We arrived around 8am on the sleeper train. We hadn’t slept much but were able to get a tuk tuk to some accommodation. We ventured out for breakfast and found mango with sticky rice from Sailom Joy. This was to be our breakfast for every morning in Chiang Mai. We booked some activities for the rest of our time, went to AUM Vegetarian Restaurant for lunch and had ice lemon tea, pineapple juice, brown rice with tofy, spicy thai coconut curry and veg tempura with tamarind dipping sauce. We were stuffed to the brim so had a rest in the afternoon before having dinner at Taste from Heaven. We ate Thai papaya salad, spicy tofu and benas followed by taro in coconut milk for dessert. In the evening we went to the night markets and Sunday markets and bargained for some souvenirs.
Day 2 we again ate way too much food. We had mango and sticky rice (khao nieo mamuang) for breakfast then did a Thai Cooking Course through GAP. They were able to change the recipes to suit our dietary needs and with only 4 people in the group, it meant we were well looked after. Joe was our very funny teacher who would say things like “Oh no, I no like it spicy, tell me Joe, what should I do?” “It’s ok, I add only a little chilli”.
First stop was the markets where we were shown fresh produce and the food was purchased for our cooking. We got some wax apple – one tropical fruit we hadn’t eaten yet.
There were so many dishes that we got to make. First up, we learnt to make green curry paste. Then we made green curry with eggplant and sweet basil, followed by cashew nut stirfry, then tofy souffle, thai style tofu cakes with cucumber sauce and tom yum soup with mushrooms and tomatoes. After we had cooked all that it was time for lunch where we ate it all. Then we were taught how to make tomato roses and onion lotus flowers to decorate a plate. Then we made mango sticky rice, thai spring rolls with plum sauce and pad thai with peanuts and lime. All these dishes were put into take away containers so we could enjoy them for dinner that night. It was so much food! And they made it very easy to adjust the taste – if too salty add sugar, if too sweet add soy sauce, if too creamy add stock and if too bland add chilli.
The next day we were picked up and taken to the Elephant Nature Park. This was by far the highlight of our trip. We were able to feed, wash, give mud spas, get kissed by and look after Asian elephants. The photos tell all. We stayed overnight and the next morning went on a guided walk of the park, being told the individual stories of the elephants. One elephant was blind as both her eyes had been stabbed out by her former trainer. She had also lost her baby as she was forced to work during her labour and was climbing up a hill when her baby came out and tumbled down. While we were sitting down in the shade an elephant came right up to us and let us scratch her behind the ears and in the cheek. She was beautiful and very placcid. If you ever have a chance, go to the Elephant Nature Park run by Lek. It is most worthwhile.
Our last day in Chiang Mai was a work day for Benno – he stayed at the guesthouse and played internet while Lara went on a tour to the highest spot in Thailand (cold compared to town), huge momuments built for the King and Queen, two waterfalls, a karen village and a government project to get people to grow flowers and vegetables instead of opium.