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!