September 6, 2018 – We were ready and down in the lobby of BED Hotel around 7:45 am so we could enjoy breakfast a little longer than we did the day before. Our instructor from Thai Farm Cooking School (TFCS) would be picking us up around 8:30 am.
The lovely Eva made me another cappuccino as I told her all about our incredible time at Blue Tao the day before. Since we had a little more time she decided to grab a map to show us some of her favorite places around town.
She asked what we had planned for our final day in Chiang Mai and I told her we were thinking about going up to the temple overlooking Chiang Mai called Wat Phra That Doi Suthep but I wasn’t quite sure how to get there. She told us she could arrange for one of the red trucks (songthaew) to take us there and back with a stop at another temple included. I was sold. She made it so easy! So our day of no plans was suddenly full of plans.
Around 8:30 am, Wass from TFCS was in our lobby sporting the bright green shirt the company told me to look out for in their confirmation email. She introduced herself, then brought us out to the big van full of a few other employees from TFCS as well as a couple who would be joining us for our class.
Wass gave us a small form to fill out so she knew what we would want to cook and then we were off to pick up a few other people in our class.
In total, we picked up 6 people which meant 8 of us in the class. While having private tours or classes is nice, sometimes I enjoy having others around because it means meeting and getting to know people from all over the world. We’ve met some wonderful people that way and still keep in touch with them.
Our first stop before arriving at TFCS was to the local market to learn all about the different spices we would be using in our dishes. It was also an opportunity to see a true Asian market where the locals purchased all of their ingredients.
Wass gave us a small lesson on Thai cooking staples such as curry powder and fish sauce. Then she let us roam around the market for about 30 minutes on our own.
I have a confession. I have never been a huge fan of Asian cuisine. But I wanted to do a cooking class in Thailand because what better way to learn to enjoy a particular type of food than to see where all the ingredients come from and make the food yourself.
Eric and I wandered around the market seeing all types of interesting fruits and vegetables we’ve never seen before.
At one point I went to take a picture of the market itself, stepped backward, and landed in a slimy ditch. I didn’t realize that all throughout the market there were open drains in the floor where all the runoff from the produce, meat, and fish ran in to. I was wearing sandals and my foot was the perfect size to fit right down in there.
I couldn’t look at my foot. It was covered in who knows what and just the thought of what I had stepped in made me queasy. We ran outside where Eric sacrificed a bottle of water we brought with us to clean my foot off. Note to self: always watch where you’re walking, especially in a market in Asia.
After my foot incident, we continued through the market and even came across some fried bugs. I already checked that box in Cambodia so I did not purchase any. We also saw a lady making little cakes using just coconut milk. It was really cool! One of our classmates bought some and shared with us.
After about 30 minutes of wandering, we all headed back to the van. Then it was off to school!
In our group of 8, there was a couple from Belgium, a couple from France, a girl from Alaska, and an older lady from England. The girl from Alaska was traveling through Thailand on her own and was our age. The older lady from England was in Thailand visiting her daughter who moved to Chiang Mai for work. Her daughter was working and her husband wasn’t interested in cooking so she decided to do the class on her own.
We arrived at the farm and it was so beautiful. There were several people working in the gardens and they all waved to us as we arrived. It could not have been a more gorgeous (and hot) day.
Wass brought us over to a large table under a pavilion to get our aprons. Then she explained the first step to our dishes would be prepping the sticky rice.
She showed us how to wash the rice first using a special basket. She asked if anyone would want to try it and of course, Eric volunteered.
Then another TFCS employee named Gift showed us around the farm while Wass prepared our cooking stations.
Gift was so sweet, beautiful, and hilarious. She had a great sense of humor and kept making the funniest jokes.
I loved that most of the ingredients we would be using were from the garden at TFCS. As Gift showed us around, she picked some of the herbs and vegetables to let us smell and/or taste them. Our meal truly would be farm-to-table.
After we walked around the farm, it was time to cook! Before we cooked any dishes we had to make our curry paste. I chose to make yellow curry and Eric chose to make red.
The process to make the curry was interesting. It didn’t take very much skill, but it took a lot of effort to pulverize everything into a paste.
Once the curry paste was made, we put it to the side to start on our first dish of the day: either Tom Kha or Tom Yum soup. Eric chose to make Tom Yum and I chose to make Tom Kha. The only difference between the two was the use of coconut milk in Tom Kha.
We headed to our stations where all the ingredients had been portioned out for us already. With the instructions from Wass, we all made our dishes and everything came together very quickly. Once it was done, we all carried our dishes to a big table to eat our soups.
So how was it? Drum roll please… Amazing! I was excited to have another Thai dish other than pad thai to enjoy back at home.
After our soup course, it was time for what we had been waiting for all day: pad thai! Eric and I made pad thai at home before going to Asia because I had never had it before (I know, I’m insane). So we were excited to see the ingredients used in Thailand to see how close our dish at home was to the real thing.
Wass cooked her pad thai first to show us the order of ingredients and how long to cook everything. Pad thai comes together very fast and you have to keep moving it so the egg and noodles don’t burn.
We all went back to our stations and got to cooking. In about 5 minutes, we all had fresh pad thai.
Again, we went to the big table to enjoy our meal. We were all so full at this point already, but we still had two more dishes to cook!
After we all finished our pad thai, Wass told us we could take a break to wander around the farm on our own. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It may have been hot, but at least the sun was shining.
There was even a little farm cat lounging around. We quickly realized everyone in our group loved cats because we all ended up sitting together around the farm cat at one point. To be fair, he was really cute and was begging for attention.
After our break, it was time to make our final savory dishes: chicken/tofu curry with chicken basil stir fry. We carried our curry paste to our cooking stations and got to work. Wass showed us exactly what we would be doing by cooking her dish first. The curry dish was very easy to make. It was essentially just our protein (chicken or tofu), coconut milk, curry paste, and lots of herbs.
Once our curry dishes were complete, we put them to the side and got started on our chicken basil stir fry. For this dish, we had to chop the ingredients ourselves. The ingredients included long beans, onion, chili pepper, fish or soy sauce, oyster sauce, and lots of herbs.
Just like all of our dishes that day, it cooked very fast. Once we had our stir fry plated, we brought it over to the table to enjoy with our curry dishes.
I would never lie to you so I’m not going to start here. Neither of us enjoyed the stir-fry or the curry dishes. I’m not saying they weren’t good, I’m just saying we didn’t like it. It didn’t help that we were basically forcing ourselves to eat because we were still so full from the soup and pad thai from earlier.
It was finally time for my favorite part of every meal: dessert. When I booked this class I was a little disappointed because the dessert on the menu for our class was bananas in coconut milk. I really wanted to make mango sticky rice, but regardless of the food, we were still cooking traditional Thai dishes on a farm in Thailand. No complaints here!
Wass took us over to a table where she showed us how we would make our bananas in coconut milk. First, we had to bring our coconut milk to a boil and add in palm sugar. Next, we had to add the bananas. Once everything was nice and hot, we brought our bowls over to where Wass had our toppings. There was crispy rice, sesame seeds, and beautiful edible flowers to top our dishes. This may not have been the dish I wanted to make, but it sure was beautiful!
Bananas in coconut milk was very simple and slightly sweet. Eric did not like it. I liked it, but I didn’t wolf it down. I thought it was more pretty than tasty.
After our dessert, it was time to say goodbye to the farm. We all climbed in the van and went on our way to be dropped off at our respective hotels.
We were back at BED around 5:30 pm. Our plan for the evening was to go get a massage then walk over to the Night Bazaar.
There were so many options for massages in Chiang Mai. It was overwhelming. But we did as we always do and researched online for the place with the best reviews.
Our pick was White Orchid Massage. The reviews were glowing and the price couldn’t be beaten. So after a quick rest, we headed out to get our massages.
We were a little nervous about this place because it was located on Loi Kroh Road, Chiang Mai’s red light district. Although, all the reviews made note that this spa was professional and legitimate so that did comfort us.
There was no mistaking Loi Kroh Road much like there is no mistaking Bourbon Street. It was very evident that this was the red light district if you know what I mean. However, it was very safe and no one bothered us. We never once felt like we were in danger. Chiang Mai as a whole was extremely safe and everyone we encountered was overly nice and welcoming.
White Orchid Massage looked just like the spa we went to in Siem Reap. All the ladies were sitting outside waiting for clients. All the spas displayed menus outside so it was easy to know what you were getting and how much it would be.
I was in desperate need of a pedicure after my drain incident at the market but I also wanted to get a traditional Thai massage. Eric decided to get the same thing as me. The combo we asked for wasn’t on the menu, but the most expensive treatment on the menu was $24 for a 3-hour massage so we knew it couldn’t be too expensive.
Once we decided which treatments we wanted, the sweetest little Thai lady ever walked us inside. I believe she was the owner because all the other girls there were taking direction from her. She ended up being my masseuse and pedicurist. Eric’s lady didn’t speak English as well but she was still very kind.
We were brought to some very comfy leather recliners first for our feet to be washed. Another lady served us tea. You guessed it, lemongrass!
After our feet were washed, my lady told us we would start with the massage so my pedicure wouldn’t get messed up.
The spa was set up like most nail salons in the US. It was just one room and the massage “rooms” were just curtained off squares. Think of an ER where they can make “rooms” using curtains. That’s exactly what it was like except instead of stretchers, they had cushioned platforms.
Neither of us had any idea what we were getting into with the Thai massage. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to us that we might want to research exactly what a Thai massage was before we got one, but there we were about to get the experience of a lifetime.
First, I laid on my stomach fully clothed (the entire massage is done fully clothed). My masseuse climbed on top of my back and let my muscles have it. I have never had such a deep massage in my life. Then she pressed on all sorts of places to make my back crack in a zillion different areas.
Then she asked me to sit up and face forward. She sat behind me and to be honest I’m not really sure what happened next because I was terrified. All I remember is this tiny lady almost half my size lifting me up from behind by my arms. First, she swung me to the right and my back cracked from my neck to my tailbone. Then she swung me to the left and my back cracked AGAIN from my neck to my tailbone. Then she stretched my entire body like I was made of silly putty.
Eric’s lady finished his massage before I was done and he said the position this little Thai lady had me in made me look like I was being exorcized by a priest.
I was slightly traumatized once we were done but I have never felt so good in my life. I felt completely awake, reenergized, and I even felt like I could breathe deeper. My body was so relaxed. I think that was the most relaxed I have ever felt after a massage.
Would I do it again? Yes.
It was time for our pedicures. My lady handed me a basket of nail polishes to choose from. I was wanting something fun for Bali, but she didn’t have very many options. I went with a maroon color.
The pedicure included a wonderful foot scrub and massage. I was nervous about the tools she was using. Even in the US, nail infections are common when getting pedicures and manicures because so many places don’t properly disinfect their tools. Luckily, every tool she used was brand new in a sealed pouch so I knew it was safe.
I was so relaxed and even dozed off for a few minutes.
After our pedicures were done, we walked outside to pay. It was only $20 for both of our massages and pedicures. We tipped them very well.
It took me a minute to get my sandals on since I was doing my best not to mess up my toes. As I was sitting there, a young girl walked out holding the cutest baby girl I have ever seen. It was my masseuse’s granddaughter. She brought her over to us and the baby started giggling like crazy. It was adorable.
After our massage, it was off to check out the Night Bazaar. We had been told by several people not to buy anything claiming to be authentic art or something “handmade” because most of the items sold were either fake or mass produced somewhere in China.
Even though we had so much food earlier in the day, we were wanting a little snack. Eric loves to check out McDonald’s whenever we are in other countries to see what kind of crazy menu items they have so that’s where we went. It was our first encounter with the creepy Thai Ronald McDonald.
To our surprise, the menu wasn’t that different from what we have in the US. They did have a delicious McFlurrie with chocolate cereal (super popular ice cream topping in Asia), chocolate sauce, and chocolate chips so that’s what I got. We also got fries because how could we not (if you’re curious, they tasted exactly the same). The restaurant itself was really nice as were the employees. They even had a separate area just for coffee and desserts that rivaled Starbucks. I think if our McDonald’s were like Thai McDonald’s I would actually consider going in the US.
Half of the reason why we went to McDonald’s was because they had a bathroom sign on their door. However, we found out that the bathroom was outside of the restaurant and cost 50 baht (~$1.50). Well, I had to go, so I gladly paid the ladyboy charging potty admission (not joking here). At least it was clean. How did I know? I just knew. Not sure what a ladyboy is? You might be able to make an educated guess, but if you must Google it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
After our McDonald’s experience, we moved on to the Night Bazaar. This area of Chiang Mai was much more hectic and congested than the area we were staying. We were exhausted and just wanted to see what all the hype was about. Neither of us were planning on buying anything.
It seemed like every other vendor was selling the same stuff. It was all junk in my opinion. If we were looking for tons of cheap souvenirs it would have been great. We did end up buying t-shirts for $5 a piece.
I have to apologize because I didn’t take a single picture at the Night Bazaar. I don’t know how that happened but I’m going to chalk it up to exhaustion and general fear of having my phone stolen in the crowd.
Once we were ready to collapse we decided it was time to face our fears and hail one of the red truck taxis or songthaew. We had no idea how it worked. From what we could tell from observing others, we had to go up to the driver first to negotiate a rate to our destination. Then we had to hop in the back and hang on. The red trucks would fit as many people as they could in the backs of them so it wasn’t a private experience like a tuk-tuk or a cab.
Luckily, we saw a western looking couple stop a red truck, so we followed them. We listened to what they said to the driver and basically copied them. Next thing we knew we were on our way back to BED in the back of a red truck.
We made it back to BED without any issues around 10:00 pm. Since we created a plan for ourselves to go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep early the next morning, we went to bed almost instantly. It’s sort of weird I don’t really have any memory of going to sleep at all. I barely remember going back to the hotel each night. Again, blaming the exhaustion.
Continue reading the travel diary here: Day 11: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Exploring Chiang Mai Old City