After Tiger Day, we just spent Tuesday wandering around Chiang Mai and making plans for the rest of our stay. After several tour agencies and much haggling, I cut a great deal on a package of three activities: zip-lining, cooking, and an overnight jungle trek. This just about filled the rest of my time in Chiang Mai, so it worked out perfectly.
First on the docket was zip-lining. I’d gone once before in the Tsitsikama forest in South Africa and loved it, so I hoped this one would be fun as well, and it was! With 34 platforms, 4 abseiling lines, 2 sky-bridges, the longest line being 300 meters long and 50 meters above the forest floor, and breath-taking views of the vibrantly green jungle, it was a great day. The group I was with, both the guides and the other tourists, was very fun as well, so that always helps. Our guides were ridiculous, making the whole thing into a competition or game; the last one would come flying across the line with the first one was still unhooking the last person to cross, essentially racing to see if he could get all the way across before the other managed to unhook the person. They also kept themselves entertained by torturing this poor little Asian woman who was somewhat afraid of heights. They would drop her half-way down an abseiling line and then swing her around or start shouting like something was wrong, or they’d wrench on the zip-line cable to jostle her as much as possible while she crossed; as near as I could tell, they didn’t feel each station was successful unless they got her to scream at least once. This makes them sound terrible, but they were really good natured and actually quite nice to her, they weren’t outright mean — they just got garnered a little too much pleasure in her misery (schadenfreude!). She did end up having a good time and was glad she did it, but was certainly happy to be back on solid ground at the end. After five hours in the incredible jungle canopy, we hiked back to the base camp for a traditional Thai lunch of several curries, sweet and sour, soup, and rice before heading back to the city to explore the Night Market.
The next day, Thursday, was our cooking class. We went to "The Best Cooking School" which, despite the presumptuous name, actually is one of the best places to take a class and is run by a top chef. Before heading to the school, we stopped at a local market where the chef talked about different ingredients and how to find the best products. Unfortunately, the market was infested with cockroaches, to the point where they were dropping off of canopies onto people and continually running all over the floor and peoples’ feet, so it wasn’t too long before no one was listening and he just gave up, promising to tell us the information while we were cooking. We were more than happy to retreat to the truck.
The rest of the day was a blast. We each cooked four different dishes of our choosing plus three that the entire class did together. I made tom yam hot and sour soup, sweet and sour with chicken, panaeng curry, and pad thai in addition to the papaya salad, spring rolls, and sticky rice with mango that we made together. Everything ended up being delicious, but the sticky rice was far and away my favorite, I can’t wait to try making it at home. The best part of the day, though, was when we got to COOK WITH FIRE!!! That’s right, we did that fancy trick where massive flames explode from the wok but, if you do it right, the food doesn’t get burned and is just extra delicious. It was awesome, and the Thai omelet that I made out of my Pad Thai actually turned out really well — 90% perfect, according to the chef, which wasn’t too bad considering it was my first time cooking with fire and flipping food into the air and catching it with the wok instead of just flipping it with a utensil. The flames were just incredible, it was a lot of to learn how to do that without singing off our eyebrows.
That night my friend left for home, so I’ll be on my own for the rest of my travel adventures. Wish me luck!