Monday, November 8, 2010

Cooking Class & Girl’s Night Out

Note: You can find more pictures from this post in the album of the same name to the right side of the page!

I will end the suspense right now: When Annika got back to her apartment last night, she had brought with her a new blanket/mat that she’d bought at the night market and which she was more than happy to try sleeping on to test out. So I took the bed and although it’s a hard bed (Annika likes a hard sleeping surface!) I slept pretty well. Comfort won out over manners, I suppose.

At 7:30am this morning, my alarm went off and up I got, showering and getting ready for my cooking class. Annika and I chatted and went down to the lobby area of her building, where there is a shared kitchen. I had some toast for breakfast, with orange jam that’s pretty delicious. Annika is an incredibly sweet girl who is in Chiang Mai for eleven weeks taking a Thai massage class. She recently discovered that this is what she wants to do with her life and she’s quite passionate about it. She’s German and twenty-eight years old and absolutely beautiful.

At about a quarter to nine I left her place and headed for nearby Wat Santitham, about ten minutes away, to await my pickup ride from the cooking school. Maybe fifteen minutes after I got there, a nicer-than-usual looking seongtow drove up and parked, a woman popped out of the driver’s seat, and I was ushered into the back and welcomed to the cooking class. We picked up several more people and then stopped at one of the open-air markets in town. In total, my class had thirteen people in it, all from English speaking countries except for two women from Germany. There were two of us who were “singles” and everyone else was a couple or with a friend or family member.

IMG_1025 The market visit was fun if brief, and I learned a few nifty things about coconut milk, different kinds of basil and ginger, and eggs. Then Boom, the woman driving us around and a partner of the main chef teacher, ushered us back into our seongtows and drove us about twenty minutes out of town to the cooking school. In my truck were the two German ladies, two redheads (I couldn’t figure out if they were brother and sister or a couple), and a couple from Maryland along with the female half’s aunt. During the drive we all did the usual travel interrogation. It was a pretty quiet group, actually.

The cooking class lasted all day. The meals I actually got to cook myself were coconut milk and shrimp soup,  IMG_1050panaeng curry with chicken, sweet and sour chicken and pad thai. We also watched as he made mango with sticky rice, vegetarian spring rolls and a dipping sauce to go with, and papaya salad. The class was pretty good, although I was surprised at the size of the class. Also, we didn’t measure any of our own ingredients, but were given the exact amount of everything we needed. Still I got to do “adventure cooking,” as the head chef, Perm, called it: cooking oil over high heat and IMG_1054tossing in  vegetables to flash fry them for the pad thai. It was lots of fun, and the girl with my camera even caught a couple of the last flames dying out from when I did it. Wheee! Never fear, my eyebrows are intact.

The group got a bit more chatty during the day, which was nice. At the end we gorged on the main dishes that we’d cooked, which was all delicious if I may say so myself. We also had a little Thai fruit tasting, but I’d had everything already so nothing was new, although the dragonfruit they served was pink instead of white. At around 3:30pm we were all driven back to our dropoff points. I think I may have recruited some folks to Couchsurfing, because once I mentioned that I was doing it several people asked lots of questions about it and said they’d check it out.

Once back at Annika’s apartment, I relaxed and played on the internet for awhile. Then I started worrying about my itinerary for the next few months and researching flights, trains and weather conditions. I believe that my next few weeks will now look like this (although I haven’t bought the tickets yet):

  • Nov 9: Train back to Bangkok
  • Nov 10: Fly to Hanoi
  • Nov 10-30: Take trains and buses south through Vietnam, hitting Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Saigon.
  • Nov 30: Cross border into Cambodia (since my Vietnam visa expires then)
  • Nov 30 – Dec 18: Explore Cambodia for 10-14 days and make my way to Bangkok via trains and buses
  • Dec 18: Fly to Bali
  • Dec 25: Fly to Auckland
  • Sometime before Dec 30 fly to Dunedin to celebrate New Year’s there with friends

Anyway, I’m going to ponder that for a day or two before buying the tickets, but it feels right so I think that’s the way I’ll go. It means skipping Singapore, but time is just getting short and I think I need to slow down my pace a bit. Even this plan is too rushed!

Anyway, after satisfying my panic, I headed back up to Annika’s room and we chatted some more. She had made plans to go out for dinner with friends and invited me along. IMG_1057There were five of us altogether and we went to a restaurant that apparently doubles as a gay bar. It had great ambiance, almost on the fancier side, and we all had a good time. There was a French girl, a Swiss girl, Annika, me and a girl whose origin I can’t recall but  possibly Spanish. It was a true girl’s nights with fits of laughter and giggles, talking about men, and discussing Thai massage (they’re all students with Annika) and Thailand in general. Two of them (Annika being one) told me about their time at an ashram in India and I think I’m convinced to try it out, although not for one month or five months, as they did. Maybe a two week teaser to learn a bit about yoga and meditation, would be good for me. Hmmm…

A good day, overall. One more day in Chiang Mai, sad to say, and then I head south again to Bangkok. I could see coming back to Chiang Mai to volunteer or work… it’s a cute place with beautiful areas surrounding it.

Also, although it’s not really a momentous occasion to note, today is the first day I’ve written in my private journal. It felt good!

--Z

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