Go to Bangkok or go to Chiang Mai. Just do it! Get up and go!

Myself at the Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai.
Myself at the Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai.

We had a brilliant time in Bangkok and an awesome time in Chiang Mai.

In fact, if you’re looking for a country that offers a summer time thrill then do yourself a favour and book the next flight or train to Thailand!

And why should you do that?

Thailand is a great destination and it isn’t all beaches. In fact, besides, the raw city life of Bangkok, the delicious food of Chiang Mai, and the adventure of riding an elephant, Thailand is so much more.

At the Festival of Good Fortune. Photo@ Tourism Authority of Thailand
At the Festival of Good Fortune.
Photo@ Tourism Authority of Thailand

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO IN THAILAND BESIDES THE LOVELY BEACHES?

We actually wanted to go to Pai, but The Music Producer wasn’t feeling well, and Pai was much further than I expected. A full days’ drive at least. Ah well, another reason to come back and take a hiking visit to Pai and Rai LOL! So we decided to book a car and driver, and spend the day at the Doi Inthanon National Park.

Behold! The Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai!
Behold! The Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai!

What is the Doi Inthanon National Park?

The Doi Inthanon National Park is a 1,005-square km park that encompasses Thailand’s highest mountain peak and rises to 2,565 metres above sea level. The park is rich in flora and fauna and is a source of magnificent bird life and “small” creatures.

A private driver is recommended as the main attractions are spread over a distance of 40 kilometers and also because we went outside peak season. Our driver came to collect us from Tanita House at about 09:00 and was extremely punctual. In fact, I’m proud to say that on ALL the trips and places that we went, the drivers were not only punctual, but early! Perhaps they knew that we were of the German variety LOL!

The National Park was about an hour away and it was rather nice to see other parts of Chiang Mai and gently fall asleep, as we drove through the sunny wind, and rain.

I'm wet mummy!
I’m wet mummy!

Rain?

Rain?!!!

Yes, it began to rain!

I'm still wet mummy. And so is everything else!
I’m still wet mummy. And so is everything else!

No surprise really. After all, we were visiting Thailand in the monsoon season.

In fact, come to think of it, I’ve only ever been to Asia either slightly before monsoon or slightly after it. As such, I’m generally in Asia between the months of August and November. Mid-season I’d say. Not too hot and not too wet but with sprinklings of hot showers of humidity. Great for your clothes but not always comfortable if you come from Northern Europe, as we do.

The problem?

Ahhhhhh! Leave out the air-conditioning! Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards.
Ahhhhhh! Leave out the air-conditioning!
Photo@ Bangkok Vanguards.

Air-conditioning!

In Europe, and I’m including Mediterranean Europe too, we hardly use air conditioning. If you’re from England like I am, well there’s no sun anyway and if you’re from Italy or Spain, the houses are made in such a way, that the inside walls are enormously cool. Think Morocco. No air-conditioning there!

As such, the constant change of in and out, and heat and cold, don’t make for a happy mix. When I went to Vietnam in 2007, I became ill for a month ‘cos of the blasting air-conditioning on my Russian Aeroflot flight!

The Music Producer had the same. With an influx of different temperatures, the fever and head-aches began to afflict him and he was soon spending most nights in a sweaty feverish mess. Thank goodness, we were in the safe arms of Tanita House and locally made ginger, lemon tea!

Back to the National Park.

If you're a local or an expat local, entrance is free! free!! free!!!
If you’re a local or an expat local, entrance is free! free!! free!!!

The cost of our driver didn’t include the entrance fee to go into the National Park, so for adults we paid 200 Baht or $6.00 each and for children we paid 100 Baht or $3.00. Locals or expat locals went in for free, which I thought was acceptable! Our driver was a lovely chap and asked us if he could bring his girlfriend along. We said yes and she came along chatting away! He directed us as to where we should go and as it began to rain, they both ran after us with “Tweety Bird” and “Angry Bird” umbrellas. Even though we were already equipped with our raincoats, the umbrellas came in handy as the rain began to pelt down quite heavily.

It's raining "Angry Birds!" Such a cute umbrella LOL!
It’s raining “Angry Birds!” Such a cute umbrella LOL!

Rain makes for great photos though and we took rather a few as we danced in the natural showery mist LOL!

Look! Thai pot noodles. You can have some too!
Look! Thai pot noodles. You can have some too!

You go down some stairs into the forest which is full of twisty branches and deep green fauna. You follow the nature trail and try not to get lost. There were quite a few families from the Far East and the Middle East so we all took photographs of each other. The trail then leads you to the top again where there’s a few local shops. By this time we were wet and cold, so we had some local Thai pot noodles which they supplied with hot water and a spoon. Yummy but unsurprisingly, spicy LOL! They were 20-25 Baht or 0.60/ 0.77 cents each.

Our driver joined us for coffee too!
Our driver joined us for coffee too!

We then went further into the National Park and into the swamp and river area. After that, there is an Ang Ka Nature Trail and a Memorial Site. We went to both. Our driver came running to collect us again as we went further up into the peak.

We went up to “The Highest Point in Thailand” which consists of the ruins of an ancient temple, the ashes of King Inthawichayanon (after whom Doi Inthanon is named), and two monumental stupas erected in honour of the king and queen. The temple can be reached by climbing up all the stairs or going up the escalator, but there was so much wind and rain up there that we couldn’t stick around. We had a quick peek at the Buddha and tried to carefully get back down again without slipping on the steps!

Hey, that's my "omelette!"
Hey, that’s my “omelette!”

Walking up the stairs makes you hungry so we drove on again until we came to a local market. The only food they had were in wrapped plastic bags, so we went to a man selling what I thought was omelette and on eating, found was actually a very plain pancake!

Whoo! Grinding this coffee needs two strong men at the Hmong and Karen hilltribe village.
Whoo! Grinding this coffee needs two strong men at the Hmong and Karen hilltribe village.

After our snack, we were taken to the Hmong and Karen hilltribe villages where they showed us natural Somsak coffee bushes with green coffee beans, and how they make coffee using a very heavy grinder which I could hardly turn! Even The Music Producer had a little difficulty and he’s usually quite strong!

Green coffee beans. lots of green coffee beans. Smells and tastes like poo!
Green coffee beans. lots of green coffee beans. Smells and tastes like poo!

The hilltribe villagers were friendly and kept making jokes at our expense. There was also coffee to be drunk, but I don’t drink coffee and sadly, I cannot appreciate the flavours, as coffee tastes and smells like poo to me!

I'm standing in front of the beautiful viewwwww and then I was forced to try the pooooooo!
I’m standing in front of the beautiful viewwwww and then I was forced to try the pooooooo!

There were only three other tourists there but still I felt rather awkward, and wondered whether it was OK to walk around this part of the park. So I asked.

The hilltribe villagers nodded and smiled and waved us on. We were careful to only stay on the path and not intrude too much. I saw new buildings besides the old, and lines of washing filled with jeans and a half-naked guy hanging on the edge of a flat half-made roof! I also observed that you could do a homestay in some of the huts for a few days, if you so wished.

Further on, into the hills was another cafe where there were abandoned spinning wheels. As this wasn’t the tourist season, we were quite happy to look at the mountain views and just chat to a few of the local guys there.

After this, we went to one of the highlights of the National Park – The Wachirathan Waterfall. Wow! They were amazing. And so worth the hike. As some as we heard the rush of water, we began to run as if something was chasing us. Goooooorgeous!

Under the waterfall in Yosemite
Under the waterfall in Yosemite

We love waterfalls. We did the same when we went to the Yosemite National Park in California.

There’s a wildness about the Wachirathan Waterfall, and a lot of spray. The fencing isn’t all that fantastic either so I had to keep a close eye on “The Tall Young Gentleman” who followed a group of 20-something boys and slipped away from me. And for a while. I couldn’t find him. Again! If you recall, the same thing happened in Scotland. It wasn’t funny then, and it certainly wasn’t funny now. Every parents’ nightmare.

Anyway, we called him on his phone and we stuck a little closer. I know that I have to let him go someday. But not today.

"I'm the king of the woooorld mummy!" Hmm! We'll see about that!
“I’m the king of the woooorld mummy!” Hmm! We’ll see about that!

As you can see, some of the water is raging, so care has to be taken when climbing over the rocks and taking it all in, as one can easily slip.

We nevertheless, had a great time there. Very much recommended.

Among the Hmong and Karen hilltribe village.
Among the Hmong and Karen hilltribe village. Do I spy another set of secret bunny ears?

AND WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO IN THAILAND?

Well, you can go shopping!

Yes. Don’t judge me. After almost a fortnight of nature and animals and food and stuff, it was time to get to the nitty-gritty of what it’s all about.

Shopping of course!

So what are you waiting for?

Do it!

Go on then.

Just do it!

You know you want to.

Go on. Get up and do stuff!

One of the Hmong and Karen hilltribe ladies.
One of the Hmong and Karen hilltribe ladies.

WHAT IF THE DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

For more information please contact: The Doi Inthanon National Park.

Happy within a mist of grey!
Happy within a mist of grey!

This article is not sponsored and all opinions and the spicy pot noodles and plain pancake that I happily swallowed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

I have a surprise for you. In a fortnight, will be going to France! On my first (1st) ever press trip! Yipee!

In October I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

A Streetcar named Desire on: 02.10.14.

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14.

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be a marvellous month.

Watch this space!

 

We. Are. Family. I've got everything I need and a waterfall, with me!
We. Are. Family. I’ve got everything I need and a waterfall, with me!

Have you been to a National Park? What do you think of waterfalls and coffee beans?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post.

Share it! Tweet it! Like it!

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We Need To Talk About The Elephants! : A Mahout Training Course at The Baanchang Elephant Park.

Beautiful elephants in Thailand.
Beautiful elephants in Thailand.

Last week, I told how you about the delightful time that we had at our cookery school and that in fact, Chiang Mai was everything that we had dreamed of, and more.

Another reason why we wanted to go to “The Rose of the North” was also because of the fertile Ping River Valley. The Valley is a patchwork of paddy fields surrounded by rolling hills, forested mountains, jungles and rivers. The ideal terrain for adventure travel, trekking, river rafting, four-wheel drive safaris, visiting Thailand’s hill tribe people, and of course, riding the elephants.

Thailand's hill tribe people in Chiang Mai.
Thailand’s hill tribe people in Chiang Mai.

Yes, the elephants.

I know what you’re thinking. Riding elephants has become a controversial issue. Indeed, human contact with wild animals is anything but simple. A highly respected blogger: Turner Barr from Around the World in 80 Jobs spent some time as a volunteer at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi as part of the Tiger Island Project in which that age old question arose: Tiger Temple Abuse: Is Tiger Temple drugging the tigers?

A tiger at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
A tiger at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

His verdict: Make up your own mind.

Another respected blogger: Amanda Williams from A Dangerous Business also spent some time as a volunteer at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai and she wrote about what it is like as an elephant and animal volunteer.

An elephant never forgets. Make your own mind up in Thailand!
An elephant never forgets. Make your own mind up in Thailand!

Her verdict: Visit and Volunteer, but don’t ride the elephants.

Indeed, another well-known and respected blogger: Matthew Kepnes from Nomadic Matt actually started an awareness campaign about dolphin riding, playing and swimming that resulted in so much media chatter that it was eventually dropped from the TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange) convention in Cancun, Mexico this month! He wrote about Stopping the Promotion of Unethical Tourism (Boycott TBEX!). It was so controversial that “discussions” got rather nasty!

His verdict: Promote responsible tourism, and don’t spend your hard-earned money on those organisations that don’t.

A dolphin
A dolphin

So back to me. What do I think?

If you recall, I wrote that 2014, was the not the first time I had been to Thailand, and it wasn’t even the second (2nd) time. It was the third (3rd).

The first time that I had seen a wild elephant was on the streets of Bangkok in 1999. This huge elephant was just waddling along in the Bangkok traffic. My mouth hung open as I had never seen the like. I was also worried ‘cos an elephant isn’t exactly dainty and things were falling around it. I’ve seen and ridden elephants in India, in Vietnam and in Indonesia. I’ve also ridden camels and horses, but I drew the line at touching a white tiger in South Africa. I was far too scared!

Horse riding in the Welsh Mountains.
Horse riding in the Welsh Mountains.

Unfortunately, in 1999, I also encountered elephants drawing, painting, running, and doing tricks. In fact, we all have. At the local circus or country fair.

I’m not proud of it. It was all rather entertaining. However, the internet is now at my fingertips. I can choose to be informed and then make make my choice and so I am enclosing the post of a new blogger. A family blogger: Pati & Andrew Goodell from The Meandering Family.  They also thought hard and long about whether to ride elephants or not, and chose to support a conservation park called the Baanchang Elephant Park in Chiang Mai, where there were abundant opportunities to engage with the elephants. This is what they wrote about Riding Elephants in Thailand.

Their verdict: Elephant conservation or Elephant Parks. Recommended.

it must be noted that in Thailand elephants are not categorised as “wild” animals but as part and parcel of Thai culture, as much as horses and cows are part of ours. I always feel so sorry for both the elephant and it’s trainer but the harsh reality is, that elephants are not pets but working animals. I’d rather they “work” at an elephant camp that educates all and sundry, than a circus of painting, running and jumping!

Hello! I love you!
Hello! I love you!

I like what I had heard and seen about the the Baanchang Elephant Park in Chiang Mai so I decided to book our elephant experience with them.

On the day that we chose, a van came to collect us from Tanita House at the early hour of 06:45 in order to get to the park before the sun became too much! In our van was a British family of four: a lawyer, his wife and two kids, a British girl from London, and ourselves.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" and the Hospital Orderly at Baanchang Elephant Park!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” and the Hospital Orderly at Baanchang Elephant Park!

When we arrived, we were led to an open dining room where we were asked to help ourselves to cups of tea, local coffee, and bottles of water. After introducing ourselves we were given the blue clothing of the Mahouts. A sort of denim button-up smock, some quarter-length trousers, a towel, and a key for our personal locker. Let me tell you, I looked ridiculously liked a fisher-woman, The Music Producer looked like a hospital orderly, and only “The Tall Young Gentleman” looked decent LOL!

Our guide- Vinai!
Our guide – Vinai!

Anyway, we were led to a group of gentle elephants by our guide – Vinai – who showed us how to communicate with the elephants, how to stroke, and how to talk to the elephants. We were also taught about the lifestyle and behaviour of Thai elephants, the basic commands for elephants (which I can no longer remember LOL), and how to ride on the elephant’s neck using different spoken techniques.

Trying it out: Bareback style!
Trying it out: Bareback style!

Then, and only then, we were allowed to get on the elephant. BAREBACK!

Let me tell you, it’s a little bit scary because the elephant is a huge animal and you need it’s co-operation before you can attempt to climb up. We were encouraged to whisper and talk to the elephants in a soft manner and then to leap on, by gently holding onto the back of the ears of the elephant. Yes, the ears!

Hold the elephant gently behind the ears: It doesn't hurt them!
Hold the elephant gently behind the ears: It doesn’t hurt them!

One 20-something young man was so unconvinced, that he refused to get onto the elephant and decided to walk! Even The Music Producer had a few gulps before he went on the elephants back as you really are as free as the wind. “The Tall Young Gentleman” on the other hand took to riding the elephant as if he and it, were one. I also noticed that every now and then he would whisper to it. I’m very proud. Our son has always been an animal lover and was previously designated to look after his grandparents dog whenever he visits. He also rushes to the side of practically all our friends who have cats, mice, lizards and a giant Iguania!

Baskets of sugar cane and bananas.
Baskets of sugar cane and bananas.

Once we had the rhythm, we then went to feed the elephants.

That was so much fun! We carried huge baskets to where the other elephants were and fed them huge bunches of bananas and sugar cane. It was a little strange ‘cos some of the elephants would snatch the fruit out of your hands, or nudge you if you weren’t fast enough LOL! All in all, a great experience.

After all that work, I'm rather tired. Fetch me my basket!
After all that work, I’m rather tired. Fetch me my basket!

After all that excitement, it was time for our lunch, so we went back into the open dining room and had plates of Stir – Fried Noodle Thai Style or Pad Thai. The guides went around with bowls of Pad Thai until you were stuffed. “The Tall Young Gentleman” had three (3) plates!

After our delicious lunch, we each took an elephant and started our trek up the hills and the muddy forests, through the trees and branches and around the paddy fields. You could see all around and even some of the villages. The elephants were gentle and also quite cheeky as they kept wandering off to chew bamboo fresh from the trees and bushes! I had a few cuts and bruises from low-hanging branches that the elephants had pushed through and then had sprung back into my face, but I soon learnt to duck down before we got to them.

After about an hour of gentle trekking, we went to a small river and then the water fun began.

"I've washed and scrubbed my elephant. What do I do now mummy?!"
“I’ve washed and scrubbed my elephant. What do I do now mummy?!”

I don’t like cold water and I definitely don’t like dirty water so I abstained from getting into the river and just took personal photos. The Music Producer and “The Tall Young Gentleman” however, were in their element and had lots of fun, washing, stroking, brushing, scrubbing, standing, and generally falling all over the elephant, and each other. Our son had made a friend of another British boy of similar age, so they frolicked about with buckets of water and rapid screaming of delight!

Altogether the trek took about 1.5 hours and then we returned to base to shower as we were all enormously filthy and full of mud, dirt and elephant smells!

The showers were lovely and warm and the towels were clean. Most people had brought extra clothing and footwear with them and so went home quite clean and enormously happy. A really lovely day.

Here’s the info:

Baanchang Elephant Park. A place where the elephants can have a better life.
Baanchang Elephant Park.
A place where the elephants can have a better life.

WHAT IS THE BAANCHANG ELEPHANT PARK?

The Baanchang Elephant Park is a conservation park dedicated to providing elephants with the highest quality-of-life possible.

WHAT IS A MAHOUT?

A Mahout is the caretaker of the elephant. Each elephant has two or three Mahouts and is extremely connected to that person. The Mahout is like a spiritual brother and lives in partnership with the elephant and taking care of the elephant’s welfare with a lot of love and care. The elephants do likewise and are connected to those who treat them with love and are kind. An elephant never forgets!

WHAT IS THE BAANCHANG ELEPHANT PARK ABOUT?

It is against the practice of separating baby elephants from their mother and accepts, and provides care, for orphaned baby elephants. They are located in Mae Taeng about an hour away from Chiang Mai and their goal is to teach visitors about the importance of elephant preservation. The Park also provides a home, and a purpose for domesticated elephants, with the generous support of visitors who take advantage of the once-in-a lifetime opportunity for an elephant training course.

There are no seats. No reins. No buckles. Just you and the natural rhythm of an elephant stride.

Phew!

The Fisherwoman returns!
The Fisherwoman returns!

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 Mahout training course is dedicated to enjoying your time and experience with the elephants.

WHAT DO I NEED?

A pair of good shoes and flip-flops, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, toiletries, a camera, mosquito spray, sun-cream, and a huge smile!

I can touch you now because we're the same height. Would you like a cup of tea?!
I can touch you now because we’re the same height. Would you like a cup of tea?!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes. This one day elephant Mahout training course costs 4,200 Baht or $130 for an adult on a single elephant joining a group, and 2,400 Baht or $75  for two adults sharing a single elephant joining a group. Children under 10 cost 3,500 Baht or $109 on a single elephant and 1,500 or $47 for two children sharing a single elephant. It’s a little pricey but was well worth the price and goes to pay for the upkeep and protection of the elephants.

And yes, they’ll take photos, so don’t worry if you forget your camera or choose not to take it whilst riding, due to bumps, rain, and mud!

Mud and poo at Baanchang Elephant Park!
Mud and poo at Baanchang Elephant Park!

MY VERDICT:

A wonderful day. We really learnt a lot about how to ride elephants in a natural way, how to look after them, and how to play and feed the elephants.

Everyone should volunteer or visit a conservation programme of sort every now and then, if only to make sure that your money goes to where you want it to.

Highly recommended.

Let's just wade in the dirt and have fun!
Let’s just wade in the dirt and have fun!

WHAT IF AN ELEPHANT MAHOUT TRAINING  COURSE ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

For more information about elephant Mahout training courses please contact: Baanchang Elephant Park.

 

This is how it's done at the Baachang Elephant Park.
This is how it’s done at the Baachang Elephant Park.

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a discount, all opinions and the simple Pad Thai I gratefully ate, 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.

In October I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

A Streetcar named Desire on: 02.10.14.

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14.

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be a marvellous month.

Watch this space!
All smiles and bunny ears, at the end of a great day at Baanchang Elephant Park!
All smiles and bunny ears, at the end of a great day at Baanchang Elephant Park!

Have you been on an elephant training course? What do you think of riding elephants at a conservation park?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post.

Share it! Tweet it! Like it!

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

Dessert 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.

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