The day started with an early and light breakfast, since the first activity of the day was starting at 9am. I ate with Fred & Carol, then popped up to my room to grab my bag before heading out to meet everyone for our pick-up. We were collected by our guide from Thai Orchid Cookery School, who later introduced himself as Kong (as in King Kong).
Breakfast, buffet style as always
Thai Orchid Cookery School
Kong took us to the local market, about a 10 minute drive from the hotel, and we had a chance to see all sorts of local speciality fruits and delicacies, including the infamous ‘1000 year egg’ – an egg which has been buried under ground for 100 days and is completely black in colour inside. The yoke has a sort of jelly texture to it. Steve from the group was brave enough to try it, but his reaction told us that the rest of us didn’t need to try it!
In Thailand, eggs are coloured to identify their type – brown is chickens egg, white is duck egg and pink is flamingo egg (only kidding, its 1000 year egg)
1000 year egg
We saw a lot of local fruits including dragon fruit, mangostines and the durian fruit. Durian fruits are banned from all hotels, due to their strong smell and flavour. They smell something like cheese or rotten eggs, and the smell can linger for days or weeks if they are opened indoors, but Thais love the flavour of them – and Kong bought a pack of already cut Durian (a few days old) for us to try – by then the smell has become manageable and actually the taste was pretty good!
Durian fruit, and the cut durian in the bottom right in cling film
Also on sale at the market were spices, curry pastes and lots of different type of rice for different purposes. Thai people eat rice 3 times a day, so I guess you have to change it up from time to time!
I bought a small pack of pre-cut green mango, which was provided with a sachet of sugar, salt and chilli mixed together to be dipped. The green mango is quite firm and bitter on it’s own, but with this little pack of zing, it was a really nice experience to eat it!
Green Mango with Sugar, Salt and Chilli – 10 baht (20p!)
After a few minutes of free time whilst Kong gathered some last minute ingredients, we headed back to the van and drove to the cookery school – which turned out to be Kongs house. He runs the cook school as his business and it was really professionally laid out, with a giant angled mirror above a demonstration station in one room, and a bunch of gas stoves in the back garden (with a covered roof) for us to cook on. We each got our own station, so the pressure is on to really cook!
Our cooking areas, all prepped and ready to go
The Demonstration Station
A chef in the making
The first dish Kong showed us how to prepare was Vegetable Spring Rolls, which were surprisingly easy. It was great to see all the different ingredients and learn about things like the rough and smooth side of the spring roll paper, the way Thai people make a glue up from tapioca flour to stick the edges together, and to make up our own sauces with traditional Thai ingredients. Kong made it look really easy, and then it was our turn – first collecting the ingredients for our sauce and then chopping the vegetables, stir frying and then wrapping them before frying off the finished spring rolls. Kong gave us each a dish of home made Sweet Chilli Sauce and we sat down to eat our first home made concoction!
Kong shows us Vermicelli (glass noodles)
Stir frying for the filling of the spring rolls
My first spring roll
And then there were two
They survived the fryer
Starter is served!
Got to admit, I am pretty proud of my first Spring rolls – they tasted good and they were super crispy. The second one kind of exploded on me as I was eating it, but at least it tasted good. There was a sign up in the dining room saying that they had beer and soft drinks for sale for 40baht so we agreed we’d all like to order a beer – which resulted in Kong jumping in his car and driving to the shops! Not quite what we had expected, but a few minutes later we had cans of beer in our hands.
We took our beer through and watched our next demonstrations – for Banana Steam Cake, then Yellow Chicken Curry and finally Chicken and Cashew Nuts. All of the recipes were easy to follow and surprisingly uncomplicated – lots of measures of ingredients – but the end results spoke for themselves. It was a great lesson in Thai cookery and showed just how simple their dishes are. As long as you have a handy cup of coconut cream around, you can make most of their things with a very simple powder or paste.
Below are a few snaps of the finished articles, and I can assure you that they tasted amazing!
Kong demonstrates Banana Steam Cake
My banana steam cake
Carol smashing it with her Banana Steam Cake
My yellow curry with chicken and potatoes
Fred cooking Chicken Cashew Nut
My chicken cashew nut
Lunch is served
My Banana Steam Cake
Our free cook book
Thai Orchid Cookery School
At the end of the cookery lesson, Kong gave us all a free cookbook with more simple Thai recipes and drove us back to the hotel for a brief rest to allow our stomachs to settle after so much food!
Around 4pm we set off for the next bit of our adventure – a trip to Doi Suthep, the second most sacred sight in Thailand. Doi Suthep was a 45 minute bus ride up a VERY windy road up hill to reach the temple. The road was pretty scary at places and we were amazed to see people cycling up the hill.
At the top of the hill, the minibus stopped and we were told that there were two options to reach the temple – we could either take a tram, or we could walk 309 stairs. Of course I chose the stairs!
Dek gives us the options for the journey up the hill
And I chose the hard option, of course!
In honesty the 309 steps weren’t that hard, and it was a lovely ornate staircase. There were even some fallen fresh flowers on the steps, which made it pretty to walk up.
Once we regrouped at the top, we headed to a really fantastic viewpoint over Chiang Mai, where you could see the whole city. Dek explained to us that the temple was built in this location because many years ago an elephant carrying the remains of Buddha indicated that this should be the site, by turning in a circle 3 times and trumpeting. Somme stories say that the elephant died, others just that it trumpeted. Either way, they decided to build a temple here.
Dek also explained some details about the life of a Buddhist monk, how they follow 227 rules and dedicate their life to the Buddhist principles. What was interesting that I had no idea about is that you can also get female monks, and they have more than 300 rules to follow because, as Dek said, women are more emotional so they have to have stricter rules.
The temple contains the remains of the Buddha which were carried by the elephant, which is what makes it such a sacred site. The remains are buried under the temple, and people make trips from all over the Buddhist world to visit and pay their respects.
Whilst we were getting all this information, Dek also explained to us the story of the first Buddha – how he was the son of a King, and lived his life in the palace, never seeing the outside world. Eventually he left the palace and was shocked by the suffering he saw, the sick and dying people. This is what caused him to start the life of a monk, suffering like those people, and since he was making such a sacrifice, people respected him and started to follow his principles. That was the birth of Buddhism.
After all this information about the Buddhist faith, we were given times to wonder around the temple before sunset when the monks who live there come out to pray and chant. This was what we were aiming for, and we waited around to watch the start of their chants. This was an incredible spiritual experience, seeing these men and a few women who have dedicated everything to their beliefs.
Here are a few snapshots from the temple:
Doi Sutep again
Somme of the smaller Buddha statues surroundings the main temple
Young (novice) monks praying and chanting
Chanting to the Buddha in the temple
People bring bells with their name on and leave it with a wish. Most were in Thai, but I found one from Kati and Fredi.
After that amazing experience, we were free to wonder down the hill at our leisure. I grabbed a couple of shots to show the ambience of the area and the steepness of the hill:
The stairs were easier going down, for sure
Another Buddha, at the bottom of the hill
The flags at the bottom of the stairs
Once everyone regrouped, we jumped into the minibus and headed back into Chiang Mai. We stopped at a viewpoint over the city to see some of the lights switching on, then headed all the way down the windy road again.
Once back in Chiang Mai, we were dropped off at another Night Market near our hotel. We had a bit of a look through the stalls, but most of the people in the group wanted to try a ‘Fish Massage’ – something I ruled out straight away! With my ticklish feet, there is no chance I would enjoy that.
Dek took us to a stall which was really good value for money – the fish massage was 100 baht for 20 minutes, and they offered Thai massage for 100 baht (£2) for 30 minutes. I opted for a neck and back massage, whilst the others tried the Fish Massage!
Steve didn’t last long!
Feeling accomplished from our mixed day of cooking, temples and massages, we grabbed a light dinner in a bar at the market and I treated myself to a hand made ice cream as well. Afterwards, we took a Tuk-Tuk back to the hotel and had a fairly early night – preparing for my Ziplining adventure tomorrow which Dek has booked for me! Got to be ready to leave at 8am, so it’s an early start.
Brownie and M&Ms get cream poured over them and smashed together
Then the mixture is spread out on a cold plate to freeze, and rolls of it are created using the spatula once it’s frozen
Then whipped cream is added and more M&Ms and brownies… Voila, calories in a bowl! But I’m on holiday!