One year honeymoon around the world...17th April 2007 to 9th March 2008! Yes we're home!!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Chiang Mai - Night Train, More Temples, Trekking, Elephants, Bamboo Rafting + Thai Cooking!

Thursday 3rd Jan to Tuesday 8th Jan 2008

Thursday night we took a night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai... we opted for 2nd class with air con. We had two seats facing each other which turned into two beds one above the other. The service on the train was very efficient and we had a reasonable nights sleep. Our car had a man smartly dressed in shirt and trousers and he made up the beds, another girl served food which was on a par to english train food (ie. not great) The train itself was probably on a par with the one I took from Frankfurt to Prague about 5 years ago.
Friday 4th Jan
We were picked up in the morning at Chiang Mai station and went to our accommodation... BMP Resident. After they tried to sell us more tours we dumped our bags in our room and went out to explore...
We walked into the centre of sorts and checked out tour operators... we booked a Thai Cooking Course for after the trek and also transport to Laos. We went to several temples and without the guidebook to hand I have no idea what they were called but my favourite was huge, made of stone and crumbling down. It was similar to a pyramid in structure and high at the top hidden in 4 alcoves were buddhas. On two sides of the pyramid giant stone elephants were stuck into the rock. Will get picture uploaded as soon as I can.
Ben had a thai massage and I tried a foot massage but not painful enough for me... no pain, no gain...
Back to hostel and we met with our trekking guide Mr Son and our group - there were to be 9 of us, 4 people trekking just for 2 days and the rest of us for 3 days.
We then went off to a traditional Khantoke Dinner - this was a freebie our travel agent threw in when he heard we were on honeymoon. We went to the Chiang Mai Cultural Centre and sat on the floor and ate off our knees. Lots of yummy food. Nice people too. There was some Thai dancing too.
Sat 5th Jan
We were ready to leave at 9am but things are very chilled out in Chiang Mai so we ended up leaving closer to 10am after the remaining seats in the van had been sold and we were now 12 people. We sat in the back of a pickup truck, sorry, re-phrase, we squashed 11 people into the back of pickup truck, 1 in the front and our two guides hung off the back. First we went to a market for the guides to buy food for the trip, then we headed off for the mountains.
Our first stop was at Ma Wang Elephant Camp. The elephants were taking a drink.... at the water tap. Got a fab shot of the elephants trunk under the tap. We then rode on an elephant for the best part of an hour. Very crafty people though... there were several stands along the track where they were selling sugar cane and-or bananas for the elephants for 20Baht (33p so not breaking the bank) but the thing was the elephants knew exactly what was happening and before we bought the food they had swung their trunks back towards us asking for food and not moving anywhere! And these were HUGE elephants so you don´t refuse them. Was a fun ride.
After lunch we started to trek. Everyone had borrowed small army issue rucksacks that were awfully uncomfortable but kept the weight to a relative minimum given I had my 3 litre camelbak in there. The trekking was relatively easy but uphill. Not too hot either as in shade most of time. We reached the Karen hill tribe village at about 5pm. Our accommodation was in one large hut just outside the village on the top of the hill. The shower was running water funnelled through a pipe that ran constantly. Toilets were toilet bowls that evidently sat above a hole in the ground as you threw buckets of water down to flush. lol.

Ben and I had brought our sleeping bags and fleece jackets and were warm but the rest of the group used the paper thin sleeping bags provided and blankets and were freezing. People say our backpacks are big but we have used everything that we carry.

In the evening we sat around a fire.... TBF
Sun 6th Jan
more trekking...night at Waterfall TBF

Mon 7th Jan
Bamboo rafting...back to Chiang Mai.

oh btw we got our passports back safe and sound with 3 new visas! I like these ones best as they are full page stickers. TBF


Thai Boxing

Tues 8th Jan - Thai Cooking Course!
Great fun! Had a good day today at cooking school. We went to The Best Thai Cooking School... that was the name of the place. First we went to a local market and our chef showed us various ingredients and gave us tips like the best eggs are the small ones as they come from younger hens and have more flavour. The larger the egg the older the hen and less flavour. He also said sth about rice that I can´t remember. We saw lots of fruit and veg and one lady was gutting fresh fish.... fresh as in there was a large bathtub of swimming fish and when someone wanted to buy one she grabbed one out, banged it on the head a couple of times and took the knife to it.

. Once at the Cooking School we had a station each with chopping board and gas stove. The first dish we cooked was Thai soup. I made Coconut Chicken Soup and Ben made Yom Tam Soup. I must say my soup was deelicious. It really is all in the fresh ingredients as all I had to do was throw them in the pan and watch them.
Next I made Chicken Cashew Nut and Ben made Sweet + Sour Chicken. Btw we ate all the food we made as we cooked it. When we cooked these dishes we did it Adventure Style - these meant as we threw the ingredients into the pan a huge flame blew up... I won´t be repeating that one at home. I'm behind the flames!

The chef also showed the group how to cook jasmine rice, sticky rice + mango and spring rolls which we ate too. We all rolled a spring roll - very easy and to stick the ricepaper together we used banana glue. Banana glue is just rubbing the banana on the thin pastry. Very clever!

We then made curry... me Thai Green Curry and Ben made Red Curry. I feel full again just writing this! We didn´t eat this straight away but put this to one side and cooked our last dish....

Me, Pad Thai and Ben, Drunker Noodles. Once we had finished this dish we took the noodles + curry and sat out the front and ate them. I couldn´t finish the food. Looking forward to coming home and trying it out on friends and family...
We ate so much Thai food today, that in addition to the previous 9 days of only Thai food we cracked this evening and ate McDonalds! We couldn´t face more rice or noodles or spices.

We start our journey to Laos tomorrow. We have a 5-hour minibus drive to Chiang Khong on the Thai-Laos border. The next morning we will start a 2-day boat ride down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang in Laos stopping one night in Pakbeng, hence we will be awol for the next few days.
Happy New Year to all

Sam + Ben


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