(Day 268 to 271)
16.08.2010 - 19.08.2010 35 °C
Chiang Mai was not what I had imagined. As a rule I try not to look at too many pictures of places we’ll be visiting as I like be surprised. This little town comprises of a square small city which is the Old town, surrounded by a moat with remnants of the old city walls and gates which lead to the newer parts of town. Tight alleyways and food stalls can be spotted through the old town with hundreds of massage shops and tour operators.
We spent our time exploring the various famous temples, one of which took us out of town onto a hill and is the most important temple in Northern Thailand. Here we could see Chiang Mai from above.
One of the other temples (Wat Chedi Luang) had a “Monk chat” programme set up where tourists and locals alike can speak to the monks and ask all the questions they like. This allows them to practice their English and to get foreigners to have a better understanding of the Monks lives and lifestyles, as well as enlightening us on the ways of Buddhism.
This was very informative for us and we learnt a few things. Some trivial, for example the Monks wear different colours (Brown, yellow, red and orange), and whilst this was of significance in the past, now this holds no meaning. It’s simply a way for them to alternate their colours as their moods require, just as we do with our daily clothes.
We also learnt that a lot of the Monks come from poor backgrounds and have joint the monkhood to further their education, which is not of the highest standards but is free. This was a surprise to us as we thought that it was a calling, for spiritual reasons. They can also leave the temples when their education is over and join the world again as a civilian, although the one we spoke to assured us that even when that would happen for him, he would be a Monk at heart forever.
On our 3rd day here we took a Thai Cooking Class with a company called Siam Rice. The owners, a young couple in their thirties called Pot and Nancy, are vibrant & funny and clearly love what they do. The day starts with a pick up from the hotel, and when all have been collected, we stop at a market for some Thai ingredients “education”. When we arrive at the house, Nancy is waiting for us and our cooking stations are clean and ready for us to begin.
We chose this particular school as it allowed us to choose different dishes whilst all learning together still. This was a big advantage as Martin and I – two gluttons – adore our food and wanted to learn as much as possible about Thai cooking (in this case, learning 12 dishes instead of 6). After every 2 dishes cooked, you sit down and eat your meals. Needless to say after the first 2, I was already satisfied so had the rest wrapped up for dinner and was soon surrounded by take away boxes! This, whilst my hubby devoured meal after meal! I have to say, not being a keen cook myself that every dish tasted surprisingly delicious and we were provided with recipe books, (and flame-tricks, see pic below!) for us to reproduce these hopefully-fullproof meals at home .After some hilarious vegetable carving lessons (where I was this time absolutely rubbish whilst Martin produced works of art next to me!) we were delivered home: Full to burst but happy!
The next morning we left the town for Pai.