|I thought Bangkok was nice and it was but if I ever come back to Thailand (and I intend to) I will head for the north. In the last few days we've managed to take a Thai cooking course, ride an elephant, and pilot a bamboo raft down the river...all with little or no planning. It's just there for you. That is what makes Thailand so cool but in a way a double-edged sword. They have realized the potential of the tourist dollar (or pound) and make it easy for one to spend them. Either way it's still very cheap by our standards.
For a full day cooking course including 5 dishes it cost a whopping US $17. We started with a trip to the market to learn about picking out fresh produce, then to the cooking school where they walk you through all the steps in making dishes such as pad Thai, green curry chicken, fried chicken w/ cashew nuts, spring rolls, prawn in coconut milk soup, and sticky rice w/ mango. Those were just what I chose to cook. They do all the prep work and provide you with all the ingredients and the woks and such. Each time you make a dish you get to eat it afterwards. It was heaven. We even got a crash course in making both green and red curry paste. It's actually quite easy to make most of this stuff and the course comes with a cookbook so we can hopefully do it at home. For anyone I know, plan on eating some Thai food the next time you see me. I'm hooked.
Originally I had wanted to do a three-day trek and visit some hill tribes but time is short so we had to opt for the 'extreme tourist' version. This is a one-day tour that involves hoping on a mini-bus then a short trek to the Mhong & Karen villages, an elephant ride, a swim under a waterfall, and lunch followed by a bamboo raft trip back to point A. It was pretty cool nonetheless. The elephants were stinky and constantly begged for bananas (which you had to purchase from the tribes) but how often do you ride an elephant through the hills in Thailand? I was fortunate to be the co-pilot on the raft back (meaning that I stood up the whole way and pushed us along with a big long stick) but it was cool. I only fell in the river once, on purpose of course.
Chiang Mai is a great town with a laid back vibe that screams 'chilled out travelers'. There's lots of expats here and the people are so friendly. Last night we went to a steak house and I finally tasted the glory of red meat after a two-month hiatus. The cut wasn't as good as what I would have back home but the seasoning was so good it didn't matter. We also did a our own 'one-day temple tour' here. I was talked into purchasing two birds from a lady at the Wat Chiang Man in order to set them free...for luck. So I've got that going for me.
Tonight is the night market and tomorrow we leave at 6 pm for a 12-hour bus ride back to Bangkok immediately followed by another train ride to the border of Cambodia. I had wanted to get lots of photos posted today because I have many but the connection is so slow I'm going to have to wait and considering we're heading to Cambodia then Vietnam it might be a while. We'll see.