Published: August 15th 2008July 18th 2008
Watch out Nancy Lam and Ken Hom
From the Golden Triangle, we caught a bus to Chiang Mai. We like Chiang Mai - it has a chilled out vibe, the old town is surrounded by a moat and the streets are narrow and quaint. It's nice to walk around, taking in the sights in the day and wandering the night markets in the evening. (Although there are a few too many old looking european fellas with very young looking thai girls for my liking!)
We decided that we should enroll on a cookery course to learn the secrets of thai food since we've been eating so much of it. We got picked up from the guest house and were introduced to our fellow chefs. We were a multi-national group - UK, Eire and Canada.
You got to cook 5 courses (well, 4 and a curry paste) and you got to pick what you wanted to cook. So with us wanting to make the most out the experience, we chose different things. Firstly, you headed off to the market to learn about the ingredients and buy them. We all got a really cute wicker shopping basket - I took
a great photo of Andy with his basket, but oddly he's not too keen on putting that one on here!
Once back at the cookery school it was all go. We chopped and diced, putting all the ingredients into a special dish with loads of compartments and then headed over to the scariest looking gas burners you have ever seen (not wearing any shoes! - my legal litigation brain clearly on alert here) and proceeded to make our dishes to the loud instruction of the teachers - "Fish Sauce - PUT IT IIIIIINNNNNN!, Chicken - PUT IT IIIINNNNNN!". It was hot, hot work but the end result was fantastic - authentic tasting thai food cooked in a matter of minutes!
After each dish you got to have a rest from the sorching gas burners and eat the fruits of your labour. This was great until you got to the third dish when you literally couldn't fit in another mouthful - this was a shame as I liked the things that we cooked at the end the best.
It was a great day and we were really amazed at the speed and ease of the cooking and how
good it tasted. We got recipe books to take away, so we should be able to rustle up something when we get back. All through the day the school took photos (you had to smile and say "spicy!") and these are posted on www.cookinthai.com if anyone wants to have a look - we were there on 9 July.
Beach time at last!
After all that work, we decided it was time to explore the beach. We've been away since April and have only managed a day or two on the beach in all that time (I know - poor, poor us!). So we took a flight to Phuket and hung out at Kata Beach for a few days. It was really nice here, white sand and clear sea. We didn't do much apart from hang out at the pool and swim in the sea. Phuket is really quite touristy, with all the amenties you'd expect. We met an American ex-marine who was insistant on Andy going jet-skiing with him. He's working in Iraq at the moment and was trying to get Andy to head over there to use his "hatchet-man" consultancy skills. So if the current
state of affairs in the UK is as bad as BBC World likes to paint then who knows - I'm sure that my Mum and Dad would be thrilled!
From Phuket we caught a ferry to Koh Phi Phi. We really liked it here. There are no cars on the island, so it has a really chilled out vibe. There are actually two islands, Phi Phi Don (the larger of the two with accommodation and bars) and Phi Phi Leh (which is a nature reserve with no accommodation). Phi Phi Leh was the setting for the film The Beach. Phi Phi Don still has quite a backpacker scene, lots of bars on the beach and lots of beach huts. The island was hit badly by the tsunami and they are having to re-build quite a lot. Rather than beach huts, they are putting up concrete buildings more in the style of a guesthouse or hotel. This is because these buildings are safer should a tsumani strike again but you can see that it will probably change the feeling of the place. They have also put up a tsumani warning system with look-out towers, tannoys and arrows all over the
pavements showing you which way to run to higher ground. This is obviously great but it's a bit weird at the same time.
A big thing on Phi Phi is the fire dancers. All the bars have them on the beach. They use sticks or flaming balls and see who can twirl them the fastest. It's great to watch against the darkness, sitting in a deck chair on the beach with a cold beer in hand.
As the scene is mainly backpackers, most visitors are younger than us! Not put off we decided to head out to a full moon party and ended up meeting some similar aged Brummies who we hung out with 'til the early hours drinking buckets (sand castle buckets) of vodka and redbull. We've still got it!
From here we caught the ferry to Railay Beach, near to Krabi. Interestingly the ferry is too large to get near enough to dock at Railay so you have to jump from the large boat into a small fishng boat in the middle of the sea - not the easiest! Railay was very picturesque with the limestone cliffs rising from the water. It's a lot smaller
and quieter than Phi Phi so we had a relaxed couple of days before we were due to meet up with Andy's sister in Samui for more beach time.
There are more photos below