Chiang Mai, Thailand

[ 0 ] July 24, 2012 |

Anxious to explore more of the “Land of Smiles,” we flew north to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is treasured by Thais and tourist and is often referred to as the cultural capital of the country. It served as the past capital of the northern Thai kingdom of Lanna. Prior to arrival, we had heard rave reviews describing a quaint, culture filled, mountainous oasis, but in all honesty Chiang Mai isn’t quite that. The city is sprawling, traffic is fierce, and the streets are dirty. On the other hand, it is a city built along the beautiful Ping River, the food is delicious, and just a short ride away pure tranquility can still be found.

Coming off of such a busy two weeks, we took a few days off to get our mojo back in sync. For the first few nights we stayed on the fringe of town at a beautiful hamlet of a hotel called Ayatana. The rooms were decorated with local art and products and the walls were painted with scenes of Thailand. Through a door in the shower there was an outdoor area fitted with a giant urn and water faucet. If you wanted to, you could bathe in the traditional style with a pot of water and scoop. (We used the urn for soaking our laundry.) After resting up and getting tired of cab rides to find food, we soon moved into town to a typical cheap hotel in a great location, the Royal Princess.

Ayantana

Traditional Bathing- or Laundry

Everyday in Chiang Mai a large night bizzar appears. At around 3:00 PM vendors roll into town on their motorbikes and sidecars hauling their stations and merchandise. Watching the setup was half the fun. Most of the street vendors had wheels on their tables, so some literally just held on to them and rolled them down the street while riding their motorbikes. Others used giant homemade wheelbarrows and some hauled goods in by hand. There really are only a few hours of the day when this market isn’t happening so I know they don’t store it all too far away. It seems crazy to set it up and down constantly… but they do it. Rain or shine the night market pops up. When the rain starts to pour down, all of the stuff gets dumped under tables or tarps and then put back out twenty minutes later when the rain stops.

Riding in a Sorngtaaou (pickup with two rows of seats)

The food in northern Thailand is specific to the area. Unlike the rest of the country that focuses on coconut curries, the north has more thick stews that are eaten with raw vegetables as scoops. The consistency is something like chili but with Thai seasonings. They also eat a lot of sticky rice.

Thick Stews- Northern Thai Food

Asia Scenic- Thai Cooking School

With a serious love of all Thai food and a mild addiction to green curry, Pat and I both had a yearning for an authentic hands-on Thai kitchen experience. Hoping to learn the hidden secrets of Thai cuisine, we signed up for an intensive all day cooking class with “Asia Scenic – Thai Cooking School.” If you know Pat, you know he doesn’t cook- but this day he was on it!

Alison and Pat, Chiang Mai, Thailand

At the beginning of the day we each chose six dishes to prepare: appetizer, soup, stir-fry, curry, noodle, dessert. We intentionally picked different dishes so we could try each other’s and learn the techniques for a wider variety of things. The class began with a market tour to explore the ingredients we would be using (rice, noodles, etc.). We then moved to the farm to pick our own herbs and vegetables. Finally we got cookin’! The kitchen was set up under a large pavilion at the farm.  We each had our own cooking stations and there was a giant wooden table for prep. The whole class was incredibly hands-on. We did everything from start to finish.  Our instructor was hysterical- a very flamboyant tiny Thai man named “A” whose sass made the day fun. By the end of the day we were stuffed and rather confident in our newly acquired Thai cooking skills.

Market Tour

Various Types and Qualities of Rice (Prices in Baht per kilo)

Our Cooking Instructor “A”

Welcome Snack

Asian Scenic Farm Kitchen

Workstations

Pat’s Perfect Spring Rolls

A&P Cooking Up A Thai Storm

Our Thai Feast

Maesa Elephant Camp 

We took a half-day trip to Maesa Elephant Camp. Due to the number of wild Asian elephants dwindling, the camp aims to create a natural environment to conserve and breed the elephants. To fund the program the mahout caretakers produce daily shows with the elephants. The show began with a parade of elephants demonstrating the various ways the mahouts can get up and off the giant animals. The elephants did tricks, played soccer, moved logs, and they even played darts with an audience volunteer. My favorite skill was the elephant painting demonstration- the mahouts have trained some of the elephants to paint with their trunks. Some do abstract pieces while others paint more realistic pictures. The mahouts reloaded the paintbrush with various colors of paint- but the elephants put the paint on the paper.

Maesa Elephant Camp

Feeding Elephants

Elephant Love

Elephant Parade

Pat Playing Darts With An Elephant

Elephant Games

Painting Elephant

Elephant Painting Flowers

Completed Elephant Paintings

What I Really Think About a Rough Elephant Trunk On My Shoulders

Alison and Elephant Hats

At this point in our Thailand travels our visa was running out, but we still hadn’t had enough. This is a country you can easily get attached to. The sun, the friendly locals, the food, the ease and convenience, the natural beauty- it was all telling us to find a way to stay for longer… so we did.

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Category: Alison's Blog, Blog, Destinations, Featured Posts, Thailand

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