Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Chiang Mai - Tigers and Elephants and Wats, Oh My!

My sister has more or less covered this particular part of the trip on Facebook, but in the spirit of completeness I'm going to tell you about it again here. With a few ideas about city highlights we ventured into the hot, sun-soaked streets armed with water and umbrellas to explore. Once inside the ancient Old City walls, Wats were around every corner, along with adorable shops, art galleries and restaurants. You could find everything from tiny food jewelry to traditional god and demon masks, and we made sure to admire all of them. 

In the evening we had booked a cooking class at Siam Rice Thai Cooking School and we barely made it back to our hotel in time for pickup. The class started with a trip to the market where the chef walked us through the stalls and explained the different ingredients popular in Thai cooking as well as what goes with what and how it differs from ingredients found elsewhere. We went over kaffir lime leaves, galangal, different varieties of basil, ginger, lemon grass, angel wing beans and the inappropriate sounding in Thai long beans. We were also given a few minutes to wander around on our own and ask questions about our findings.

Starving and knowing that dinner won't actually be ready for a few hours we asked this adorable little girl for some of the spicy sausage she was selling and with the gravitas of a seasoned shop owner she prepared our snack.

We passed on the pile of fried worms being sold at the shop next to hers...

Angel Wing Beans! How fun do these look?

After the market we piled into a van and headed for the kitchen where each of us picked what we wanted to make (a nice feature since usually everyone just sticks to a set menu) and got started on prep.

Smash the chilies!

They gave her a cleaver!

Beautiful ingredients!

Concentrating on deliciousness!

I, obviously, picked the most dangerous dish. Drunken noodles. Yum!

We each made different kinds of soup, various curry pastes, noodle dishes, and mango sticky rice. Everything was delicious and everyone had a lot of fun learning about all the different recipes.

The next day we set out for wildlife! We found the best elephant park where the animals are treated humanely and got to watch elephants paint self portraits, play soccer and twirl hula hoops before setting out on an elephant ride and an ox cart ride. The weather was threatening to rain, but after the elephants, we decided that we have plenty of time to also pet some tigers. Even though it did start drizzling at that point, the tigers were amazing. Playing with gorgeous cats that could kill you is my idea of fun! 

Who knew that cows liked bananas?

Hey barkeep, how about a drink?

Who needs chairs when you have an elephant!

How about a shower? (Ignore the poop)

Sittin'  pretty

Cats of all sizes like dangly toys on a stick!

One of these cats is ready to run :)


Iddle widdle cuddly baby!

At night we ventured to the market, but things were wrapping up inside so we didn't stick around for long.


The morning before leaving Chiang Mai we splurged on a private driver and asked him to take us down to see Wat Phra That Suthep and then to a few stops along the craft highway where various carvers, jewelers, weavers, etc. sell their wares, before rushing us to the airport. It was such a treat to have timely and comfortable transportation at every turn that day that we wondered why we didn't think to do that earlier!

Monks in training heading up for morning prayers

At the silk shop they show you the entire process of silk production, starting with the worms and the types of food they eat, to the method of boiling the cocoons to extract the silk threads, to the natural herbs and bark that's used to dye the thread, to the weaving and processing of that into cloth and finished products.

It was once again a close call as we got distracted by all the wonderful handiwork, but we made it to the airport on time and headed on to our next destination.