A Cooking Class and A Flower Festival
08.03.2012 - 11.03.2012 32 °C
Arriving at Chaing Mai
The train rocked around a fair bit in the night and although it was far more comfortable than a Vietnam sleeper, it was a night of interrupted sleep. When 7am came I was up and ready to get off, but then a guard informed the carriage that the train was running 3 hours late! Oh well, back to bed for a few hours then I guess.
Finally arriving at Chiang Mai was a relief and the station was beautiful.
It was very clean with fresh flowers everywhere and had a really country village feel to it, despite Chang Mai being the second largest city in Thailand. The information desk offered us a ‘no obligation’ ride to a hotel in the centre, so thinking we could use them for a free ride if we didn’t like the room, we hopped on the mini bus.
The room did turn out to be a bit basic and cramped so Megan and Jayne sat for coffee while Phil and I searched for a new pad. After several similar (and indeed worse) holes it was bliss to find a hotel called Chinda House. It had large rooms with fan or a/c for only £6 a night and the bonus was a large fridge and TV too! Snapping up the last two double rooms, Phil and I went back to collect the girls and the bags.
The rest of the day was spent taking a look at our options while here in Chang Mai and as we all wanted to do it the four of us booked a full day cooking class for the next day. Then it was decided we could all save a few precious pennies if we could find a Tesco or similar instead of the ever so familiar 7-11.
With the location marked on the map we stomped off up the road and after a half hour+ walk managed to find a large Tesco superstore! It was like Heaven! I walked in and was in shock that all my favourite foods were on display after months of the only cheese available being Laughing Cow and never being quite sure what meat you were buying!
The four of us spent over an hour drooling at the food available and buying little tasters of lots of things. Jayne managed to get her first bottle of wine for 2 months and she was quite excited by the thought of opening it – even if she had been suffering with a dodgy tummy for a few days.
Back at Chinda the 4 of us ate and drank into the night and had a great time playing rain worms (the game Martijn and Bir had given us.
THAI COOKING CLASS!
Jayne woke up feeling very ill, not the best way to feel if you’re going to be cooking all day! But after a glass of milk and several tablets she was well enough to catch the bus that would take us to the train where we would travel to a nearby farm for the cooking course.
Our teacher’s name was ‘Oi’ which came naturally to us but seemed somehow rude shouting ‘Oi’ every time you needed her attention.
The minibus stopped at a local market first where Oi showed us many of the ingredients we would be using later in the day.
Then it was off to the train station for a quick 20min ride to the next village. Here we were given lovely cycles to ride the rest of the journey to the farm.
Oi showed us around the farm and explained which leaves were which and how they are used such as Thai Basil, Chillies and different types of fruit. We also had to pick some of the ingredients we would be using that afternoon to create our culinary masterpieces.
We were then taken to an outdoor cooking area where she explained the format for the day and immediately got us dressed up in aprons and stood around a large table. Oi had several assistants who prepared the correct portions of the main ingredients for us as we chopped lemon grass and smashed garlic under her instructions.
First we all prepared the ingredients for our soups (mine was sweet and sour local soup with chicken and Jayne’s was chicken in coconut milk) and our fried dish (we both choose Pad Thai as it has been one of our favourite dishes in SE Asia).
The instructions were well given and Oi’s English was superb so everything came along quite nicely then with several plates of prepared ingredients it was time to go to the cookers.
We watched Oi cook each dish first
and then we all immediately followed suit. No-one suffered any disasters (except I thought it would be a good idea to crush 3 chillies into my soup instead of 1 – my eyes actually sweated while eating it!). We then sat down to eat our first two courses, it was all delicious, if we don’t say so ourselves!!
Then it was time to set to work on our desserts (mine was battered, fried banana and Jayne’s was sticky rice with mango) The sticky rice had already been cooked (easily done in a rice cooker) so it was just a matter of adding it to some boiling coconut milk and palm sugar to thicken and then reducing it down a bit.
My battered fried bananas consisted of battering and deep frying bananas – unsurprisingly!!) in a lovely coconut flavoured batter.
Our next task was to mix up our pastes for our chosen curries (mine was Masaman and Jayne’s was Thai Green Curry). The ladies had to sit on a mat together to use the pestle and mortars the traditional way!
We were amazed to see how all the curry pastes have very similar ingredients and it’s just the addition of 1 or 2 more spices which distinguish between them. Also it was clear that it’s the paste that is by far the most important ingredient and should have the most time spent on it. It didn’t take long to cook up our curries once the pastes where finished and before we knew it we had another 2 courses of delicious food to munch through!
What a good fun day! We were all given certificates and recipe books which had everything we had cooked in the day and more. We can’t wait to get home to practise our new found cooking skills and there’s a danger that Jayne might actually use the pestle and mortar that has been ‘decorating’ our windowsill for 3 years!!
Jayne - Chiang Mai Flower festival
Megan had read about a huge flower festival near to Chiang Mai that runs for 3 months of the year, so the next day all 4 of us jumped in a tuk tuk and headed off to check it out.
It was a massive event with large corporate sponsored ‘gardens’ as well as other sites such as a beautiful orchard garden where we saw some amazing colours and shapes.
Then came Bug World where we educated on the importance of bugs in the plant world - and then given a selection of fried wasps and caterpillars to eat!
Which Jayne seemed to enjoy a little too much..
There was a selection of elephant topiary:
An international flower arranging competition (I took some pics for my future flower arranging career – when I’m grown-up)
Although I'm not sure that the use of an old car tyre will catch on..
And no day out in Thailand would be complete without a good Wat!
It wasn’t the best event we have ever been to but it kept us all amused and out of trouble for the whole day, so quite successful really!!
The next couple of days were pretty quiet, I was still suffering a bit with stomach problems and Chris seems to have picked up a nasty cough so we just wondered out down the funky little side streets for coffees or fruit shakes (we found a fab lady who makes the most amazing fruit shakes – completely fresh, and huge for only 60p each), got some laundry done (they dry the clothes on racks in the street – still smelt great though, and amazingly no-one stole our pants) and had a variety of massages (Thai massages are only £3 for an hour!).