Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chiang Mai Part 1

I believe when I left off last we were leaving Ton Sai to head north to the capital in the north Chiang Mai.  We used a day for travel and took a flight from Krabi to Chiang Mai, with a stop in Bangkok.  Our stop in Bangkok took longer than expected and put us in Chiang Mai around 11:30.  The hotel that we had picked out had free pick-up but when we tried to call from the airport, the payphones ate all our change, then we got someone to let us use our their cell phone but there was no answer.  So we grabbed a taxi and still tried to get there to see if they were open.   The airport is near the city so the cab ride ended up being short and cheap which was great.  We found our hotel, we found people drinking in front of it, but unfortunately reception was closed.  We were pretty tired at that point and just wanted to find somewhere to drop our bags and find some beers so we went to the place next store.  It was a little more expensive but we figured it was the quickest option, and easier to move to the hotel we wanted the next day.  Then we set out to the local 7-11 (anyone who has been to Thailand will know what I mean) to grab some beers.  We found out that because of an election happening the next day they couldn't sell us any.  Defeated we went to our hotel to go to bed.  The first day in Chiang Mai was a Saturday, we spent most of the day doing 'errands'.  Which for us was doing laundry, catching up on blog posts, Caitlin replying to job emails, me trying to figure out how to get reimbursed for my ipod getting stolen (my ipod touch was stolen somewhere between Bangkok and Ko Samoi).  In the afternoon we also fit in a museum visit and a massage.  We found that so far we liked Chiang Mai much better than we liked Bangkok.  For one it is a much smaller city where you can basically walk to most things that you want to go to.  There is this square moat in the middle of the city which also makes it really easy to orientate yourself while you are walking around (well maybe not for Caitlin :).  The city is not as hot, the tuk tuk drivers harass you less, there was a lot more greenery amongst the city, but there is still the pleasures of Thailand like daily fruit smoothies, cheap delicious food, and inexpensive massages.  So it was a Saturday and in Chiang Mai there are night markets where they shut down streets and venders come to set up food carts and mostly homemade items for sale.  Caitlin and I headed out and we didn't really expect was about to happen.  We both became shopaholics.  The market was amazing.  Both local and tourists were in attendance.  Most of the goods for sale were homemade - from purses, shoes, jewelry, art, clothes, housewares, and most of it for under $10 per item.  We had pretty good self control and bought some things for ourselves and some presents for friends and family, after a few days in Chiang Mai we ended up shipping home a box.  In about 2 or 3 months it will arrive in Olympia.  I however will not be seeing those items for at least a year.  The next day we had booked a cooking class through our hotel where you cook 5 thai dishes, where you get to pick what you cook from a huge list and in the end you get to take home a cook book.  The class was all day beginning with a visit to the market.  Caitlin and I arrived to the class and picked out what we wanted to cook.  We both picked out all main dishes (to get the most out of our class) and we were off to the market.  It was the food market near our hotel so we had already seen it but it is a really cool market - lots of produce and meat.  It is cool to see the different produce but also the cow brains and blood patties sitting in pools of water.  So we picked up our ingredients.  Our teacher was pretty cool, he had this really strange way of speaking, almost like an evil story teller.  We headed back to where we were cooking (there were a bunch of gas burners set up in an outdoor, covered patio) and chopped all of the ingredients for our dishes.  We were making 1 serving portions so it ended up not taking too long.  One of the coolest parts, I thought, was making fresh coconut cream and milk from freshly grated coconut.  If you have never seen it before, you start with a few cups of freshly grated coconut then you add warm water.  You then squeeze the coconut over a sieve, the first time you squeeze, the product is coconut cream and the second squeezing produces coconut milk (both used in ample quantities in our dishes).  I would like to make if fresh at home but I am not sure if fresh coconut is available.  The actual cooking process was incredibly quick and easy actually.  I think the hardest part of replicating it at home will be finding the correct ingredients.  The dishes I made were yellow curry, red curry, pad thai, coconut prawn soup, and a ginger chicken dish.  Caitlin did a few of the same but also did spring rolls and Chiang Mai curry.  We also got to eat everything that we cooked but after the first dish (coconut soup, really rich) I could only eat bites of our next dishes.  It was fun to learn but I am glad I will have a cookbook to help me remember the recipes we learned.  Caitlin will have to teach people in Olympia when she gets back.  That night we went to the Sunday night market and shopped our little hearts out again.  Here I am going to break up my post because it is getting too long.  Here are some pics of the market and our cooking class.
Some treats at the market.  I have no idea what they are though.

The market went on forever.
Caitlin and I at cooking class.
I believe this was the red curry - my coconut milk is boiling.

He taught us how to make fancy plate decorations.
More cooking, do you like our aprons?

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