|Now hoping that you looking at all my culinary delights has made you all hungry - because after eating 6 dishes a day for 5 days I felt quite ill!! Loved my cooking school. First day I was in the school in the centre of Chiang Mai where to owner, Sompon, also has a restaurant. This was a very cozy group of just 6 of us, but the next day we moved to the countryside, to Sompon's house which was very beautiful. Here we cooked under large roofs with open sides. Each day was a new technique - making curry paste (or better known as building up the right arm muscles), shopping in a local market, vegetable calving (I made a lotus and rose from tomatoes, and a leaf from a carrot). Every day also saw a new set of people, one day having about 30 of us, another only 9 so there was lots of change but everyone was great but my cooking was the best!! Invite me to stay with you and I'll show you what I learnt.
The staff were all very good at English and joked lots making the day fun and light-hearted. Miouw had her birthday while I was there so I went out with them to celebrate. We were taken to a large, open-sided shed (or so it looked like) where we ate, drank rum and listened to the live music who were appallingly bad!!
In Krabi Boris recommended a great place for me to stay and so I have my own double-bed, en-suite and a swimming pool I use twice a day all for 4.50GBP!! The joys of Thailand - can even buy a Phad Thai take-away for 30pence.
5 days of cooking school and it was time for me to see a bit of the local area so signed up for a tour. Unfortunately / fortunately I sent my walking boots home so was unable to do a trek for a few days!! First stop was the Maetang Elephants where we were able to feed the massive beasts who eat something like 250Kg food a day and consume 150 litres of water. They went for a little wash in the river for our amusement and put on a show, carrying logs, kicking footballs, painting a picture etc...The was our turn to go for a ride on their backs...in that nice padded comfortable chair so I thought until 5 minutes later my "rider" jumped off and told me to sit on it's neck and travel this way - lovely as it was, it wasn't comfortable, I got attacked by mosquitoes and I had no control over this enormous beast!! The ox-drawn cart was much more gentle. Lunch followed with a trip down the river on a bamboo raft, catching a few rays of sun, but then I was given the paddle to steer the way!!
Chaingdau Caves were visited next - this is a massive temple all inside a big cave within the limestone mountain. Each year during the rainy season the cave floods and everything has to be taken out of the cave and access denied.
The Karen longnecks are a tribe from Burma who are one of the few remaining tribes not to be recognized by the Thai Government as Thai residents. However, the Thai Government supports them financially with initiatives such as posing for the tourists who come and gorp - which is what it felt like we were doing, but got lots of nice photos anyway. They wear the very heavy copper spirals, kept to a very high sheen, as a cosmetic beauty thing, although it actually completely damages their necks which can not support their heads without the coils. As for the big-ears, I can't really comment about having lots of metal in your ears, but stretching your earlobes like this really is excessive.
Chiang Mai Sunday Market is also brilliant. So huge, that every street I turned there were yet more stalls set-up along the road. And the great thing was that I was able to look without any hassle or being told what everything I lay eyes on is! As there is close to no room left in my bag, I had to limit shopping to jewellery only! But they sold loads of things, though mainly aimed at tourists and clothing and food for the locals with prices to match. They played the National Anthem and suddenly the whole town stopped dead until it was complete.
As Chiang Mai has over 300 temples, mainly dispersed within the Old City which is contained within a moat and wall built 700 years ago to keep the Burmese out, I thought I had better go and look at one given I'd been here 9 days already and almost avoided it totally. (Bangkok has a similar number, so can make up for lost time there!). So on the recommendation of the Lonely Planet, I visited the most spectacular and typical example of Northern Thailand architecture one - the pictures speak for themselves.