Tag Archives: Thailand

Learning how to cook in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Growing up, I’ve always loved cooking, and besides that one time I accidentally used the garlic olive oil to make box brownies, I’ve been a fairly decent cook in the past. Making pies and holiday treats with my mom is one of my favorite parts of the holidays, I used to be that girl in school who would bring bags of homemade cookies for her friends every Friday, and I’m that girlfriend who goes all out for anniversary dinners and birthdays. Taking culinary classes and learning about food culture at Apicius Culinary School in Florence, Italy for a month a couple summers ago amplified my curiosity about cooking even more, and is one of my most cherished life experiences.

Image

I have a passion for creating things, cooking is no exception. Therefore, I knew when I was planning my trip to Thailand, a cooking class would be high on my list of things to do, and it also helps that Thai food is one of my favorite types of food. I heard that Chiang Mai was the best place to the learn the ways of Thai cooking, so I started researching different cooking schools that would be the most all encompassing and still within my price range. The cooking school I chose and would highly recommend is Basil Cookery School.

Image

I chose to attend the morning class, but there’s also an evening class offered if you’re short on time or it works better for your schedule. The morning class includes transportation from your accommodation, 7 dishes (curry paste is one of those), and costs approximately US$30 or 1000 baht. The class goes from about 9am to 3pm, including a 1 hour break between the starters and the main course, and at the end you take away your own cookbook of the dishes you made for the day.

The instructor spoke perfect English, and was the right amount of sass and professionalism. The class size was small, manageable and everyone was friendly. The actual school, located in her home, is clean and well set-up, and it was cool to walk around a local Chiang Mai neighborhood that was void of tourists during our break.

Image

I was picked up by a tuk tuk from my hostel around 8:30am, there was one other girl already in the back from Taiwan, and we preceded to pick up a couple more people, including an English girl and a German, and traded our respective back stories on the bumpy ride. We were all handed a sheet of paper with the possible dishes we could make for the day, and were asked to circle one from each of the categories: curry, soup, stir-fried, appetizers, and desserts.

Image

After we made our selections, our first stop was a local market near the school, to grab fresh ingredients for our dishes. And when I say local market, I mean one where no one speaks English and you can pick your own live fish from a tub to take home. Our instructor gave us a run down of the ingredients we would be using for the day, and explained the major differences between Thai vegetables and their well known western counterparts. And let me tell you, Thai baby eggplant, looks and tastes nothing like western eggplant. Mind blown.

Image

After some time spent at the market, we all jumped back in the tuk tuk and made our way to the cooking school and got to work, the smells from the kitchen were already incredible. Throughout the day I made drunken noodles, panang curry paste and curry, hot and sour prawn soup, stir-fried minced pork with holy basil, fried spring rolls, and sweet sticky rice with mango. Everything was delicious, especially the panang curry and drunken noodles, two of my recent obsessions while in Thailand.

Image

The school is very much geared towards beginner cooks so it’s not a problem if you have no experience in the kitchen. One of the aspects I didn’t like as much about Basil, was the fact that all of the ingredients were already pretty much measured out and chopped up for us at the start of each dish, meaning we just had to cook it, add the right amount of spice,and we were done. Although, I do understand why this was so with time constraints and the amount of dishes we made. The only “hard work” we had to do was making the curry paste with a mortar and pestle by hand, but even that was actually pretty fun.

Image

I haven’t had a chance to make any of the dishes since arriving back in Australia, but I hope to start cooking again soon once I have some more free time, and I’ll have to report back if the dishes are just as good when made at home. Regardless, taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai was definitely one of my favorite and most delicious experiences in Thailand, and my travel companion was happy about the leftovers I brought back to our hostel later that night, so really, it was a win-win day.

Have you ever taken a cooking class in a foreign country? Image

We are infinite: living it up at the Full Moon Party

I woke up with a mischievous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Today was the day of one of the best parties for a backpacker to attend, the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan island in Thailand. I had been looking forward to this hedonistic rite of passage since I first started planning my travels in Southeast Asia, and I couldn’t wait to experience it full on.

IMG_3668

We brought as little with us as possible and hopped on the ferry from Koh Tao that afternoon. Once we arrived at Koh Phangan about an hour later, we attempted to walk to Haad Rin Beach, the location of the party, until we realized just how big of an island Koh Phangan is. We split a taxi with a surfer/diver Swedish guy we came across on the path, and were dropped into party central before nightfall.

IMG_3678

There was neon everywhere, I was in heaven as I like shiny and brightly colored things. I like to claim that it’s due to my sunny California girl disposition. In fact, if you look inside my wardrobe it is a rainbow of every imaginable color…but I digress.

IMG_3672

Needless to say, the Full Moon Party was my kind of party. Hippie backpackers everywhere with paint splattered on their bodies, huge fire jump ropes and fire slides for partygoers to test their luck with, every imaginable greasy food lining the sidewalks, buckets of alcohol with your choice of mixer, neon clothing, a beautiful location.

IMG_3721

No judgements, no questions, everyone there for the sole purpose of having the best night possible, I call it “that festival feeling”. It was a night I’ll not soon forget, from the people we met along the way, to the variety of music, to that feeling of being infinite with the full moon looking down on us on that beautiful Thai island, with the sand between our toes and a bucket in each hand singing along to our favorite songs of twenty-something year olds.

IMG_3692

The following are my tips for having the best night possible under the Full Moon, and let me just say, it’s worth the slightly exploitive prices, copious amounts of DayGlo, and neon to experience this party firsthand at least once in your lifetime.

Getting There

I would recommend getting down to the islands at least a couple days before the party, especially if you go during high season and you’re staying on another island other than Koh Phangan, because accommodation and ferry tickets sell out fast. We came all the way from Bangkok on the night bus and it was a very long trip and extremely early ferry ride.

IMG_3700

Also, the night buses to and from the island are notorious for having thieves on them. Laura and I both had our money stolen on the way down, and on the way up, I caught a thief in action stealing from my neighboring bus mate. Watch your things like a hawk, and get down a system to keep everything of value very close to you while you’re trying to sleep.

Accommodation

We decided to stay on the neighboring island of Koh Tao, mainly because we heard that accommodation would be more expensive on the party island, there are usually more break-ins when people are at the party, and it’s nicer to have a quiet place to go back to and recover from the festivities.

IMG_3676

I actually wish that we had just stayed on Koh Phangan though, even just for the convenience. In terms of saving money, it would’ve been about the same anyway because of the jacked up ferry prices during the week of the full moon. And due to our lack of time, we had to pull a Cinderella and leave behind the Irish guys we were still partying with at 7am, and whom we had hung out with for most of the night, in order to catch our pre-booked ferry at the dock. Luckily, we were able to meet up with them again a week later in Chiang Mai before we left for Vietnam.

IMG_3702

With that said, I don’t regret staying on Koh Tao, because it was a lovely smaller island to explore that was gorgeous in its own right, and we probably wouldn’t have had time to see it if we had just gone straight to the party island.

What to Bring

Bring as little as possible. I almost didn’t bring my camera for fear of it getting lost or dropped, and although it still has DayGlo stains on it, I don’t regret for a second capturing the madness of the Full Moon Party. Other than that, everything I brought could all fit into my clothes: money, tissue for byo toilet paper, ferry ticket, two tiny jars of DayGlo paint, and that was it.

IMG_3698

Being Aware

The Full Moon Party gets a bad rap because it has been known as a place where girls easily get drugged, date raped, and taken advantage of. On top of that, there are always going to be drunk people doing stupid things at these types of events, and especially when you have fire batons and jump ropes around it can get out of hand quick, but I never once feared for my safety.

IMG_3728

To be fair, I don’t think I would’ve gone to the Full Moon Party by myself, but even with someone else with me, it just takes a bit of common sense, and my general rule when I’m abroad, or even when I’m at home, of not getting so drunk that I can’t take care of myself. It only leads to a bad time.

My general rules are the standard ones: to always keep an eye on your drink, use your good judgement if you’re going off somewhere with a stranger, and don’t get yourself into any situation that you can’t get yourself out of. Not only did I not have one bad experience at the Full Moon Party, but I also had the most fun out of all of my Asian nights.

Budget

There’s no way to get around it, the Full Moon Party is expensive. The islands and the people putting it on will extort as much money from you as possible because it is the biggest party in Southeast Asia. Between the ferry tickets to and from, the drinks, food, DayGlo paint, and Full Moon tank top, it came out to be one of the most expensive experiences I had in Asia. Budget accordingly and expect for everything to cost money, even using the toilet.

They’ve also started charging for “tickets” onto the beach after a certain time (generally after dark), but Laura and I were somehow able to find ways in that avoided the ticket takers.

IMG_3733

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun and to lose yourself in the festivities. It is one crazy neon glow ride that is worth experiencing, and it is one of those times in life that you’ll remember as the epitome of what it means to be young and free. Don’t lose that feeling.

IMG_3736