Tania Cooks Thai
Trip Start Jul 22, 2008
24Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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After the market we were driven to a small neighborhood outside of town and arrived at the Phad Thai Cooking School, which was a large, open aired, yet covered attachment to our instructor's home. On two ends of the kitchen were cooking stations equipped with gas stoves, burners with woks and cooking utensils. In the center was a high table with stools where we chopped, diced and cut freestyle (the specialized style for those who don't cook; ie my style:). There was also a Japanese style table with cushions placed around where we dined.
The instructors were fun, organized and easy to understand. They placed us in small groups according to what dishes we choose and demonstrated what to do, then they observed and assisted as needed when it came to our turn. I was surprised how easy it was! I suppose it would always be that easy if I had a kitchen staff to buy and prep food and give personalized step by step instructions! I even got to stir fry with a blazing hot wok - the fire was roaring up along the sides - great Kodak moment. Here's what I prepared: phad thai noodles, spring rolls, a sweet and sour shrimp soup, chicken curry, stir fry cashew nut chicken and mango with sticky rice (you're right Asia it's super yummy - I can't get enough of it!) We got to eat everything we made and of course we shared with each other so we could sample what others made. There was so much to eat that we took home doggie bags - plastic bags of course! (I did mention that Thai people use plastic bags to consume their food and drinks, right?)
All in all, a very fun filled day. Good deal for a day long cooking course that cost only 800 baht - $24!
So let me get to Tania's Twisted Tour that I went on yesterday. I was hesitant to book another tour after the bizarre Bangkok tour I went on, but again, there were sites outside the city limits that I wanted to get to, and transportation could be difficult, so I did it anyway. Well, as expected the tour started late, there was a lot of down time, waiting around, and the tour visited sites that we weren't supposed to see and didn't do activities we were supposed to do. Before I get in to the details however, I should say the experience was priceless and despite the aggravation, the memories will be lasting.
The insanity began after a late pick up from my guesthouse. An hour later, after picking up seven more guests at different locations around the city, we landed up three blocks from my guest house! And you know me, freakishly organized, I would not have taken a huge loop wasting time to pick up people! We also had to wait about 20 minutes as four brats from Dubai took their sweet time getting out of their posh hotel. These four boys, and I will call them just that, though they were young twenties, stepped in the minivan with enough cologne to attract a swarm of mosquitoes from Africa! Gave me a great headache for the hour ride up to the river.
To get to the river, we headed north outside of Chang Mai. Once we got out of the city, the ride was quite beautiful - nothing but plush green jungles and a few thatched bungalows scattered hear and there, and of course stray dogs. The ride soon got bumpy as the roads were not well paved and the rain that morning made for a slippery and muddy road. The 4WD effect got old real quick.
Once we arrived at the river, we had to wait an hour for the equipment to arrive. You have to understand that we simply pulled up to the river bank, no building to house the rafts or instructors. As we waited, our minivan driver entertained us with Thai pop music blaring from his speakers. The Dubai boys entertained themselves by poking sticks at creatures in the mud and the four girls and I stayed inside chatting like chics and strategically lowering the volume of the music when no one was looking. It was far nicer to listen to the rain drops.
It was taking so long for the equipment to arrive, that our guide decided to take us on the trek to see the waterfall first, so we piled back into the van and headed back down the bumpy road - as we did a pick up truck arrived with two rafts tied down to the bed of a truck and two Thai men bouncing along inside the rafts...those bouncing Thais turned out to be our rafting guides...oh goody!
So we backed up, rewound and got back out. We took off our shoes and tops, were handed a helmet, life jacket and oar and told to hike down the rocks to the river and hop in the raft. Yup, just like that! No safety instructions or guidelines whatsoever. Clearly Thailand doesn't have any safety regulations. Well ok, here we go - bratty boys in one raft, girls in another. And we're off!
5 minutes down stream the rapids start to pick up and we reach our first rough area. Splash! Water goes up and in the boat, girly girls scream and one bratty boy goes in! I think we laughed a little too hard as he got swept away from the raft for a minute and had to be pulled aboard my his buddies. We sailed on down and splashed water at each other with our oars -boys vs. girls. We come to another rough patch and my sidekick from D.C. and I took charge. The other girls had to hold on to dear life instead of rowing. Haveland, my sidekick had white water rafted before and my ex-crew expertise kicked in immediately. We did our best to help our one lonesome guide in the back stay on course. Honestly, despite our best efforts, I think he was doing most of the work.
10 minutes down stream, we had to pull to the side, as we were told the rapids were too rough (rain had picked up by now). So we carried the equipment, climbed back up to the road, boarded the truck and drove downstream to a more mellow area. OK, that was a bit odd...but whatever...
As we hiked barefoot through the jungle, over the rocky river bank and to the river, we notice that the one of the rafts had been somehow swept across to the opposite side of the river. The guides put their heads together to figure out how to retrieve the run away raft. Well after three failed attempts; one that involved a 90lb Thai boy attempting to oar it back up the river, one involved the 90lb boy and another man pulling the raft and boy with a rope, and one that involved three Thai men, one rope, and a mini mountain climbing expedition; the raft finally was saved! How do you ask? Well, our guide, whom I've now nicked named the Thai Superman, leaped into the roaring rapids, got swept past the raft and swam with all hist might, fighting like a salmon swimming up stream. Somehow or another he managed to reach the raft. As we were all staring aghast, he brought the raft to us and told us once again to hop in. Superman happened to be our guide, and I was quite hesitant to get in after I saw his heaving chest. Would he have enough energy to keep us on course???
So we head down for more rafting and somehow or another Superman continues to save the day as we run into boulders, do 180's in whirlpools, squeeze through tree trunks, and scream like little girls the whole way through. By the time we reached the bank, I wanted to buy this guy a beer...shoot a 6 pack! Man was he workin'!
After the wild rafting ride, the next step was to take a smooth sail down the gentle end of the river on a bamboo raft. Oh how nice I thought, something a little less chaotic, this will be nice and relaxing. On the way up I had seen other groups in their colorful life jackets take the trip - they were seated on small benches placed on the raft, dreaming lazily as the guide easily pushed the raft down stream. Of course that's not the way we did it!
Our life jackets were taken from us, as we were told, "You don't need it for this ride." My guess it that there was another group upstream that had been waiting an hour like us for equipment. Anyway, somehow I was in front and told to board the bamboo raft first. I wasn't exactly told which one to get on, as there was a pack of about ten of them floating in the river side by side. The tour guide pointed from the bank as I crept over the rocky bank to get to the raft. Weary as to whether the raft would hold my weight, I stepped on, silently repeating to myself, "Light as a feather, light as a feather," over and over. One toe, one foot...OK, good....lean forward, second toe, two feet, ah, I'm on!
Then shouts from the bank - I'm being yelled at, "Not that one, that one!" Oh, you mean the one five rafts over? Of course you do. OK, so now I'm reliving my one summer of gymnastics skills on the balance beam. I slide carefully from raft to raft, continuing to quote my mantra...light as a feather...light as a feather...Yes! I made it! OK, I'm safe, I look around and here come the rest of the girls, creeping along slowly with looks of intense concentration on their faces. Truly a nail biting experience! (You know Shana the ones we always seem to get mixed up in!?)
Blondie twenty year old from England makes it, and slides toward me - raft lowers slightly due to the extra weight...brunette twenty year old from England makes it - raft lowers even more...my D.C. sidekick makes it - raft lowers yet again and there's still one more to come! Are you kidding? At this point we look as if we're walking on water! The raft is completely submerged and the only thing keeping us up is our iffy balancing skills and our attempt to strategically place ourselves at opposite ends to level out the raft. The final women, a heavy set Thai lady was last to approach...we still can't believe another person AND a guide is going to board this raft! Just as she places one foot on the raft, she slips and falls waist deep into the river! She somehow clambers back aboard as we fine tune our surfing skills.
Once we're all finally aboard, our Thai guide skitters past all five of us, like the lightest water spider, gliding over a pond. Huh, wha..how'd he do that? He takes the lead, and pushes off with his long bamboo stick. As he does we all shake like jello and he yells at us to, "Sit Down!" What? Really? We're up to our ankles in water the color of chocolate milk! As we stare in disbelief and realize he's not kidding, we plop down. EWWW! Now our bums are soiled and water continues to seep through the slits in the raft (think toothpicks tied together with dental floss). So there we were, floating on, or perhaps it's better to say IN the river, rain pouring down, half naked, watching foreign objects bob past us, laughing in hysterics. Was this really happening? Did we really PAY to do this??? Needless to say, there was our minivan driver, in a rain poncho, holding an umbrella, smiling and waving to get our attention from the river bank to take our picture. Made for a great photo - we each had to buy one - even came with a frame made of elephant shit! Now you tell me, could you resist?
Wow, what an adventure! I've still got more to tell you about the elephants and long necks, but I've got to give your eyes a break and my fingers a rest. Tomorrow I leave Chang Mai and head for the islands. Pray for me please, I really want sun! It's been overcast the entire time here. Hopefully there will be a computer at my next stop! Ciao!