Dave Gets K.O.'d

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Thursday, April 21, 2011

We woke up and grabbed our usual free breakfast at the hotel and then waited for the minibus to pick us up for today's excursion. As you can tell from reading the blog, we enjoy food quite a bit and Chiang Mai is known for their Thai cooking classes.  There are numerous classes to choose from, but we narrowed it down to two classes recommended in Lonely Planet: one that is owned by a famous Thai TV chef (the Thai Bobby Flay I guess) and another that was created by a woman who passed away from cancer (her family continued the lucrative business for the sole reason of continuing her dream).  We decided in the end to support cancer treatment as the classes are all pretty much the same.

After being picked up at the hotel around 9am, the minibus drives across the street to the school (we did not know it was that close).  We are ushered into a room with a table and everyone picked their seat (on the floor) for the day.  They explain the procedures: we go to the market, come back and cook a dish, eat the dish, cook the next dish, eat, and so on.  We were under the impression that we would cook everything then dine at the end, but I guess this was not the case (we were still full from breakfast).  At this point they hand out the menu which consists of 5 courses where you have 3 options for each course.  This was great for us as with each course there was typically one dish we had no interest in, so we would each pick one of the other two options to maximize our tasting pleasure.  There was a German lady in our group that was having difficulty understanding the concept.  She first wanted to cook 3 appetizers and 2 desserts.  She was then told she could only pick one appetizer, so she then tried to cook 3 stir frys.  This went on for all of the groups until we finally got down to the desserts and she was only able to pick one more meal.  There was another German woman there who spoke perfect English and translated, but this did not help much.  You might call her the German Kimberley.

We then made our way as a group to the market where we picked up the ingredients for the day and also got a lesson in Thai food from spices to fish to vegetables.  This was very informative as Amy and I have been enjoying Thai food for years and I always wondered what some of the flavors were (for example, kaffir lime leaf).  The Thai are a big believer in food being salty, sweet, sour, and spicy.  They also told us what we could use as substitutes for each of the items if we have trouble finding certain ingredients back home.  Afterwards, we got time to walk around the market to take pictures.  The market wasn’t very big, but there was a stand in the back with fresh fruit which had quite the crowd.  Since it was very warm out, we decided to get a mango smoothie from the stand to enjoy on the walk back to the school.

Once back our first course was stir fry.  They separated us into rooms depending on what we were making, and this is when I realized that I wouldn’t see much of Amy for the day.  I was making chicken with cashew nuts and Amy made a shrimp stir fry.  This was a good lesson as our stir fry’s at home never come out as well as they do in a restaurant, and now I attribute that to the fact we don’t have a wok and a stove that can reach the temperature of the sun.  I am not sure how many btu’s these stoves could produce, but definitely higher than I can count.  Thai kitchens typically do not have the best ventilation either, so combining this with the already 95 degrees made for a sweaty day.  But I guess they say, if you can’t stand the heat, let your wife cook.  Amy finished cooking her dish before I did, which meant I was very fortunate enough to try some of her steamed rice (which was the only thing left on her plate by the time I got to the table). 

Our next course was the appetizer.  Amy went with spring rolls and I made papaya salad.  I thought for sure I would get done before her this time.  How hard could papaya salad be, you just cut up some veggies and throw them on a plate.  Little did I know, to make papaya salad you have to slowly combine ingredients into a mortar and pestle and pound away.  As you add more ingredients, the flavors start to meld.  Although there was no cooking, once again Amy was almost done with her plate by the time I got to the table.  Cooking the spring rolls consists of rolling a mixture a certain way and then frying.  Both dishes were great, but not sure we would cook either of these at home.  We continued on with the soup course next (tom yum for me, chicken in coconut milk for Amy).  I was most excited for the soups because I always wondered how to make tom yum.  It seems like it is simmering for hours as there are so many flavors.  Instead they just throwing everything into a pot, wait for it to boil, and enjoy. It must be the local fresh ingredients. 

They then gave us a break, which was perfect as we were starting to get full.  Amy and I took a little walk back to the hotel and stopped at a few travel agencies to figure out our next moves before heading back.  Once the break was over we made dessert (banana fritters and mango sticky rice) and a curry (red curry and panang curry).  The curries were the hardest as we actually made the paste ourselves.  Once again the mortar and pestle came out, except this time we had to take turns pounding away.  Not sure we will ever do this at home as buying the curry paste already made seems like a better option.  Overall the food was great and we had a wonderful experience.  We also received a cookbook to take back home if we want to try to cook this again.  I already picture us buying a bottle of fish sauce and then never using it. The school took photos all day and you can view them here.

We went back to the room where a nap and shower were definitely needed.  This gave us something to do until 7, when we were going to meet Dale and Carla in the lobby for some pre-fight drinks.  The beer at the hotel was very reasonably priced (at least compared to the train) so we enjoyed a few until the girls got hungry.  We didn’t have much time, so we walked around the corner where there were some street food stands and everyone (except me, I was still full from the entire day’s eating extravaganza) got rotes (a pancake filled with potatoes, chicken, and some other stuff).  They quickly downed that and we were off to the Muay Thai Boxing stadium.  There were 2 options of tickets so we decided to be ballers for the night and went with the VIPs (for an extra $5 a person).  The lady-boy hostesses ushered us right up front for our ringside seats.  The stadium is pretty small and we realized that the regular seats were just one row behind us. 

I have seen Muay Thai on TV, but didn’t really know what to expect.  The closest thing I can relate it to is the movie Bloodsport featuring international superstar actor Jean Claude Van Dam.  In that movie they always show the crowd shots of people waving their tickets for the fighter they bet on.  So after we order our drinks, we try to ask the waiter where we can bet.  He doesn’t understand what we want so we try again with the next waitress and she tells us to just sit there.  We get a sheet with the evening’s lineup and my initial strategy is to take everyone in the blue corner (even though we are seating right next to the red corner).   The first fight is just about to start, when a local Thai man comes up to me and asks me who I want for the fight.  I exclaim blue and he says ok and throws 100 baht on our table underneath an empty beer bottle and tells me to do the same.  There are no odds, no line, you just find another person who wants the other corner and you throw your money down.  In the next 5 minutes I have 5 other locals all come up to me wanting to take the red corner as well.  This is when I realized that I am the tourist who doesn’t know what is going on and I am about to lose a bet again on this trip.

The fighters come out and they can’t be older than 8 years old.  The red fighter is dressed in all the traditional gear and is prancing around the ring like he owns the joint.  The blue fighter is this scrawny boy whose shorts can barely stay up and I am already looking at how I can get my money back in the next fight.  Once the fight begins, the blue fighter comes out like a Tasmanian devil and destroys the red corner.  You could see the local who I made the bet with pacing back and forth throughout the entire fight and in the end my little 8 year old boy who I just bet money on made me 100 baht (a little over $3).  Now I was an experienced bettor.  The next fight is a step up with 12 year olds.  I decided to take this fight off and enjoy my winnings.    The boy in the red corner was wearing England shorts, so Dale tried very hard to find someone to take the blue corner, but no takers.  All of the locals once again wanted red.  The fight started and I noticed Amy getting a little more into it (especially after our first horse won and the little boys didn’t get too close to each other).  That all ended in the 3rd round when the blue corner boy took a shot to the stomach and went down for the count.  Her motherly instincts (that she picked up raising our dog) kicked in as she wanted to go over to help the boy, but his trainers carried him off instead.

There were a few more fights, with the age/weight increasing each time.  We got 14 year olds, the 16 year olds, then a ladies match.  All throughout I avoided betting.  Dale took some of the action but came out on the wrong side every time.  The half time show was pretty entertaining as they put 4 people from the crowd into the ring, blindfolded them, and let them attack each other.  There was a ref also who took quite a beating as well.  But the ref got his revenge when he gave a swift judo kick to the stomach of one blindfolded man.  Once that was over, there were 2 fights left.  Once again the locals came up to us wanting the red corner (we never figured out why they always chose red).  Dale and I notice the fighter in the blue corner is much bigger, so we decide to take bets.  Once again I am optimistic as the blue fighter is dominating for the first 2 rounds.  To be honest I am not even sure how it lasted this long.  Just before the third round was about to start, this elderly local man comes in and throws down another 100 baht for the red corner.  Is he watching the same fight as us?  Dale decided to press his bet and take it.  About 20 seconds into the 3rd round, the red guy wakes up and knocks out the blue fighter.  The locals come to our table immediately to snatch up their money and I officially decide to call it quits as I was now even.  So I may have lost money in Macau and at the horses in Hong Kong, but I am even with Thailand.  Dale, unfortunately, was a big loser. 

The last fight of the night was the big one, featuring some French dude against a local Thai.  I thought for sure we would get action by taking the frog, but everyone in the entire arena apparently knew he was going to win, which he did in 2 rounds.  Overall it was a great time (or perhaps the Chang Beer made it so entertaining).  We got our picture with Frenchy and in the ring before deciding to head out.  We were all getting a little hungry at this point, so we decided to stop at a burger stand on the way home.  This was my first burger since completing the Big Ugly challenge in Bloomington (as seen on Man v. Food).  I have stayed away from burgers for 2 months because eating one pound of meat left me quite unsatisfied.  The burger was actually very good in Thailand and a great way to end the evening.
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KS on

Who is writing your tweets @pacificrimjob ? Those are real witty.

mom on

Did you cook with sesame oil?

Chris on

Hey guys!! Loving the updates! How are you finding the north of thailand? Would u recommened it? Not been up that part yet. Looks like ur both having an AWESOME time!! Keep in touch :)

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