Thai food is going to kill you: Cook your own!

All together at the Thai Secret Cooking School in Chiang Mai!

All together at the Thai Secret Cooking School in Chiang Mai!

Last week, I told you about our introduction to the outstanding and most lovely Chiang Mai. What a beautiful town.  I also told you how Thai food was so delicious that surely, it would kill you!

In Part 1 , I introduced you to all the yummy features of Thai food. The simple fact is that we loved Thai food so much that we decided to learn how to cook it!

In that wise, we decided to do some research on cookery schools in Chiang Mai and decided to go with a splendid cooking school called Thai Secret Cooking School.

I’m not the best of cooks. In fact, although I love eating wonderful food and I have a whole bookshelf of cookery books. I CAN’T COOK!

“What?”

“You can’t cook?”

Well, I can boil an egg. Ha! Ha!

I can also make a mean shepherds pie and at a push, yorkshire pudding. And to be honest, my friends put their lives in my hands when they come to dine on a meal made by my own fair hands.

“What’s your excuse then?”

I used to live in London. Nobody cooks.

We all went out and drank a bit.

Oh, alright then. A lot!

So as you can imagine, when I got the chance to actually learn how to make something.

As in. Make food.

I jumped at the chance.

So a few days after we arrived in Chiang Mai, we decided to choose a cookery school with a difference. A cookery school that would give us a deeper insight of what it means to cook authentic Thai food and learn the ways of Thai living. As I said above, we went with a school called the Thai Secret Cooking School and we chose a full day cooking class.

Getting out of the songtaew for the very first time!

Getting out of the songtaew for the very first time!

After making all the arrangements online, they picked us up in a red songtaew owned by May and her American husband.

A songtaew is a type of red pickup truck with a canopy and twin rows of bench seating. Although tuk-tuks can be found all over Chiang Mai, the songtaew is used as a type of bus and taxi service rolled into one.

What a brilliant day we had!

Time to get out there and do stuff!

We were a small group of seven.

Two (2) Australian retired ladies, two (2) British medical undergraduates, and ourselves a group of three (3). We then met May’s American husband, and May herself – a tiny, smiling, jolly woman!

At the local market in Chiang Mai.

At the local market in Chiang Mai.

We started off by going to the local market and learning about the different types of Thai rice, local fruit and vegetables. It was really interesting ‘cos we also saw some stuff that I had never ever seen before, and isn’t that the very reason that we travel. To see things unseen and perhaps also see things that we never ever want to see again. For example the unfortunate woman in Los Angeles who was so desperate for the loo that she pulled up her dress and had a poo.

Right in the middle of the street! We were traumatized, and “The Tall Young Gentleman” was enormously  upset.

We still can’t talk about it. And this was across the street from our very famous 5-star luxury  Millennium Biltmore Hotel. You know, the one that has been the premier choice for celebrities, presidents and dignitaries for more than 90 years.

Back to the food.

We saw a wide variety of mushrooms.

Not that variety !?%$§#?

Different blends of tofu, both squishy and flat. A variety of cucumbers and gherkins, tiny speckled eggs in plastic bags, white eggs, brown eggs, and pink eggs! Prickly fruit, green and yellow bananas, surrounded by freshly cut flowers. Soups and sauces, grilled fish, fresh fish, fried chicken, hot chilli peppers, raw vegetables, Asian cabbages, dripping roast duck hung by their necks, and whole chunks of raw, pink pork including the head, the hooves, the intestines, lungs, stomach and various other internal organs. Basically, all the stuff that usually goes into a sausage, and which we don’t really want to see!

After spending the morning at the local market, we went to May’s personal home.

Learning how to cook in May's home and kitchen.

Learning how to cook in May’s home and kitchen.

The Thai Secret Cooking School is located in PhaPhi Village which is about 20 minutes from the main centre of Chiang Mai and took probably about 30-40 minutes to get there from the marketplace.

May has a lovely house with a long table for us to have our meals and individual cooking stations, stoves, pots and pans. Her home is surrounded by her organic farm and garden, and huge jackfruit and banana plantations.

Proud parents recording every moment of our child!

Proud parents recording every moment of our child!

May was really friendly and relaxed and made it clear that we shouldn’t be afraid of living things like the spiders and ants that we saw crawling on branches and leaves, as she had the young men climbing trees and bringing down the fruit. In fact, at one point “The Tall Young Gentleman” was encouraged to use a long bamboo pole to knock down some fruit that we would later use in our cookery class!

We've donned our hats and now we have to pick stuff in the garden!

We’ve donned our hats and now we have to pick stuff in the garden!

But before that, we had some refreshments and then we donned straw hats and raffia baskets and ventured into the herb and vegetable garden where we were taught how to identify and pick certain pickles, herbs, and spices.

 And then it was time to get things into action.

Work! Work! Work!

Work! Work! Work!

We had booked a full day course.

WHAT IS A FULL DAY COOKING CLASS?

The full day course at the school consisted of choosing one (1) item from:

The Appetizer:

  • Fresh Spring Roll
  • Fried Spring Roll or Po Pea Thot
  • Papaya Salad or Som Tam Thai
  • Beef Salad or Yum Nua Yang
  • Glass Noodle Salad or Yum Woon Sen.

Stir Fried Dishes:

  • Stir – Fried Noodle Thai Style or Pad Thai
  • Stir – Fried Chicken with Ginger or Gai Pad Khing
  • Stir – Fried Chicken with Cashew Nut or Pad Met Ma Muang
  • Stir – Fried Minced Chicken with Basil or Pad Ka Pao Gai
  • Stir – Fried Sweet & Sour Chicken with Vegetable or Pad Prew.
All you need: Basic Thai ingredients such as lemongrass, jack fruit, peanuts, bean sprouts, limes, and chillis.

All you need: Basic Thai ingredients such as lemongrass, jack fruit, peanuts, bean sprouts, limes, and chillis.

Soup Dishes:

  • Hot & Sour Prawn Soup or Tom Yum Gung
  • Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup or Tom Kha Gai
  • Tofu & Vegetable Soup or Tom Juud Tao Hoo Kai
  • Hot & Sour Seafood in Coconut Milk Soup or Tom Yum Taley.

Curry Paste Dishes:

  • Chiang Mai Curry Paste or Namprik Gaeng Hang Lay
  • Red Curry Paste or Namprik Gaeng Ped
  • Yellow Curry Paste or Namprik Gaeng Ga-ri
  • Panaeng Curry Paste or Namprik Gaeng Panaeng
  • Green Curry Paste or Namprik Gaeng Kheaw Whan
Banana Roll with Honey / Sweetened Condensed Milk or Po pea gluey

Banana Roll with Honey / Sweetened Condensed Milk or Po pea gluey

Curry Dishes:

  • Chiang Mai Curry with Pork or Hang Lay
  • Red Curry with Chicken / Pork or Gaeng Ped Gai or Moo
  • Yelow Curry with Chicken / Pork or Gaeng Ga-ri Gai or Moo
  • Panaeng Curry with Chicken / Pork or Gaeng Panaeng Gai or Moo
  • Green Curry with Chicken / Seafood or Gaeng Kheaw Whan Gai

Desert Dishes:

  • Deep Fried Banana or Gluey Thod
  • Banana in Coconut Milk or Gluey Bhuad Chee
  • Water Chestnuts in Coconut Milk or Tub Tim  Grob
  • Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango or Khao Nuaw Ma Muang
  • Banana Roll with Honey / Sweetened Condensed Milk or Po pea gluey.
Seriously concentrating so that we can follow instructions as quickly as possible.

Seriously concentrating so that we can follow instructions as quickly as possible.

I chose:

  1. Beef Salad
  2. Stir-Fried Sweet & Sour Chicken with Vegetable
  3. Hot & Sour Prawn Soup
  4. Red Curry Paste
  5. Red Curry with Chicken / Pork
  6. Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango.

What I attempted to make and cook is below:

My home-made beef salad covered with spring onions, lemon grass and mint!

My home-made beef salad covered with spring onions, lemon grass and mint!

That’s my beef salad. Quite tangy and deceptively spicy!

My home-made Stir-Fried Sweet & Sour Chicken with Vegetables in a wok.

My home-made Stir-Fried Sweet & Sour Chicken with Vegetables in a wok.

That’s my Stir-Fried Sweet & Sour Chicken with Vegetables in my wok!

My home-made Hot & Sour Prawn Soup.

My home-made Hot & Sour Prawn Soup.

That’s my home-made Hot & Sour Prawn Soup. I got into trouble here as it was really spicy and I was coughing and spluttering all over the place, and my eyeballs almost fell out, and so I reached out for my glass of water!

Big Mistake!

If you’re an expert at eating spicy food, you’ll know that in this case, water doesn’t quench the fire, it enhances it, and my tongue was definitely on fire!

My home-made Red Curry with Chicken / Pork.

My home-made Red Curry with Chicken / Pork.

That’s my home-made Red Curry with Chicken / Pork. Just by looking at it. you can see that although very delicious, I struggled to slurp it down. I don’t usually eat spicy stuff as I don’t like the heat! In Thailand however, I made an attempt to go authentic because when we first arrived, I asked for “just a little spice,” and they took all the character and personality of the meal away! As such, I decided that whilst we were in Asia, I would go “local” as much as I could manage, which led to me chewing away at a plateful of cucumber as they seemed to cool down my tongue, in more ways than one LOL!

My home-made Deep Fried Banana.

My home-made Deep Fried Banana.

That’s my home-made Deep Fried Banana although, I was supposed to have made Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango!

Well, that proved rather awkward as:

  1. The Sticky Rice is made with Coconut Cream.
  2. I’m allergic to coconut.
  3. I don’t like fruit and savoury mixed up together.
  4. In fact, Yuk!

I couldn’t have the Banana in Coconut Milk, The Pumpkin in Coconut Milk, or the Banana Roll because:

  1. Coconut milk again!
  2. I don’t like bananas.
  3. Bananas stink!
Thai ingredients full of Oomph!

Thai ingredients full of Oomph!

Happily, May worked her magic so that I could still have a dessert dish without the milk and without soft bananas. In fact, the Deep-Fried Banana were quite crisp and didn’t taste like a dessert at all but rather like a packet of crisps or potato chips covered with sesame seeds!

Relaxing in the sunshine in a hammock.

Relaxing in the sunshine in a hammock.

It really was a lovely day for cooking as the sun was shining and we even had enough time to take a nap in the hammock in the garden, read a little, and even play with the cats and very shy kittens!

Indeed, our small group gelled so well that the retired ladies who had previously booked only half-a day, decided to stay for the full course, and we all shared our food with each other especially when we were so stuffed that we couldn’t eat any more or just to have a peek at the smell and flavour of other dishes.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" doing a marvellous job at cooking.

“The Tall Young Gentleman” doing a marvellous job at cooking.

Having said that, I think that “The Tall Young Gentleman” did a marvellous job at making six full courses all by himself.

I think he’ll be able to cook in the future LOL!

Perhaps, even better than myself, and I’m proud of that fact LOL!

"The Music Producer" and I learning how to use Thai ingredients and measures!

“The Music Producer” and I learning how to use Thai ingredients and measures!

We really had an exciting day with full, happy stomachs. Here’s the info:

WHAT IS THE THAI SECRET COOKING SCHOOL?

The Thai Secret Cooking School is a modern kitchen that upholds the Thai tradition of an open air kitchen with panoramic views of nature that surrounds the local people.

WHAT IS THE THAI SECRET COOKING SCHOOL ABOUT?

The Thai Secret Cooking School is about an alternative way of seeing the city of Chiang Mai by moving away from the ordinary tourist trail and exploring the cultural, traditional way of cooking Thai food, in a safe, friendly, relaxing environment.

Phew!

DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAI?

Nope!

These tour are in English. If English isn’t your native-language not to worry, as most of the course is dedicated to tasting, cooking, and enjoying the food that you or your group have made. There will be no time to worry, and May has an excellent sense of humour LOL!

Gosh! My boy is really cooking!

Gosh! My boy is really cooking!

WHAT DO I NEED?

A pair of good shoes or flip-flops, a pair of sunglasses, possibly a hat, and a huge smile!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes. This tour cost 1,100 Baht or $34.00 for a full day course, 900 Baht or $30.00 for the evening course, and 800 Baht or $25.00 for the half day course; and was well worth the price.

At the end of the course, you are given a “Certificate of Completion” and a copy of their “Thai Secret Cook Book”.

As a last note, the Thai Secret Cooking School really does take its food seriously so I would recommend having no more than a few slices of toast and a cup of tea for breakfast, as you will be stuffed!

MY VERDICT:

I thought it was brilliant. The classes were relaxed and the food choices were numerous, whether you were a vegetarian, glucose intolerant, or had food allergies like me.

Everyone should do a cookery course every now and then, if only to make sure that when guests come to visit, you can impress them or at least, not poison them LOL!

Highly recommended.

Thai food is highly recommended!

Thai food is highly recommended!

WHAT IF A COOKERY COURSE ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

Tickets for the Thai Cooking Class are from 800 Baht to 1,100 Baht.

Approximate time: 8 hours for a full day class, 5 hours for a half day class.

For more information about traditional cooking classes please contact: Thai Secret Cooking School.

Happily noshing around the dining table at the Thai Secret Cooking School in Chiang Mai!

Happily noshing around the dining table at the Thai Secret Cooking School in Chiang Mai!

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a discount, all opinions and the rather wonderful dishes I happily stuffed down, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so for the month of September only, I will be writing about our adventures in Thailand, Indonesia, and Qatar and at the same time, keeping you posted as to the fantastic things going on in my wonderful city of Berlin.

November 9th, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Events are taking place all over the city until then.

September is going to be a beautiful month.

Watch this space!
Myself with a lovely dish of Red Curry with Chicken / Pork made by Moi!

Myself with a lovely dish of Red Curry with Chicken / Pork made by Moi!

Have you been to a cookery class? What’s your favourite Thai dish to make at home?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post.

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Thai food is going to kill you: Eat it or die!

We had an excellent time in Bangkok but too much of a good thing could leave you jaded, so it was time to move on. And besides, we would return back to Bangkok within a fortnight….!

So, if you’re in Thailand in August during the monsoon season, where do you go?

The Beach with the gorgeous Leo! Photo@ http://panamericano.it

The Beach with the gorgeous Leo!
Photo@ http://panamericano.it

Most people’s dream of paradise is The Beach, but if you don’t want to get caught in torrents of rains followed by hordes of mosquitoes, perhaps somewhere else might be more prudent. To the North perhaps?

And to the hills and mountains of Chiang Mai!

The very famous Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai. Photo@ the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The very famous Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai.
Photo@ the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

CHIANG MAI!

Now a lot of travellers who want to go from Bangkok to Chiang Mai normally get there by train. It’s cheaper, it’s clean, and it’s efficient.

It also takes forever!

Moreover, the train has had some problems with derailing in 2013. Possibly it’s OK now, possibly it’s not: but after reading this horror story post from a blogger called Nomadic Samuel about how their train travelling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, derailed in the middle of the night, I decided to make a U-turn and take a flight instead!

Funny bird or Angry bird at Nok Air!

Funny bird or Angry bird at Nok Air!

We took a rather amusing airline called Nok Air and it’s a funny one ‘cos the aeroplane is in the shape of a bird! Yes, a bird! And it cost.

Wait for it!

Just wait!

Oh, alright then!

It cost, a wonderful $34.00. One way. Including all the fees. For Europeans, that’s €26.00! OMG. That’s a crazy price.

I'm not crazy. You are! Photo@ R.Pater

I’m not crazy. You are!
Photo@ R.Pater

And the service was amazing. I’ll write all about that in another post.

The very efficient Don Mueang Airport.

The very efficient Don Mueang Airport.

Our flight was to depart at 09:05 so we needed to be there at about 07:30 since it was a domestic flight. Our domestic flight was leaving from Don Mueang Airport. I had heard a lot of complaints about this airport, but to be honest, I couldn’t see where the problem was. OK, it wasn’t in “town,” but it certainly wasn’t difficult to get to either, and within the hour, we were there.

It’s a small airport a bit like our Tegel Airport in Berlin. I quite liked it. Most importantly, Nok Air had included free WiFi as part of their services. That was grand!

Inside the Don Mueang Airport. Very clean!

Inside the Don Mueang Airport. Very clean!

The airport was clean and efficient and the flight was safe and sound. We ended up with some of the best seats: the emergency seats. Unfortunately, “The Tall Young Gentleman” had to swop seats with the gentleman in front of us, as at 12 years old, he’s officially under-aged!

Nok Air: A snack and a drink.

Nok Air: A snack and a drink.

The seating space was great and we even got a small snack and a small container of water, which all came wrapped in a brown paper bag. In Europe, a budget airline gets you nadda, so that was a very pleasant surprise.

Our flight was only 1 hour and 10 minutes!

Our hotel host had told us that a taxi would cost between 150 and 200 Baht or $4.60 and $6.00, so we went straight to the official taxi stand. If you go to the official stand, there is less likelihood of getting scammed and losing your money, as well as the shirt on your back!

At the taxi stand, you get a ticket with the drivers’ details and it states that there is an extra fee of 50 Baht or $1.50 that you have to pay the driver, and off you go. Be sure to tell the driver to use the meter and make sure he uses it. Make sure that you also keep the ticket. Don’t give it to the driver. That’s very important. If you do, you could get a very unpleasant surprise later on!

Within 30 minutes, we were at our hotel. The taxi fare: 160 Baht or $5.00; including the tip!

The outside of our Chalet at Tanita House.

The outside of our Chalet at Tanita House.

And then we arrived at our home-stay or B & B – Tanita House. I loved Tanita House. It’s a family-run home that consists of a compound of chalet houses in the Thai style of traditional wooden houses, made of teak. The mother and owner – Khun Aor- lives there with her father, her sister, and her nephew. She was lovely, and so was her home.

Inside our chalet at Tanita House!

Inside our chalet at Tanita House!

Our chalet consisted of a double bed, and an extra bed for “The Small Young Gentleman,” air-conditioning, a private toilet and bathroom, hot water, daily cleaning, our own private terrace, free WiFi, a computer on site, bacon and eggs in the morning, as well as a buffet breakfast, and as much iced-cold water, tea and coffee, as you wanted. Wow!

The lush greeness of Tanita House in Chiang Mai!

The lush greenness of Tanita House in Chiang Mai!

Again, the price does not even reflect the warm and wonderful service as it was just…

Drum-roll….

700 Baht or $21.00 per adult, and 600 Baht or $18.00 for the extra bed. Considering what you got. An absolute bargain. It was also near the river and as Chiang Mai is known as “The Rose of the North,” Tanita House is enormously enchanting, as a location within walking distance of the Ping river.

Things for sale at Tanita House in Chiang Mai.

Things for sale at Tanita House in Chiang Mai.

Tanita House was also filled with carvings and statues that you could also actually buy, and a fantastic cafe that had yummy creamy cake and healthy-looking fruits shakes.

Right! We did many lovely things in Chiang Mai and one of the things that Chiang Mai is most famous for, is its food. Thai food.

Grilled fish with the head n' everything!

Grilled fish with the head n’ everything!

We had heard of the very famous Sunday Night Market and guess what, we had arrived on the Sunday so after getting directions, off we went. To search for food.

On the Yellow Brick Road.

With Dorothy and Toto.

Oh sorry. Wrong story!

Oh yes. We went to the Sunday Night Market which can be found within the old city gate or Tha Pae Gate not far from. You won’t believe this; but not far from Boots: The Chemists!

Let me tell you. This market is amazing!

Buying trinkets from a Burmese woman dressed in traditional clothes.

Buying trinkets from a Burmese woman dressed in traditional clothes.

Once you get within the old gates of the city, there’s a road that you have to cross and which is manned by soldiers. Once the traffic lights turn, you and the other mass of people, can cross the road. Safely, but a little quicker. Do you know what I mean? If you’ve been to any Asian country, you don’t want to wait too long. You hold your breath, and cross the road. Don’t run though.

They won’t be able to see you!

Enterprising musicians.

Enterprising musicians.

Anyway, the market is on a long road called Thapae Road. It’s just like an English High Street with lots of stalls and shops, musicians, and with blind singers on the side or middle of the street. BTW, on an English High Street, you won’t find the singers, but I digress LOL!

Everyone's here at the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai!

Everyone’s here at the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai!

It was crowded yes, but sort of arranged too. It didn’t look confusing at all. And it was very safe. People were friendly milling around, and lots of people were smiling, and there were loads of children with their parents. Both local and foreign.

Local craftsmanship in Chiang Mai.

Local craftsmanship in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is renowned for its outstanding handicrafts, silk, silver, wood, ceramic, arts and crafts and they were to be found and seen everywhere. Lovely exquisite pieces and fantastic works of art. After looking around and chatting with the old men quartet, we found the Sunday Night Market.

Oh. My. God.

Thai food is going to kill you!

A variety of skewered meat at only 10 Baht or 30 cents each!

A variety of skewered meat at only 10 Baht or 30 cents each!

There was loads and loads and loads of food everywhere and most of them didn’t cost more than 20-30 Baht or 60-90 cents. Some food items even cost as little as 7 Baht or 21 cents! It’s no wonder that young travellers and entrepreneurs from industrial countries end up in Chiang Mai. It’s cheap, and enormously easy to settle down there. It’s the Berlin of Asia!

Crunchy insects at the Sunday Night Market and No, I just couldn't do it!

Crunchy insects at the Sunday Night Market and No, I just couldn’t do it!

We had kebab sticks, sticky chicken in a plastic bag of sweet, spicy sauce, thinly shredded vegetables, freshly squeezed mulberry juice, squid, sushi, steamed dumplings, spicy balls of meat, quail eggs fried in noodle things, wan tons, tofu and pork rolls, fresh fruit in cups, birds nest, egg custard in banana leaf, corn-on-the-cob, Thai pumpkin, fresh crab, sausages on a stick, spicy fried chicken wings, fried quail eggs, sticky rice, waffles, crunchy insects, and foot massages!

Actually, I didn’t have that. I just can’t see myself having a massage in public. Foot or otherwise.

A variety of jolly cakes at 13 Baht or 40 cents each!

A variety of jolly cakes at 13 Baht or 40 cents each!

I’m sorry! I like my comforts.

And the sellers were very generous. they didn’t mind us taking photographs although we made sure to buy items from them, and each and every seller was prepared to take your garbage and rubbish from you as there were no dustbins. You just handed your chopsticks, plastic plate, or bag, to a seller and they would put it in their dustbin barrel.

A batch of fried chicken claws which at first, I thought were chicken wings!

A batch of fried chicken claws which at first, I thought were chicken wings!

I thought that was ingenious idea!

The market was full of locals all buying and eating their evening meal. I heard that it was cheaper to eat out than to cook and I can say, I love it. I have allergies and for me, the market is more resourceful as I can actually see what goes inside my food!

Fresh fruit.

Fresh fruit.

We loved the food so much that we decided to learn how to make it ourselves! To see what and how we did, check my blog next week!

For more information about the lovely chalet, please contact: Tanita House. I made my booking via Hostelworld.com but it’s always wise to check around.

For more information about the Bangkok – Chiang Mai domestic flight, please contact: Nok Air.

Myself at the Doi Inthanon National Park, Northern Thailand.

Myself at the Doi Inthanon National Park, Northern Thailand.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions and all the above yummy delightful Thai food, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so for the month of September only, I will be writing about our adventures in Thailand, Indonesia, and Qatar and at the same time, keeping you posted as to the fantastic things going on in my wonderful city of Berlin.

STRICTLY STAND UP – The English Comedy Night is going to take place on 10.09.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

November 9th, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Events are taking place all over the city until then.

September is going to be a beautiful month.

Watch this space!
Catching your food. Nearly reached. Photo@ the Tourism Authority of Thailand

Catching your food. Nearly reached.
Photo@ the Tourism Authority of Thailand

Have you been to a food market? Have you had quail eggs ? What is your favourite Thai nosh?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post,

Share it! Tweet it! Like it!

3 days in Bangkok: A walking tour isn’t what you think!

Don't look if you're squeamish. These pig heads are real. In Bangkok, Thailand.

Don’t look if you’re squeamish. These pig heads are real. In Bangkok, Thailand.

Asia was great!

Exactly a week ago, we returned from our one month trip in Asia. One of the first places we went to was Thailand and to be honest, there’s no point in going to Thailand if you don’t spend at least a day or two in Bangkok.

We spent 3.

As I told you at the beginning of the week, our holiday was independently organised by myself and that included where we were going to stay and what we were going to do.

The front of pretty Lamphu Tree House Boutique Hotel in Bangkok.

The front of pretty Lamphu Tree House Boutique Hotel in Bangkok.

I decided to reserve a boutique hotel in the suburbs of Bangkok.

I’m sorry, but this being Bangkok, I wanted to ensure that we would be in a “family-friendly” hotel as much as possible.

As some of you might be aware, Bangkok has an unfortunate reputation of being slightly seedy and indeed, I did note one of the like, but only one. In that wise, we went to the Lamphu Tree House Boutique Hotel which is situated near the river district of Phranakom.

Our superior room which included a divan, perfect for a young family or a few friends. In Bangkok!

Our superior room which included a divan, perfect for a young family or a few friends. In Bangkok!

The hotel was 30 minutes from the bridge and bordered the Chao Phraya river. I was enormously pleased with the quality and standard of our hotel as I requested a superior room in the original building. It had a double bed, a divan, a private bathroom with running water, a private balcony and AC, as well as a breakfast buffet. The hotel also had quite a charming swimming pool and was enormously clean, and decorated with Thai paintings and antiques.

Our lovely swimming poo in Bangkok. Not too big, not too small, perfect for those first sticky, humid nights!

Our lovely swimming poo in Bangkok. Not too big, not too small, perfect for those first sticky, humid nights!

Just what I wanted!

At the beginning of the week, I mentioned that we spent our first day in Bangkok, just relaxing and walking around. I mean, we’ve just spent 13 hours in the air and spent another 4.5 hours in both the Berlin and Qatar airports, so I guess we were allowed to while away the time.

But not all of the time.

Insects on food! Photo@ blogspot.com

Insects on food!
Photo@ blogspot.com

People have so many opinions about Bangkok. Some people hate it.

Thailand. We loooooooove you!

Thailand. We loooooooove you!

Some people love it.

Whatever the case, you’re going to have an opinion.

In fact, when I first (1st) visited Bangkok, back in 1999, I didn’t like Bangkok either. It was my first time to go to Asia, I was travelling solo, it was August, and it was hot. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing and where I was going. It was just dusty and hot, And I couldn’t read the writing as it was in Thai Sanscrit in those days, but I was fascinated because that was the first time I saw a “real” elephant roaming the streets and blocking up traffic!

The last time I was in Asia, 7 long years ago!

The last time I was in Asia, 7 long years ago!

The second (2nd) time I went to Bangkok was in 2007, after almost a month in the Mekong valleys and jungles of Vietnam. This time I was intrigued to go to Bangkok. I loved it. We went to a few shows and had lots of sushi. The highlight of that trip was when a tuk-tuk driver took me to a go-go bar instead of the Thai dance performance venue that I had actually requested. It was only when a couple of men started fighting in front of a steel iron door, and I happened to be the only dressed woman around, that I thought to leg it out of there!

Walking through the backstreets of Bangkok.

Walking through the backstreets of Bangkok.

Seven (7) years later, I returned again. With family in tow.

I wanted my family to have a fascinating first-time approach to Bangkok so I contacted a company called Bangkok Vanguards. I found out about them from the post of Maria Wulff Hauglan a Norwegian blogger: Nerd Nomads.

I saw her post and I thought, yes. This looks good. A guided walking tour, but a walking tour with a difference and not only that, but an owner who not only happens to be half-Thai, but he also happens to be half-German. A match made in heaven!

You all know how I love walking tours. Remember, when I went to Scotland and took the Edinburgh walking tour, and then I went to London in January and went on a walking tour in London too. Do you know that even though I am The British Berliner and that I’ve lived in Berlin forever, I still felt it useful to go on an alternative walking tour in Berlin. So of course, I’m going to do the same in Bangkok.

And Then We Were Four. Make that Five: The Music Producer, "The Tall Young Gentleman," Michael, Cherie, and myself as the photographer, On the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

And Then We Were Four. Make that Five: The Music Producer, “The Tall Young Gentleman,” Michael, Cherie, and myself as the photographer, On the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

Anyway, I contacted the Managing Director of Bangkok Vanguards: Michael Biedassek, and he was really nice and friendly. He was so nice that I couldn’t believe it when the next day the person leading our walking tour was Michael himself, and his assistant Cherie! An honour indeed.

Let me tell you, you haven’t seen Bangkok until you have seen Bangkok around the clock and in every corner of that most intriguing city. The tour that we went on was called: Bangkok Three Sixty.

Some of the local people in Bangkok, Thailand.

Some of the local people in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Bangkok Three Sixty is a private tour so Michael and Cherie came to our hotel and picked us up, and since it was only The Music Producer, “The Small Young Gentleman,” and myself, the tour started immediately. This tour is a walking tour and so the walking started as soon as we set foot outside the hotel!

Getting all excited inside a local river boat.

Getting all excited inside a local river boat.

We walked through our suburban neighbourhood and then took an express boat across the river. At first, we were a little nervous of walking literally through people’s front door but that was what the tour was about. Getting your hands dirty and seeing Bangkok through the eyes and feet of locals. Once we gained some confidence, while Michael chatted to the residents, we smiled and attempted some basic Thai small-talk!

Through the back streets of Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand.

Through the back streets of Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand.

Our first stop was.

Chinatown!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times but I’d never been to Chinatown. In fact, I hadn’t even been to that most famous of places, Khao San Road. Until the day before.

We had lunch.

A typcal Thai kitchen restaurant.

A typcal Thai kitchen restaurant.

And bought a couple of T-shirts that cost 170 Baht or $5.00 each!

Birds in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.  I can't remember why they were in the temple area. Does anyone have any idea?

Birds in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
I can’t remember why they were in the temple area. Does anyone have any idea?

Chinatown was fascinating. We went to the temples. We saw the food that was distributed to the poor, needy, and religious. We got up close to monks and respectfully observed the drumming and chanting. We met an ex-Muay Thai boxer who showed “The Tall Young Gentleman” some of his boxing tricks, and also how his teeth could be knocked out whenever he wanted to! Our boy was delighted to see THAT trick!

We met an ex-Muay Thai boxer who showed "The Tall Young Gentleman" some of his boxing tricks!

We met an ex-Muay Thai boxer who showed “The Tall Young Gentleman” some of his boxing tricks!

We went through the river community and stopped to see some sort of huge water-snake-lizard-thing in the river. It was so large, that I thought that they were crocodiles. There were two of them.

Two huge water-snake-lizard-things in the Bangkok river.

Two huge water-snake-lizard-things in the Bangkok river.

We went to Indiatown. In fact I didn’t even know that was an Indian community at all. We decided to drop into a Sikh temple and we were enormously lucky to find a Sikh scholar who was willing to take us around the school and temple. Completely off the chart, as this wasn’t actually part of the tour, but you know what? That’s what it’s all about. Keeping it authentic, real, and Bangkok style!

Myself, "The Music Producer", and "The Tall Young Gentleman" donning bright yellow scarves and a colourful shawl at the Sikh temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

Myself, “The Music Producer”, and “The Tall Young Gentleman” donning bright yellow scarves and a colourful shawl at the Sikh temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

It was so authentic that we all had to wear scarves on our heads, and that included the boys too!

Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf - Bangkok, Thailand.

Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf – Bangkok, Thailand.

We went through the market where we saw and tasted exotic fruit, vegetables, and sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf. Since we were still in Indiatown, we had our first taste of market street food: samosas that were spicy, sharp and enormously tasty. We also had lunch at a local Indian restaurant. Why not?

We each made an order and then shared the food in the middle of the table. And then I went to the bathroom.

And stayed there for some time.

Quite a while in fact.

My husband was worried.

The restaurant staff were worried.

After 20 minutes, although it felt like 20 hours. I re-appeared slightly pale, but alive and well, and ready to sample more delights!

With those beautiful flowers at the Wat Suthat Temple.

With those beautiful flowers at the Wat Suthat Temple.

We visited the Wat Suthat, a first grade Buddhist monastery which contains the Buddist image, otherwise known as Phra Si Sakkayamuni. Michael showed us how Buddhists perform the ceremony of folding a flower, and lighting incense sticks and making a wish of desire. We also learnt how to sit in a temple (with feet tucked in or to the side), and how to observe the custom of not rising higher than senior citizens who were praying, but bowing and bending the knee, whilst walking past.

Drinking through a plastic bag and a straw in Bangkok, Thailand. Our faces were scrunched up 'cos the crushed ice was bloody freeeeezing cold!

Drinking through a plastic bag and a straw in Bangkok, Thailand. Our faces were scrunched up ‘cos the crushed ice was bloody freeeeezing cold!

We went to the park and observed locals and expats working out. We went to other temples, we went through the back streets, and drank coca-cola and sprite through plastic bags and a straw.

On a rickety bus in Bangkok!

On a rickety bus in Bangkok!

We squeezed all five (5) of us into the back seat of a tuk-tuk, and then jumped onto a local rickety bus. We basically had to leap into it, as the bus was surrounded by commuters going home or coming from work and the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing is not really an option, so off we went!

Fantastic views of everyday life on the riverbanks in Bangkok, Thailand.

Fantastic views of everyday life on the riverbanks in Bangkok, Thailand.

We had a Ruea Hang Yao or a long-tail boat, waiting for us. It was chartered specifically for us so that we could stretch out, relax, take as many photographs as we like, and er, sleep!

Don’t judge me!

Before we fell asleep on the gentle river in Bangkok, Thailand!

Before we fell asleep on the gentle river in Bangkok, Thailand!

I can’t help it if the combination of wind, sunshine, and the gentle swaying of the long-tail boat, eventually contributed to pretty much all of us taking thirty winks, along the way!

By the way, our boat was fully equipped with safety equipment and life-vests, and our captain navigated extremely well.

Children playing on the banks of the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

Children playing on the banks of the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

On the river, we saw another part of Bangkok. A different world to the parts that we had preciously seen. And then we landed at The Artists’ House or Baan Silapin. The Artist’s House is located on the old Chao Phraya River outlet which is also known as Bangkok Noi Canal or sometimes refered to as Klong Bangluang.

At The Artist's House on the banks of the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

At The Artist’s House on the banks of the river in Bangkok, Thailand.

This place is amazing! It’s a row of traditional Thai wooden houses which have been restored to their former glory, and more than two hundred (200) years old. There are weird life-size statues of people dotted about. They’re so large and strangely located that I thought they were actually real people rather than objects! Local crafts shops, organic eateries, a temple, a puppet troupe, and some sort of Thai martial art school for local children.

We met and chatted to some of the teenagers on the upper floor who seemed impressed by “The Tall Young Gentleman,” and the fact that he was only 12 years old. Some of the teenage girls got a little flirty.

At the Artist's House witha ferret-like creature in Bangkok, Thailand.

At the Artist’s House with a ferret-like creature in Bangkok, Thailand.

They also had a ferret-like creature which they let him play with, and we let them hang out a little while we had cups of tea and bought some postcards, and hand-made writing paper.

Eating together. Working together. Living together. In Bangkok, Thailand.

Eating together. Working together. Living together. In Bangkok, Thailand.

We spent a little time here then we went back to town. Back into Chinatown where we were submerged into the market scene, and where people were cooking with huge pots of food on the street, and people were living from shoulder to shoulder, as close communities. Eating together. Working together. Living together.

The gallery at the Chumbhot-Pantip Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand.

The gallery at the Chumbhot-Pantip Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand.

We then visited a local charity foundation in the heart of Chinatown called the Chumbhot-Pantip Foundation. They are a charity interested in preserving the history of the Chinese descended people in the area, the buildings, the culture, and language. The building was actually closed, but one of the locals ran around the neighbourhood and very nicely fetched the key, so that we could look around the gallery.

Living history all around us in Bangkok, Thailand.

Living history all around us in Bangkok, Thailand.

Even though we visited the gallery quite frankly, the history of Chinatown was all around us, but perhaps not for long as history has taught us that some of these immigrant areas soon become prime estate. Bangkok is no different. Side by side the cooking pots and the children skipping on the streets, was an underground station being built.

"The Music Producer" and Cherie, on one of the longtail boats!

“The Music Producer” and Cherie, on one of the longtail boats!

It was soon time for us to take a longtail boat again, but this time the commuter boat. It was about 17:00 and it was pretty crowded. The boat would come around and it would stop for about 10 seconds. 10 seconds in which you either jumped into the boat or you fell into the river. Michael was extremely attentive and held my hand so that we could leap into the boat together LOL! Once in the boat, the boat cover would go up so that you couldn’t fall into the river, and off they went. The conductors would collect the fares by standing and walking on the edge of the boat!

The modern city of Bangkok, Thailand.

The modern city of Bangkok, Thailand.

At 17:30, the Bangkok walking tour was officially over, but we were all having so much fun that Michael, the Managing Director decided to invite us to meet his girlfriend: Gift, and then a friendship began. We turned from clients to friends. He did call his lovely girlfriend and then we went into the center of the city and walked through the shopping district. My goodness. Bangkok is fantastically modern.

I don't know what it is. Is it some sort of elephant? But I want to take it hooooome!

I don’t know what it is. Is it some sort of elephant? But I want to take it hooooome!

I couldn’t believe how clean and organised those shopping centres were. The bathrooms were amazing. With toilet paper. And ladies, there were at least 30 cubicles on EACH FLOOR so that you didn’t need to queue! And they were completely and utterly free of charge. Wow! I mean, even Germany can’t beat that. In Berlin, our shopping centres have about 8 cubicles AND you have to pay 50 cents for them too!

In the shopping malls were Thai young people everywhere. There was even some concert going on, so we stayed, and watched for a while. It was amazing and lovely to meet real Thai people. I hardly saw any foreigners. Isn’t that funny?

Spicy chicken and pork in Bangkok for 80 cents a piece is an absolute bargain. And at a shopping mall too!

Spicy chicken and pork in Bangkok for 80 cents a piece is an absolute bargain. And at a shopping mall too!

Anyway, we hung around a little and went and had some snacks. In the shopping malls, you have food halls just as you have in Europe, and the food variety there was pretty huge, and most importantly, cheap. Yep! You heard me. The food in the halls were cheap! 15 baht or 45 cents for a stick of grilled pork, 25 baht or 80 cents for spicy chicken, and lots of strange stuff.

Michael also took us to a local restaurant frequented by students called Inter Restaurant. It’s in the Siam district area across from the shopping mall in Siam Square, and is fairly easy to find. It serves authentic Thai food at prices ranging from 65 baht or $2.00 to 120 baht or $3.80.

Delicious, yummy, spicy Tom Yum Goong soup in Bangkok, Thailand.

Delicious, yummy, spicy Tom Yum Goong soup in Bangkok, Thailand.

We had a variety of meals which we shared together and even though we were stuffed to the brim, we didn’t reject the idea of going to a bar.

A sky bar.

In Bangkok.

Using the Bangkok Sky Train.

Using the Bangkok Sky Train.

And so we took the Bangkok BTS Sky train. The BTS Sky Train runs through all the important downtown districts and major transport hubs in Bangkok. As it’s described, it zooms above Bangkok traffic at sky level and is connected at various places, in the city. Pretty neat.

Inside the Bangkok Sky Train.

Inside the Bangkok Sky Train.

This was our first time to go on the Sky Train and again, it’s clean, organised and efficient. No problem at all. Tickets are fantastically cheap and once children are above 160 metres, age isn’t a factor, but height. In this case, “The Tall Young Gentleman” was a full-grown adult LOL! Single tickets are between 15-20 baht or 45 to 60 cents, and a one day pass would be 120 baht or $3.80.

Cocktails at the rooftop bar of Cloud 47, Bangkok.

Cocktails at the rooftop bar of Cloud 47, Bangkok.

As I said earlier, our last stop was a sky bar. In this case on the top floor of the United Center office tower, and is pretty chilled out. The sky bar was called: Cloud 47.

There was no cover and you didn’t have to dress up. This was a godsend as we were still wearing our shorts and trainers, with bottles of water sticking out of our city backpacks.

Not exactly the image you want to convey.

But the staff ignored our dusty outfits and were professional and friendly all the same. Phew!

A happy time in Bangkok with the Bangkok Vanguards team!

A happy time in Bangkok with the Bangkok Vanguards team!

We had a couple of cocktails and the prices were reasonable. More Berlin than London! We took a lot of photos, clicked glasses, marvelled at the view, and sighed and reflected at the beauty of Bangkok.

We had a marvellous day.

In fact, we had been with Michael and his Bangkok Three-Sixty crew for 16.5 hours! They were great and really showed, and introduced us to the real Bangkok.

We’ll be back.

We Five! Thanks so much Bangkok Vanguards.

We Five! Thanks so much Bangkok Vanguards.

Thank you Bangkok Vanguards.

Here’s the info:

WHO ARE THE BANGKOK VANGUARDS?

The Bangkok Vanguards are a dynamic team of die-hard Thailand fans who strive to connect people, through their passion for exploring the streets, cycling, conservation, street art, and education, about Thailand’s local, indigenous, communities.

WHAT IS THE BANGKOK THREE-SIXTY WALKING TOUR ABOUT?

The Bangkok Three-Sixty is about an intense, exciting, fun, alternative way of exploring the city of Bangkok, by moving away from the ordinary tourist trail, and travelling on a route that takes you on foot, and using all forms of available public transportation, to see Bangkok through the eyes of locals living there.

Phew!

The Bangkok Vanguards Team. Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards

The Bangkok Vanguards Team.
Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards

DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAI?

Nope!

These tours are available in either English, German, or Thai!

WHAT DO I NEED?

A pair of comfortable shoes (no flip-flops due to the intense walk), cultural-sensitive clothes that reach to at least knee level and elbow length (as the walk is through the local community, in temples and personal homes), spare batteries, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, a huge bottle of water, a few basic words of Thai, and an enormous smile!

Laughing, smiling, and eating in Bangkok.

Laughing, smiling, and eating in Bangkok.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes, this tour cost $90 or 2,950 Baht per person, for a PRIVATE tour, and was incredibly worth the price.

This trip includes: The VEO (Vanguard Experience Officer or tour guide), a private boat tour, a wide range of transport that includes a local bus, a motorcycle taxi, a Khlong tour, an express bus, a tuk-tuk, a canal boat, breakfast, lunch, various snacks, support for Bangkok’s cultural heritage and art projects, and a pick up at your hotel.

The trip excludes: Personal Insurance, happy hour drinks, personal expenses, and a tip for the guide.

Approximate walking time: 9 hours.

Time: 09:00 – 18:00.

Meeting place: They will pick you up at your hotel if you’re staying within the Central Business District.

Participants: Minimum 2, maximum 8. It is possible to have a private tour for one person but only after an enquiry.

A breath-taking panoramic view of Bangkok at Night at Cloud 47 sky bar.

A breath-taking panoramic view of Bangkok at Night at Cloud 47 sky bar.

The Bangkok Three-Sixty is a full-day tour so don’t make an important appointment immediately after. You might want to hang-out with the tour-guide and other members of your group, over a cocktail or two!

If you’re feeling particularly energetic, there’s a Bangkok by Night tour for 1,300 Baht (group) or 1,600 Baht (private), a cycling tour for 2,500 Baht (group), or 2,950 (private), a first-time in Bangkok highlight tour for 2,500 Baht (group) or 2,950 (private), and of course, you can also organise a customised tour to your own taste to be shorter or  longer!

The Beauty of Culture in Bangkok. Photo@ Tourism Authority of Thailand

The Beauty of Culture in Bangkok.
Photo@ Tourism Authority of Thailand

MY VERDICT:

I absolutely loved it.

The idea of a walking tour around a city is enormously appealing, and something that everyone should do. At least once. It also gives you confidence to move around on your own as you now know what to do, where to go, and how to get there.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this walking tour, please contact: Bangkok Three-Sixty.

For more information about alternative ways of exploring Bangkok, please contact: Bangkok Vanguards.

WHAT IF A WALKING TOUR ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There’s more to come!

Me. Myself & I.  Summer In Berlin.

Me. Myself & I.
Summer In Berlin.

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a discount, all opinions and the delicious cocktails that I heartily quaffed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so for the rest of August and the month of September only, I will be writing about our adventures in Thailand, Indonesia, and Qatar and at the same time, keeping you posted as to the fantastic things going on in my wonderful city of Berlin.

Berlin Music Week is going to take place from 03.09.14 – 07.09.14. Berlin is going to show it’s unique mix of music and technology, festivals and club events on a world stage, with two core events: the WORD! conference for business and SOUND! for live events.

STRICTLY STAND UP – The English Comedy Night is going to take place on 10.09.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

November 9th, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Events are taking place all over the city until then.

September is going to be a beautiful month.

Watch this space!
Thanks very much Bangkok Vanguards. Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards.

Thanks very much Bangkok Vanguards.
Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards.

Have you been on a walking tour? Have you been on a tuk-tuk? What are your top tips for visiting Bangkok?

See you in Berlin.

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