Jul. 9th, 2009

lolamatopoeia: (mozflash)
We went to a Thai Cooking course on our first day in Chiang Mai, July 7th. It was an all day course run by Siam Rice Cooking School. It was pretty fantastic. For around twenty bucks we learned how to make around eight different Thai dishes ... and then we got to eat all of them.

We were in a group with some great people. They were mainly from the UK, with one older couple from Hawaii who came to Thailand to get their dental work done cheaply. One of the couples from the UK were in the midst of an eight month round the world tour together. They just came from South America. Another group of girls were also on an eight month tour but halfway through already. They started in Australia and have worked their way up. It was amazing though how much the one girl's personality just grated the hell out of me almost instantly, despite the perspective you would expect one to have gained from four months of travel. Her colonialist sense of entitlement annoyed me and she struck me as someone whose travels will never improve her personality or convince her that she doesn't need a full face of makeup and fancy clothes when backpacking. It's hard for me to explain, but I was just filled with a big urge to smack her.

We wer guided by a man named Pot (sp?) who picked us up at our guesthouse and drove us to the local market wher he showed us all of the fresh ingredients that we were going to be using in our dishes that day. It was wonderful, and I don't like using that word too much. We got to choose our dishes and later cook them in an outdoor, picturesque, cooking garden kitchen like thing. We cooked a soup, a noodle dish, prepared a salad, made a stir fry, a curry of our choice, and a dessert.

While making the soup, Pot asked if we liked spicy food and when I responded with "yes" since I hadn't experienced anything really spicy since coming here he made sure I had a total of 14 chilis in my soup. Apparently "european spicy" is anywhere between 6-10 chilis (most people put in about 2-6). Yeah, it was spicy ... but so freaking GOOD. I loved it. I didn't know that my tolerance for spice could be so high, especially here. I even earned some respect from Pot (who usually has 30 chilis in his soup) later as he chose to eat some of my soup from my bowl when he was hungry and needed some spice later on. It was delicious, but I had to take my time eating it. I think that the silly British girls though I was trying to show off at some point and got their noses up about it but I honestly just really like spicy food.

In any case, I think that I will need to have coconut milk and chilis with all of my foods from now on. It was incredible food and I was so stuffed. Also, sticky rice is the most awesome food in the world - and now I know how to prepare it.

We even got certificates.

On the way back to the guesthouse our group in the cab got treated to a video of Pot's synched to pop music of 90s north america girls in bikinis stripping. Yeah. It was the wierdest and coolest and just wtf things to see to end the day. We could not stop laughing, especially when the nipples started coming out.

We were rolled out the car and Bianca and I came back to the guesthouse to catch up on journals and photos and watch traffic go by and listen to techno beats being pumped out of the speakers at our guesthouse cafe. The movie Anaconda was being played on the cafes video screen. This trip is all too bizarre and amazing at the same time.
lolamatopoeia: (dancey pants)
It was a crazy day full of new experiences. I've come to the conclusion that no pictures or video could truly capture my experience here. I had some assistance coming to this conclusion today after my camera ran out of batteries at the first stop of the day.

Tony, our guide, picked us up at 8:30AM and we were driven in the back of a truck with a group of people from Denmark, Sweden, and a writer from Canada and his friend, a Thai pilot. Our first stop was an orchid farm. This place was somewhat similar to a butterfly conservation area in Ontario but much more serene and a thousand times more beautiful. I took a few pictures and then my battery ran out. Believe me, though, it was beautiful.

After the orchid farm we were driven quite a way into the mountains to ride elephants in the rainforest/jungle. We drove through several villages with people pushing their carts and pulling along water buffalo and then - elephants! The first time we wizzed by by the backside of one walking along the roadside my jaw must have dropped to the floor of the truck. An amazing sight.

The elephant ride itself though, I am still feeling conflicted about. There were a group of elephants rounded up to a platform and we were hurriedly led to the platform and plopped, two at a time, atop an elephant and sent off. There was no introduction or connection made. I didn't even get to see the elephant's face until we bought a picture of us riding it at the end for 100 baht. All that I wanted to do was play with and interact with the elephants. Hopefully we'll have another opportunity to do something more touchy feely, and ethical, in Laos. Hopefully. It's not that there was anything particularly wrong with how they were treated - it's just how it's done here, but the way our mahoot kept yelling and the metal jabbing hook at the end of a stick that he used to pull and guide and sometimes hit our elephant with made me very uncomfortable. I was reassured that they have thick skin and they're ok, but I saw blood on one of the elephants ears as I watched her, at eye level on the podium, unload another group of tourists. I pet her head and nearly cried. Her eyes were so sad.

I just want to play with the elephants and care for them and know they're cared for and loved. They are such beautiful and magical creatures. I'm desperately going to seek something we can do on this trip with the elephants that is more about conservation and care rather than entertainment.

In any case, the views we enjoyed on the ride were breathtaking. I've seen so many pictures of Asia with the tree covered misty mountains and the elephants and cows and bison and carts and rice fields and straw hats and colourful linens and all of this iconic beauty I'm seeing, it's hard to believe that I'm actually seeing it now.

After the slightly traumatic elephant ride, we went on a power trek through the rainforest. We trekked and trekked in some of the most lush and gorgeous forest. I was literally soaked and dripping with sweat by the time we made it to our hut for lunch (noodles wrapped in banana leaves). The end of our second leg of trekking brought us to a waterfall. Yeah, a waterfall. We were encouraged to jump right in and jump we all did. It was a great way to refresh from hiking. We just stood under one of the falls and allowed ourselves to be pummeled in the back with the force of the water. There are pictures somewhere and I look bad but hey, I'm in a waterfall!

We next trekked to the launch point for white water rafting. White water rafting was fun and scary in the right combination. The nice Danish girls in front of us kind of ticked me off a little when they would freak out and throw their hands up and stop paddling when we got to the rapids. I felt a little Mom-ish. I've got to stop that.

The next portion - the bamboo rafting - came immediately after the white water rafting bit and was probably the least enjoyable for me. We had been cold and wet for a good two or three hours at this point and they had shoved so many people on our raft that we were submerged a good foot or two into the mirkiness. It's likely just because I'm so OCD about my sensitive lady parts, but all that I kept thinking was "crotch infection, crotch infection" and that I needed to get the f out of my wet suit and into a hot shower. Enough with the bitching though - we bamboo rafted down the river through the mountains and through the reeds and it was one of the most beautiful experiences ever. It was just so goddamn beautiful. I've got to find another word for beautiful. I love Thailand.

Douglas, the writer from Saskatoon that we met on this trip is staying in Thailand to finish his second novel. I've decided that that, or at least something like it, is going to have to be me some day. I think that it would be a pretty excellent goal. I love Asia so far. I can't believe that I was so terrified of this place before I left.
lolamatopoeia: (sideview)
After several days of non stop action, Bianca and I decided we needed a good relaxing day. We got up fairly late and walked around a bit to find a great massage in the streets where every other building offers massages. We found a gem though - a group for the conservation of Thai massage run by a collective of blind masseuses. It was fantastic. Painful, but fantastic.

We had to change into wrap around pants - I found this out after hopping onto the bed in my skirt and inducing a giggle fit from my elderly masseuse when she felt my bare legs. It was nice because we were in a very quiet and cold dark room with just the daylight coming through the windows. I was massaged first by the elderly woman and then by a younger man. Both were highly skilled and excellent (at least I believe so).

If you've never had a Thai massage before - and I hadn't - you've got to know that it's not like your average North American massage. It kind of really fucking hurts. I mean, I think that it's supposed to hurt a bit, but goddamn it. I could not stop whincing and moaning and twitching in pain as they pressed down in series of slow pulses on my muscles and pressure points and joints. They would give sympathetic sighs and apologies and 'tsk tsk' sounds in reply to my painful moans but it wouldn't stop the hurting. I suppose that I have a lot more tension in my muscles that I expected. That surprised me.

I think that I will need another massage somewhere along this trip (and I mean, for 4 dollars an hour, why wouldn't I?) but, to be honest, I'm a little scared to go through that kind of pain again.

It was something special though. What was even more special was when Bianca's masseuse answered her cell phone in the middle of her massage. Oh, and then when I unashamedly got undressed and redressed into my skirt in the corner, Bianca had to remind me that not all of them are fully blind, y'know.

After our massages we both loose and relaxed and decided to set down our things and chill out in a cafe for a while. We drank cup after cup of cold thai milk tea and coffee and ate Ritz crackers at the Coffee Bull where the decorations are dog themed and staff were pleasant and relaxed and the man who made our drinks spent his down time watching instructional fishing videos on youtube. It was a good afternoon.

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