Thai Food Anyone???

Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
Trip End Aug 18, 2009

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Bus Ride from Ayutthaya

So after taking the tourist bus in Thailand and having our clothes stolen, which we still have no idea why they stole clothes, but nonetheless, they're gone! So we take a tuk tuk to the "proper" bus station, which turns about to be 7 rows of nailed down chairs and a ticket booth.  Well, we couldn't even buy tickets right away because we had to wait until the bus was almost there to find out how many seats where left, so if there are no seats, then we were out of luck.

But we made it onto the bus thinking this bus has to be better.  However, since it was a public bus, it stopped at every single bus stop.  Plus, the driver would whip the bus around the corners only aggravating my lack of food headache.  Normally, at the stops, there are some places to get food, but the food at these stops were only enough to make your stomach churn.  So I had my toast and coffee in the morning which the hostel had provided and with me a pack of chips and water.  It took 10 hours until I finally got some food. So I think you can fill in the blanks, and be weary of any bus travel in Thailand, if you can afford it, FLY!

We finally made it to Chaing Mai, and went out for some much needed grub.  We found another hostel that was also a restaurant with some tourist outside talking with Tee, the owner.  So we got some food, listened to their jabber a bit, but mostly sat there in a happy stupor to be bus free.  But Tee was a bit helpful, and we figured we could get more advice after a good night sleep.

So after getting some sleep, my body wanted more, and I just didn't feel like getting up.  Though the look in Bill's eyes said, "More temples now," so we had some breakfast first as we tried to figure out what to do in Chaing Mai.  The tourist desk at our hotel was very helpful, but  now we might have too many choices.  So we added even more choices by walking back to Tee's. All these choices made me realized how easy it was to take a quick class here.  When I had looked in Japan for a cooking class since Lonely Planet made it sound easy enough, it turned out that you needed at least a three week notice so I'd sort of given up.  But before we knew it, Tee had signed us up for cooking class that evening.  Now, I went through about five different brochures trying to pick the perfect class, and basically choose this school because we'd learn how to make banana spring rolls.

Since that decision was made, it was time to take a walk.  Our walk took us past Wat Phra Tao, which was a very plain teak temple built by the Burmese after they had invaded and taken over northern Thailand.  It looked like most of the other temples, but there was no decoration on it, and it was made entirely from teak.  The lack of decoration is interesting because the monasteries in Nepal are very lavishly decorated on the inside.  The Thai Wats are extremely colorful in the shun from the outside, and generally plain on the inside.  But this one had no decoration anywhere except for the large Buddha at the front of the temple.  Immediately next to this temple was Wat Chadi Luang, which was a large Thai temple that was built in front of a huge chedi.  Unfortunately the Chedi had been damaged by a couple of earthquakes and was not in a state of ruin.  But the base of the Chedi was easily as big as the temple built in front of it.

After this, we walked to Wat Phra Singh, which was a large Wat with a school for young monks in it.  The temple had a very interesting garden with a number of signs in both Thai and English with short words of wisdom (I want to say Chinese Proverbs, but I know I am in the wrong country).  Anyways at this point Michelle had decided she had seen enough temples for the day (maybe month, or lifetime too) and wanted to go back to our room.  So I spent the afternoon walking around the rest of the old town of Chaing Mai.

Chaing Mai has a very interesting layout for an old town.  At one point they had fortified the city with a wall and moat.  The area of the city is inside this moat which isbpretty much a perfect square 1 km by 1 km.  So I walked out and around this old part of the city.  Unfortunately, the wall has been removed and replaced with a road, with only a few gates left.  Anyways, I walked around this area and saw a number of other small temples.  The highlights would be the other Burmese teak temple, where the monks had converted it to support Thailand when the Thais threw the Burmese back out, and updated there ancient teak temple with some Thai style decorations.  It was a very interesting blend of styles.  There was also another Wat built near the old gate that built upon a platform where the entire Wat was constructed, so that it could look out over the wall, and it would appear to be a massive building from outside the walls.  But this is where I stopped only because I had a cooking class that night, I headed back to meet up with Michelle in the room.

When Bill came back looking like he wanted to pass out since the heat was unbearable, I relished in my decision to simply take it easy.

Now as we were talking to our tourist guy at our hotel trying to figure out what we'd do tomorrow, our cooking class pick-up came.  Our tourist guy was a bit upset we didn't book through him, but we explained how we didn't want to walk back when we decided. Anyhow, as we get into the back of the tuk-tuk, there is another couple from Australia.  We chatted a bit, but I notice the cooking brochure in the guy’s front pocket and know it's not the same brochure we picked, but he could have had more than one.

The first part of the class is to go to the local market and learn about the spices and produce we're about to cook and to see how Thai people shop.  It was a small open door market as all the food sat flies went in and out, and I saw quite a few ants.  Our instructor gave us the tour trying to throw in as many jokes as he could but between the accent and the dead pan face he'd use, most of them were lost on us until he'd start laughing then we'd laugh to be polite.  After the market, we headed to the cooking school which was a good 20 minute drive.

Basically at the cooking school our instructor would demonstrate what to do, and then we did the same thing again adding in as many jokes as he could.   We never looked at the cook book that came with course as we didn't get it until we were done.  And most of the cutting and sorting of the items where already done for us.  (I didn't quite realize how much was already done for us at this moment in time, until I could compare it with the cooking school in Laos).  Though the dessert we made or really watched being made was sticky rice with mango.  I wondered what happened to my spring rolls, and of course, we ate all that we made.

Now when we received the book, it definitely had a different title than the class we signed up for, so Bill couldn't wait to go yell at Tee and figure out why we were at the wrong one.  But that would have to wait until we got back, which took a lot longer than expected as our instructor dropped us off about 10 blocks away from our hotel.

When we finally made it back, off Bill went.  It turns out that Tee was just as confused as she looked back in her cell phone to see the number she had called, it was definitely the one we picked out.  She called again, and let Bill talk.  It turns out since we were the only two who signed up, and his brother only had two people, he just passed us off to his brother as it was his brother's turn to cook.  Bill response yelling into the phone, "If I wanted to book your brother, I would have booked him.  Plus, now I'm really pissed because my girlfriend wanted to learn how to make spring rolls."  His response, "So sorry Sir, so sorry."  And so that's how we found out we had a crooked chef, our first response was that it was Tee, but this made so much more sense as Tee was the sweetest person.

Our next day led us flying through the jungle.  We got up at the crack of dawn to sit in a van for two in a half hours.   No, the jungle wasn't that far away, we were the first picked up so it took almost an hour in a half to get the other 5 people in our group.

When we finally got to the office, we quickly signed forms and within 20 minutes we were all suited up and ready to go.  Our impression from the brochures led us to believe we would be getting more of a tour of the canopy, seeing some of the jungle, and a little bit of zip lining.  However, “surprisingly” our impression were mistaken, it was basically a zip lining trip with a few suspension bridges and repelling (well, being lowered by our guides).  I was a bit nervous as our last time zip lining was in Belize, and I was extremely nervous the entire time.  Though somehow I wasn't as nervous here and just kept at it, but the hard part was having to use a piece of bamboo as the brake.  The brake really looked like a bamboo triangle missing an edge.  Well, I’d been us to braking with my hand, and so my first attempt at using the brake led me flying straight into our guiding and a bit of a tree, but I just shook it off.  We didn't have to use the brake every time, so I never improved at it while everyone else just easily used it.  I kept making a “hard landing.”

After 18 stations, (13 zip lines, 2 sky bridges, and 3 repelling) we made it through the course, and finally got some lunch.  Since we'd been up so early, we weren't able to get breakfast, so I was in much need of some coffee.  Our last stop was a trip to a waterfall.  What I didn't realize about this waterfall was that there were an endless amount of stairs leading you to the top.  We kept thinking if we turn this corner, there's the top, but no, it was a fake top.  Finally, we ran out of stairs, but the trail still continued.  But by that point, I’d give, up.  Others in our group determined to reach the top continued only to report there wasn't much to see.  And so, we never really made it to the real top of the waterfall.

After a long day, I somehow convinced Bill to get a massage though I wasn't quite sure if you could call it a massage.  After the foot part, they started our backs, and looking out of the corner of my eye, I could see this little Thai woman standing on Bill's back walking along trying to get in to crack. She may not have cracked him back but she got me to crack a smile.   And then she was trying to fold his legs like a pretzel attempting mission impossible.  At the same time I was getting pulled, and punched all along my body that we both emerged from this “massage” with  bruises.  Who knew?

In the morning before we left to go to Luang Prabang, we took a tuk tuk out to see the temple of Wat Suandok, which was well outside the old part of town.  This was the most important of the new Wats built and had a number of different introduction to Buddhism and Mediation classes that Michelle was  disappointed she missed out on.  Anyways, this temple’s uniqueness came from the fact that it was built with no walls.  All the sides were open, and at the middle there was an interesting shrine to Buddha.  And facing the main entrance there was a number of seated buddhas and one large one, very typical of a temple.  But behind the seated Buddha, you could see the head of a standing Buddha facing backwards out the temple.  This one was looking out at the Chedi behind the temple.  To me this was interesting because it is something that you never see in a Buddhist temple.

Michelle with Bill describing the temples we saw
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