Sunday, July 15, 2007

The One with Adventure Cooking

I decide to cut my losses and head "up Norf" to Chiang Mai to see Sam before he heads off on his journey. It'll be good to chill out with a friendly face for a bit.

This involves a really funky night train, where I get a really decent night's sleep in a top bunk. So I arrive refreshed and excited about seeing a different part of Thailand.

Sam's been here for a few days already, and is settled in a really laid back guest house called Julie's . We chill and catch up and then head around the Wat's of Chiang mai... of which there are many. The main one, Wat Bupharim, was slightly unusual.... do you see anyone familiar other than Buddha?!

That night we check out the large Night Bazaar for some more cheap shopping.

The next day and we're up early to go on our cooking course. Our chef, perm, takes us around the market, teaching us about the thai ingredients, what we can use at home, and how to choose the best things. It's great to finally ahve a name for all the weird and wonderful things that i've been seeing in the markets.
Back at Perm's house, come large kitchen we begin our days cooking. Which goes a bit like, cook, eat cook, eat some more, cook, force some more fod in the spaces in between.... you get the idea! Sam and I choose different things to cook so we get to try twice as much food, but I cook Tom Yam Soup with prawns, Sweet and Sour Vegetables, Thai Green Curry, and Drunker Noodles. We also learn how to make spring rolls, make a rose out of mango skin, and make sticky rice and mango. Needless to say we need to be rolled out of there at the end of the day (and that I will be boring you all at home with thai food for the next millenia!)
At one point Perm offers to teach us "adventure cooking". the type of cooking that at home would bring the fire brigade with it, but here in a semi open air kitchen, the fire ball is quite exciting. That said, we were not insured for it, so I was the only one to wimp out. This did not stop me getting almost singed eyebrows courtesy of Sam and Hannah either side of me... and to be honest from the photos, the look on my face suggests that they may be trying to set me alight!
Next day, we head out to yet another temple. Wat Doi Suthep is sat on top of a hill which overlooks Chiang Mai. To reach it, however, you need to walk up over 300 steps (and this time there are no monkeys to keep you entertained as you gasp for breath!)
Despite the amount of wats we are visiting, each one is different, although all do contain rather a lot of gold....
But we had even more exciting things in store... a trip to the cinema to watch the new Harry Potter film. This in itself was a cultural experience. The Thai national anthem is played before the film witha a video promoting the natural wonders of this fabulous country.
To be honest the cinema in Chiang Mai puts Vue in Watford to shame. You don't stick to the floor, the seats recline, are large and comfy, and the tickets are the equivalent of one pound. But... best of all... if you feel like
splurging you can pay a whopping fiver, and get the Emperor seat. Like a lazyboy chair with waitress service!!! In perspective though that is about 4 -5 nights accommodation!
Another evening venture sees us go to "Monk Chat" - an opportunity for the Thai monks to improve their english and for us to understand a bit about Buddhism. It's a little strange to walk into a room full of tables with 2-3 monks sat at each, chatting to foreigners, and laughter filling the air.
It was fascinating... our monk was a novice, and will become a full monk when he's 19. This did mean, however, that we did not always get answers that we understood, and in regards to all the string that is tied up in each temple... we got a vague answer of "holy string" which, from the furtive glances to his mate, I think may have been a "I'm sure these farangs will buy that, as I don't know the answer". That said, it has certainly made me want to find out more, so that I understand what I am seeing in the Wats, and some of the questions have already been cleared up.
After just a couple of days I feel totally relaxed, and unable to make decisions, just going with the flow.... and you know what... I really like it!

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