After being SO impressed by my guide, Niti, during the fresh market tour, I elected to register for her cooking class for the evening. There were 5 other enrollees and we had another fabulous time! We made -and ate- so many dishes, it was amazing! Niti began with having us choose from a full menu.
In each category we chose one dish to prepare. My choices were Papaya salad, one of my favorite Thai dishes, Tom Kha Gai soup, and Red Curry with Chicken. Additionally we each made from scratch the curry pastes needed for our entrees, spring rolls, an Akha salad, an Akha soup and mango with sticky rice for dessert. Needless to say, this days combination of fresh market tour and cooking school make for a very robust day of eating! Not one of use could finish all we had.
For this post, I’ll allow the photos to give the greatest story! If you’re traveling to Chiang Mai, you MUST take Niti’s market tour and her cooking class!
It was Friday, the day I dedicated to Thai Foodie Day. This wasn’t my plan, but it’s how it evolved. And what a fabulous day it was! In reality, every day in Thailand can be foodie day, but today I gained a lot of knowledge of the culture, especially pertaining to the food the Thai people eat.
I began the morning with my new friend Niti, the host of the Chiang Mai Fresh Market Tour. This event was a tour of the morning market and so much more! Niti gave me insight for what I was seeing in the market and so much to appreciate about local Thai life and the important aspect of life the fresh market fulfills. She gifted me with a fabulous breakfast including Thai coffee, tea and the butter bread of Portuguese influence. Then after perusing, studying and shopping the market, we had a lovely lunch together in a beautiful park! I was far over fed and there were plenty of leftovers for her to take to the chefs at her cooking school.
Past breakfast time, Niti had me try what she called a century egg, emphasizing that I must try it before she tells me what it is. The egg begins rather suspect nestled in its carton donning its flamboyant pink splendored shell! It’s like the Cyndi Lauper of eggs. Then once the vendor peels it, halves it and serves it in a bowl, the curiosity grows. As you can see, you have never eaten an egg quite like this before. It really was tasty I have to admit. Now time for the big reveal. <Spoiler Alert: century egg preparation coming!>
So the wondrous century egg, highly regarded as a medicinal food, is made by storing eggs in a clay pot underground for one hundred days. Hence the century reference. In horse pee. Yes, horse pee. Students of natural medicine have certainly heard often the medicinal and cleansing affects of ammonia. The idea of the century egg as medicine follows that line of thought. Honestly? I am far more prone to Thai medicinal foods than some of what we Americans have come to consider food. I’ll leave you to ponder this.
Next we walked through the market, Niti showing me things as we went. The market is at least as much social gathering The fresh market, just as one infers, offers foods prepared or harvested fresh for purchase. A flash market refers to a vendors on-the-spot cook to order menu. This may help explain why eating Thai street food is generally safe: the Thai people seem to have one cooking temperature: HIGH! When you order Khao Soi or Pad Thai from a street vendor, it is generally cooked right before your eyes at maximum heat. My understanding is that the term street food can differ in the the vendors offering street food are offering items that did not sell earlier in the day, so they have them on display, sausages for instance, and they grill them to high temperature as you wait.
In the end it was so hard to choose what to select to eat. Niti helped me and we ended up with a very nice lunch with a lot to share.
What a fantastic experience this was! I gained so much more than just a great breakfast! Cultural insight, history, a full belly and a new friend!
Met my songthaew for the journey to the elephant sanctuary. This promised to be an excellent time. first it would be very personal with only 2 other tour participants, Emily and Beth from Ringwood, England. As I later learned, these tours are typically occupied by 12 to 20 people.
After a beautiful, winding drive out of the city and into the mountains, we stopped for a marvelous lunch, then 20 minutes further up the mountain for this experience. More amazing scenery and unbelievable motorcycle roads! After disembarking the ride up, we had a lovely 10 minute hike down a trail to where the elephants are hosted. They are able to roam free where they live, with beautiful natural surroundings. It is clearly evident they are loved and well cared for. AS we reached the clearing where the elephants became aware of our presence, oh the cacophony they made! It’s dinner and play time!
This trip was so fun! Feeding the elephants, bathing them in the river to cool them off and even a water fight with the tour hosts. After departing the elephants, we had another 15 minute hike through the woods, across narrow bamboo bridges for great balancing acts (no pressure about falling in with everything I carried!), and down to a beautiful waterfall. As great as I expected this experience, my expectations were exceeded by far!
George once said it’s most defining how a relationship will work when people travel together. I so gratefully acknowledge that travel with George and with my daughter Ariel have proven that our relationships are authentic and fantastic! This outcome is not Always guaranteed.
Less than a week in, my Thailand travel mate and I found that traveling together was absolutely not working well. Societal expectation helps one imagine there must have been a massive communal blowout, but there really was no such event. It was increasingly evident that my friend really no longer wanted to be away from home and, at only a week in, I personally had to decide the risk factor of staying with her because of a case of the “shoulds” or parting ways for our mutual benefit. Ultimately the second option won. Now mind you, we are in a very safe country and she has remained with our driver/companion while I have struck out on my own. We just happened to have traveled to a country where this determination could conscientiously be made!
The lesson I’ve learned in this experience is to trust my instinct and to not ignore my deepest intuitions. Not only does this apply in travel; it applies in every aspect of life. Who’s impact have I missed due to fear of unknowns? What life-changing experiences have I snuffed out due to following the need for a sense of temporary comfort? Who have I MISSED impacting due to my fear of rejection?
The thought continuously returns to me that I have one life and that it is quick and absent of practice runs! Relax, but take no moment for granted!
It is Sunday morning, and we are antipating the arrival of our car and driver to assist us in heading north. We have a general plan with wiggle room, to visit some of the old cities, participate in a home stay, visit some vast culturally differing areas, celebrate the natural surrounds, and more. I am excited to visit and participate in some of the local silk raising and weaving traditions along the way!
We spent much of yesterday shopping; everything ranging from a local handicrafts market to a six-level shopping mall with an aquarium, zoo and entire floor dedicated to exotic cars!
Our visit to the small business market was truly interesting! A frenzy of vendors selling everything ranging from fried worms and grubs, fish for pets and eating, pets ranging from dogs, foxes, and rodents, some of which I didn’t recognize to handcrafted items. Of course the handcrafts grab my heart. This is the piece I couldn’t leave without. A beautiful woven scarf with locally spun, hand-dyed yarn. It consists of a shimmering cotton and silk. It was a pleasure speaking with the vendor about her family traditions from the northeast region of Thailand.
And now, we get to go to the very region where all this handmade beauty emanates from! Stay tuned!
In the quiet of evening yesterday, my new friend Pana (at my left in this photo) asked me:
“What is your goal for your life?”
I was amazed and humbled at this query, considering that the last year has found me heavily accessing personal development to become the best version of myself.
Through our conversation, we found that we both have been recently enrolled in leadership schools, and we each desire autonomy, liberty, and to share the best of ourselves with those we encounter.
Can you imagine? Two individuals, half a world away from one another and pursuing such similar excellence so that they live, arrive and perform in the best manner possible! This encourages me and enlists great hope for the world!
Words merely hint at all that I feel in my heart for knowing such commonality transcends space, time, language, distance, culture and more. We really all inhabit such common ground, if only we connect and learn it is so! How thoughtful, provoking and enlivening!
The universe has a way of enabling correction. Apparently my writing attempt at this post was not so great the first time around, as it disappeared when I was nearly complete with it. So here comes Thailand Day 2, the best version! Harmony has many faces. We tend to maintain our own conceptions of harmony, and yet it really can be found in so many more forms. Consider the art of transportation in Thailand, for instance. To the casual Western observer, it seems to be absolute chaos! To my local Thai friend, it is “normal”. In fact he says to go to China or India to see crazy drivers! But for we westerners, Thai traffic fundamentals possess a wild energy to behold. And yet we’ve seen no accidents. Why? Harmony.
What appears to foreigners to be frenzied insanity is actually a daily harmonious endeavor of many, MANY people getting to where they need or wish to go. I asked my Thai friend about accidents and he confirms they are rare. I theorized that perhaps many of the accidents that do occur involve foreigners unfamiliar with the sophisticated ballet that is the Thai commute. I can’t overemphasize, it’s harmony at its finest!
This morning we experienced street food for breakfast, right on the ground level below the condo we are staying in. It was divine! Noodles, morning glory and meats, some of which caused me a bit of suspicion after some travel shows I’ve seen where certain, ahem, gems are commonly utilized as food. You can literally get the picture here. Pana says it is actually a minced pork and rice mixture. I will happily take his word for it.
LrAfter breakfast we were collected by a taxi to move toward the famous long tail boats for a ride up the river to the Grand Palace and other spectacular sites. What a rush that is! The river is forever churning and boiling, and it’s hard to determine whether the turbulence would exist apart from the river providing mass transit. River traffic here is as busy as US suburban roads at rush hour. Add to this the constant reminders being shouted in broken English, “This boat is overload, move to the front!”, making one feel that failure to engage in this command may cause immediate oneness with determining the water quality of said river.
ter visiting the temples and palace and sweating out our total water content it seemed, we were bound for the boats once again. To say that the boats were “overload” in the afternoon would be quite the understatement! After reaching the stop to return to our condo, we elected to ride a Tuk Tuk., an auto rickshaw essentially. It feels like a motorcycle with a backseat bench. There is no more adventurous way for a tourist to experience Thai traffic and still walk with his life. What fun this was! Unfortunately my tech-challenged ways caused me to only video-record 12 seconds of the ride, missing some of the most amazing traffic interactions along the way. Fortunately I have many days to try to overcome my technical shortfalls! To sum up everything, this has been another fabulous day in Bangkok!
We’ve arrived at the close of Day 1 and what a day it has been! First and foremost, Betty’s tap water slip-up appears to have left us unscathed, thank goodness! We began the day visiting a fresh food market to gather goodies for lunch together with Pana and Mai. Pana was Betty’s exchange student back when he was attending secondary school.
The market was a fantastic, bustling hive; flowers, clothing, food, likely anything you could think of, all waiting to be discovered. And lunch turned out to be amazing.
After a mid-afternoon break to rest our jet-lagged bodies, we took off again. First on the agenda, a Thai massage. Oh. My. Gosh! That was simply amazing! I’m now planning on plenty of these while here. Leaving that experience, I felt more flexible and slightly taller. And OH! So cleansing! Into the frenetic melange that is Bangkok once again, we were bound for dinner with more new friends.
At a lovely open-air restaurant alongside the Chao Phraya River we met some new-to-me friends who are the parents of another exchange student Betty once hosted. They were so lovely, fun and generous and dinner was amazing. Even though I have loved Thai food all my life, I feel as if I have eaten Thai food for the very first time. Like most cuisines, Thai food must be forced into adjustments on American soil, perhaps for the American palate or for the availability of ingredients. The food was like nothing I have ever tasted. The blend and balance of flavors was absolutely splendid. For the first time in a long time, I also had a beer, a Singha more specifically. Though I have seen the label for years, I have never tried it. To be sitting in Bangkok sipping my first ever Singha Beer; truly poetic. With the founding of the brewing company that produces Singha occurring in the 1930s, I have to wonder if my grandfather ever sat by this same river sipping a Singha.
Part of my desire for visiting Bangkok rests in the knowledge that my grandfather was said to consider Bangkok his favorite city in the world. With many published writings to his pen, only one work was fictional and it was grounded in Bangkok of the 1960s. I wish I knew more of the man, his passion, the reasons for his great love of Thailand from his own voice. I hope to somehow feel a sense of his presence along the way, though I am not one to seriously consider the crossing of such a threshold between the living and the dead. Perhaps I know enough of who he was that I can just consider all I experience with a hint of his perspective. Perhaps I will never know.
The fact that Thailand is a shopping mecca becomes evident before ever setting foot on Thai soil. Every tour book to be encountered is clearly remiss and potentially at risk for never gaining publication if shopping isn’t mentioned, After dinner we visited “Asiatique,” a night shopping bazaar by the river. This shopping extravaganza is arrangesd in hangars and includes carnival activities and all one could set imagination to. A bit of shopping was fun, though I am extremely cautious. We have 29 more days here after all! This place will definitely warrant a second trip before we return to the states!
After an amazingly long journey, we have arrived in Bangkok. We arrived to a lovely condo we have use of while here, What a great relief to plant some relaxing roots while our bodies adjust to the changes. Changes in time, (+12 hours for Betty, +15 hours for me), changes in climate with much more warmth and tons more humidity and changes in culture.
Right off the adventure begins. Betty made us some instant coffee. I downed a cup knowing it wouldn’t affect my sleep rhythms any more than the off time adjustment will. It felt grounding to do this, until…
About an hour after we drank coffee, Betty mentioned that she forgot about the water. So we’ve hit the ground running, hoping it will not become a pun. As is so often reiterated, it is best to avoid the local tap water, as your body is familiarized with the water you drink at home, not to mention different water filtration qualities are used all over the world. I recall in Peru that even the locals didn’t drink the tap water. Yes, Betty used tap water. At least we are in this together!!
We will see what the following days or perhaps hours bring.
Occasionally things go awry. Messages get sent that aren’t meant for the eyes of the end receiver. Sometimes such an event can cause the unexpected discontinuation of trust. When trust gets unraveled, it’s often difficult if not impossible for that trust to be restored. Such an event has occurred during this experience, which is why I must now terminate my personal Master Key Experience. The lesson herein is to treat life as if always the main character, center stage. Everyone is watching. There is no hidden backstage for performing differently. My hope is this experience will be constructive for those needing to tighten up their role. Always be your authentic best. If you are always authentic, you don’t experience the hiccups of someone unbeknownst seeing less than ideal backstage performance.