Thailand – Phuket detour to Chiang Mai

Nov. 5th, 2010
It’s 4:50 am and two roosters are crowing to each other.  Apparently, they’re in a different time zone as the sun hasn’t even come close to rising yet here in Chiang Mai!

Bangkok - Sunrise from 6th Fl Aiya Hotel

I can’t sleep as I FEEL like mosquitos are nipping at me under our mosquito netting.  We are at the Butterfly Resort Hotel, a 2-year-old establishment, a new kid on the block, yet idyllic and serene.

Butterfly Resort Hotel bedroom - the mosquito netting was more for show for us as there were very few mosquitos in our room, though we were by a river. It was a fast moving waterway.

Ah, our original plans were to head to Phuket, but  Phuket was getting pummeled by storms / monsoons, and there has been flooding in various parts of the southern Thailand.  So much so that there are fundraisers in Bangkok for the flood victims.  We donated clothes and money, and then changed our plans and went north instead to Chiang Mai (aka Chan Mai).

Banner appealing for help to southern Thailand areas flooded by monsoon storms

The volunteers manning the flood fundraising booth

One of many rock bands fundraising for flood victims in southern Thailand

The bus going up was B800 each (about $25) but the bathroom was dreadful.  The boxed dinner was a pleasant surprise, however, as was the fact the bus was half full and we each got a row to recline almost all the way to sleep from 9 pm onward.  Unfortunately, a DVD of a Thai comedy group was played till almost 11 pm on the TVs – pretty loudly, too, and the driver had a habit of tapping his foot while driving, so the bus lurched then slowed, lurched then slowed.  Good thing I was exhausted enough to not get seasick, and we all soon fell asleep.  Will have to look up the Thai type of comedy, however, as it’s got a format to it that the comedians adhered to well.  Reminded me of the Drew Carey show, “What’s My Line?”

The other unfortunate thing was that though we left later than the bus to Phuket would have (8 pm vs 9 pm), the ride to Chiang Mai was not as long, and we arrived WAY EARLIER at Chiang Mai – at 5:30 am.  It’s a bit NIPPY at that hour, as the sun’s not even up then!  BUT, crowds of tuk tuks (3-wheeled motorcycles with open passenger seating in the back), and pickup trucks were abound.  Our vote of confidence in Taxis failed a bit when we approached some taxi-meter cabs and they surrounded Chris with his netbook directions to our hotel.  I have a picture of about 8 of them debating the best route to this hotel!

Even then, the one who drove us still missed the resort front by half a mile.  It’s a pretty low key front however, with a few butterflies on a vertical slat fence, and no signage.  Hard to see in the dark, too.

Butterfly Resort Hotel is a beautiful resort, and a destination in itself.  Idyllic, by a muddy but active river, huts with private full baths that open to a fenced in patio, outdoor shower, and mini garden with seating.  VERY good for getting away, and NOT being near a city noise atmosphere.  I saw myself lounging on a Thai cushion triangle on the upper thatch-roofed deck, reading a long novel, sipping a cool drink with a purple orchid.

This evening, we got back from a Thai cooking class with  6 other foreigners.  The hosts, Pot and Nan are great!  Easy-going, super friendly, funny, and great cooks, they have been teaching for the past almost 4 years.  Prior to that, Pot had owned and worked in a restaurant for four years.  They’re doing pretty well, and it’s through that they get 90% of their business!  We found them online for things to do in Chiang Mai.  We took the evening course, and each cooked our own dishes.  We started with a market tour, where Pot showed us each of the ingredients, and how to buy them, their names in English and in Thai.

By 4:30 pm, we started by “ordering” what we wanted to eat for dinner.  Then Nan took over and told us how to cut what on our little chopping rounds with cleavers.  After making the soup and our Stir Fry dish, we sat down to eat them.  The soup kept hot for quite a while – Amy and I made Creamy Coconut Soup, Chris made Hot and Creamy Soup. It was just slightly spicy, and beautifully tasty!  The Stir Fry was impressive to make – especially the fire part!  I have a video of Amy’s demo as she went first with Nan helping her.  After the much anticipated tossing in of the chicken into a hot wok of oil which would immediately flambe – Amy accidentally dropped her coconut scoop of chicken and water onto the ground instead of into the wok!  Well, Nan took it all in stride, and put more chicken and water into the scoop, and Amy managed to throw the whole thing into the wok!

“PHLOOOMP!” and the wok burst into flames that shot 3 feet high!  It was a good thing we were outside!  The critical point to flambe is when the oil is JUST starting to smoke.  Too soon, and the pan’s not hot enough, too late, and there’s more smoke than necessary.

Round 2 was making the Curry, and either the side dish or a dessert.  Chris chose to make the hottest curry, the Jungle.  It seemed to have everything in  it – kitchen sink and all, topped off with a million Thai peppers, mostly red ones.  I guess he felt he was qualified to try the hottest curry since he worked in the bike shop with his Hispanic buddies who’d share their jalepenos with him.  Amy wisely chose the least spicy curry, the Massamum, and I wanted to choose the Green Curry, my favorite, but since no one chose the Pumpkin Curry, I did. No more flambe work, but the grinding down of the curry ingredients down to a paste was quite a bit of work.  Good thing it lasts for up to 2 weeks once made and refrigerated!  Nan told us that how well someone pestled the mortar and crushed the curry indicated how good a husband or wife they would be!

Overall, we had a fun group to cook together!  We made up teams since some of our dishes were the same.  Carolyn and Sandy made up the UK group, Kate and Sam, Kate and Karl made up the New Zealand / Aussie group, and we made up the American group!

Our international group learning how to make Thai curries and other dishes!

By 8 pm, dinner shared and eaten, curries evaluated in heat, and the Mango with Sweet Rice and Chris’ Banana in Coconut Cream demolished, Pot and Nan delivered all of us to our various stops.  The dinner and experience cost B800 except for Amy, who was half that.  Pot and and Nan have been having fun teaching Thai cooking for almost four years.  Most of their students come from (90%) and the rest are from local hotels and tour guides.

Funny, as Amy gamely tried everything.  What a trooper!  Pot drove all the students back to wherever they wanted to be dropped off – Night Market, a temple Wat, our hotel.  On the long drive back to our remote hotel, we learned from Nan that Pot’s favorite curry is made with Ants’ Eggs!  Nan described the arduous process of collecting the eggs – I wonder if it’s on YouTube!

We also learned about the “Fish Spa” – where one’s legs are tickled and bitten by little fish in tanks where we would dangle our legs.  Nan said she tried it for 20 minutes, but said a 60-minute soak would have relaxed her thoroughly.  Pot said he didn’t go for that stuff, but pointed to a Karaoke place as we passed it.  He sings Western songs, and learns English from them.  I told him about Renaud learning English from listening to Monty Python.  He didn’t recognize that group.  Maybe that’s good.

Owners, Pot and Nan of Siam Rice Cooking School, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The kids were pooped.  Amy fell asleep right after bathing and showering in the HUGE spa tub with jets.  Chris soon afterwards, too.

We head to rock climbing the next day (Chris), and Zip-lining (Amy and I), then catch either the dreaded bus, or an unknown train back to Bangkok.  It’s been a Whirlwind…  or maybe monsoon-like?

Feel free to click on any picture below to enlarge it!

This entry was posted in Food, People, Photos, Random Thoughts, Thailand. Bookmark the permalink.

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