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Today is technically the one year anniversary of the start of our adventure (and consequently the liquidation of our jobs, apartment and some of our stuff). On this day April 3rd, 2011, we left for São Paulo with little idea of what we had started and what it would mean. We didn’t even have time to contact our credit card company to let them know what we were doing.
In recognition of the event (the fact that April Fools’ Day was around the corner and that we were leaving the African continent for a while to come), I decided to shave off my Africa beard, which I had been growing since January 1, and compiled a list of important metrics from our trip so far :
We still have a couple of months to add to this and much to see. The adventure continues….
I clearly remember Molly asking me if I wanted to go through with the bicycle tour of Angkor Wat in light of the email from Markus Tigges (President of Khmer for Khmer Organization) warning us of the non-relenting floods. “What else are we going to do that day??” was my response.
Needless to say the day was anything but boring. It took a while for the tour to get started in light of some “technical” issues: Molly’s bike had 2 flats and a broken chain. We were well on our way before I hit the next issue, namely a full body dip into a flooded Cambodia rice paddy with my camera strapped to me instead of being inside the bag. The rest of the day was quite the adventure bicycling about 40 kilometers through mud, waist-high water, monsoon rains and some amazing ancient structures.
As you might expect the camera did not survive the trip to Cambodia, but the tour was definitely worth the effort and sacrifice. The photos that would have been captured would have told an amazing story, but it was not meant to be. Instead we saw and experienced world heritage site in a unique way while contributing a donation for a good cause. It was a different way to celebrate my birthday, but in the end worthwhile.
After spending the previous night watching the fights, we woke up early to experience another aspect of Thai culture… the food. Of the top things to do in Chiang Mai (according to TripAdvisor.com), other than spending some time with some elephants, is to take a cooking class. We chose one that seemed to fit our speed : A Lot of Thai. It was a family run, 10 year business which offered small classes for full & half day.
The pickup was done in an old VW bus by the chef’s husband and partner, Kwan (also the graphic designer for their site, business cards, advertisement, etc). We had eaten a small breakfast beforehand not sure what to expect. That was a big mistake. As soon as we arrived, Yui (Siripen Sriyabhaya) introduced herself, handed us our aprons, complementary take-home cookbook and then started cooking. She would demonstrate making the dish first and then we would each go to our stations and try the same. The first dish we would make would be pad thai breakfast.
Other dishes soon followed : tom yum goong, green/red curry, simple stir-fry chicken with cashews, spring rolls and even mango sticky rice. I could go into details about how to make it and how it tasted, but it won’t do you or the food justice. It is something that you will just have to experience on your own.
Yui makes simple versions of these dishes using only the necessary amount of oil and fresh ingredients. I have had a lot of Thai food prior to my visit to Thailand (and even in Thailand itself) but none have been as good. We had originally signed up for the half day class not sure that we would want to stay for the whole day, but after making several dishes we were hooked. We immediately asked if we could stay for the whole day.
After several hours of cooking and eating, we take a much needed break and shuffle into the VW to go to the market. There we see some of our ingredients up close, meet some of Yui’s merchant friends and have a quick snack. After the break, we said goodbye to the ‘half-dayers’ and returned to the kitchen to make some more dishes.
The main attraction in all this is Yui. She mentions quite often that she learned to cook simply because she liked to eat and making it herself was the only way to keep the cost down. She smiles and laughs frequently, with mannerisms similar to Martin Yan. Her stories are varied and personal but definitely do NOT get her mad as she can throw a wicked hook (thankfully we only experienced it in story form). The mood here is light and informative, where no one should feel self conscious or out of place.
This was one of the main attractions of Chiang Mai and of Thailand itself. We learned to cook some of our favorite dishes, were stuffed to the gills on great Thai food, heard some great stories and we even met another American couple that was also traveling the world (Two Backpacks One World). Who could ask for a better end to our time in the north and our first venture into Thailand?