Jubilee in Bangkok in June 2006. The King of Thailand is one of the most highly respected spiritual leaders in the world in the last half century. In ... [Continue reading this entry]

Wat Chedi Luang

Thursday, March 16th, 2006
The oldest (700 years) and most interesting temple in Chiang Mai that had it's top toppled in an earthquake. wat-chedi-luang.jpg

Elephants Monkeys & Snakes

Thursday, March 16th, 2006
A day trip north took me to an elephant training camp, monkey training school where they learn to twist off the coconuts and let them drop from the trees. DSC00474.JPG The snake show I ... [Continue reading this entry]


Wednesday, March 15th, 2006
Tired of the Night Market for tourists, this week I walked to the Warorot Day Market...a market for the local Thais. DSC00445.JPG DSC00450.JPG I bought delicious garlic flavored BBQ ... [Continue reading this entry]

“Letters From Thailand”

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006
"Letters From Thailand" is a lovely novel wrtten in 1969 by "Botan", a pseudonym of the Chinese-born Thai female writer, Supa Sirisingh, and recently translated into English by Susan Fulop Kepner, an academic on Southeast Asian studies from UCLA. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Reverent Inquiry

Friday, March 10th, 2006
In spite of my petty but honest day-to-day frustration with bureaucratic silliness while traveling in most developing countries, I treasure the lives of the people who ironically seem to have integrity...congruity. The way they live is understandable in relation ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hope For Thailand

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006
Thousands of people have been demonstrating for several days and nights in the streets of Bangkok calling for Prime Minister Thaksin to step down. One hundred university and business leaders signed a letter pleading for the King to appoint ... [Continue reading this entry]

Visa Run Misery

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006
Burma.gif Every month my son Doug has to cross into Burma and come back into Thailand to get another 30 day stay in the country. If you are late it's a $12 fine per day. ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, March 7th, 2006
Yesterday morning I walked to the Post Office around the corner and down the street and then slowly swung a wide path through the city...dawdling in used book stores, Jonesing for all the quality crafts and household items in shop ... [Continue reading this entry]

British Humor

Monday, March 6th, 2006
Ending the BBC news report today on the Oscar winners, the anchor noticed that the Icelandic singer Bjork was nowhere to be seen. "She was wearing the white feathered swan dress she wore her Oscar year," he said, "and ... [Continue reading this entry]

The World A Playground?

Saturday, March 4th, 2006
A friend recently emailed me asking what it is like to have all the world as my "playground." This was my very brief answer: Well, the best thing about traveling in developing countries like SE Asia, Africa and China ... [Continue reading this entry]

Chiang Mai Thailand

Saturday, March 4th, 2006
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171150454826.gif Flew from Koh Samui on Bangkok Air (the only airline off the island because Bangkok Air built the airport) and then on to Chiang Mai on budget Air Asia. I guess Bob is in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Good-bye To Samui

Saturday, March 4th, 2006
On 1 March I said good-bye to my son Doug and his wife Luk and Ting Tong...their little Shimizu...and caught a Bangkok Air flight back to Bangkok (Bangkok Air built the airport on Samui so they won't let any other ... [Continue reading this entry]