I’m just going to throw it out there…Chiang Mai was not what I was expecting. At all. I hadn’t done a lot of research into the city as my main plan for Chiang Mai was to visit an elephant sanctuary. Other than that, I’d read that there were a few temples and just made an assumption that Chiang Mai would be a quiet little town surrounded by forestry. I could not have been more wrong!
I admit that it was very naive of me to assume that it was going to be a ‘little town’ considering it’s one of the bigger cities in Thailand. Imagine my shock when I got there and found streets of Seven Eleven stores, McDonalds, Boots…all of those distinctly capitalist things. I think I was in shock after two and a half months spent between Vietnam and Cambodia! Despite this, I really enjoyed my time in Chiang Mai, we found that there was always something to do, even if it was just walking around the old square.
Unfortunately after coming back from the elephant sanctuary I was pretty unwell with a cold and had to spend a few days resting up. One of the least glamorous things about travelling is that if you don’t stop every now and then, your body will catch up with you and you’ll be hit by exhaustion. We made up for the lost days in the two days before we left in one of the best ways (in my opinion anyway) by booking to attend a local cooking class.
I’d wanted to attend a cooking class ever since we’d started out our trip. I never got around to it in Vietnam and Cambodian food didn’t inspire me much so I knew Thailand would be the place to do it. The classes can be a bit expensive but we looked around at the different options available and decided to go for a half day course on Halloween evening.
The class cost us under £20 each, you prepare 5 dishes (including a spring roll) and you get to eat everything that you have made afterwards. You can opt for a full days class but as much as I love cooking, I wasn’t prepared to spend over 6 hours of the hottest part of the day in Thailand cooking- imagine the sweat! The school we chose (The Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School) even presented us with a cook book afterwards so that we can recreate the dishes we chose to make.
The dishes I opted to make were the Pad See Ew, the spring roll, a Penang Chicken curry paste (and then naturally I made the Penang chicken curry from it) and for dessert I opted to make a mango sticky rice. The picture above is James’ Pad Thai because it turns out that even though he hates cooking, his food is much prettier than mine!
The class itself was really fun, James and I were grouped with couples from all over the world. We were taken to a local market where the instructor talked us through the ingredients that would be used and then it was back to the school to get to cooking! The instructor was great and described to everyone how much chilli we should use in each dish dependant on how ‘sexy’ (spicy) we wanted it to be. ‘A’ (the instructor) was also great at juggling talking between students so I was always clear on what to do.
The class took around 5 hours and is something that I would definitely recommend if you have any interest in food. Don’t be fooled by my pictures, the portion sizes were big, this was just my attempt at trying to make the food presentable for photographs!
Through this class I discovered one of my favourite Thai desserts mango sticky rice. Yum.
One of the widely promoted markets in Chiang Mai is the Sunday Night Market. James and I were fortunate enough to have timed our trip so that we were in town on a Sunday. It was one of the biggest markets that I have ever been to! Two different squares were dedicated to street food – I tried something from both sides to give them both a fair chance (!)
There was some of the usual tourist tat that you can get in any marketplace but there were also some pretty cool things. We found a lot of stalls that sold some beautiful art but I would never have been able to carry it with me for the rest of my trip so I settled for some post cards. I also purchased me first pair of ‘backpacker’ trousers. You couldn’t miss me walking down the street in them because they are bright red but they are really light and comfy and will definitely be a part of my pyjama collection when I get home!
There is so much available to do in Chiang Mai that I’d really recommend that you give it a try for a few days if you are even considering visiting Thailand! There’s still so much that we didn’t get to do because I was sick but perhaps I’ll get another chance when we are next in Thailand!