Thursday, April 26, 2012

Awkward Travel Photo Thursday: The Sailboat Leap

Here I am leaping from a sailboat that was anchored off the coast of one of Australia's 74 Whitsunday Islands. Our group had just finished snorkeling on the last morning of our sailing trip, and we all took turns doing cool jumps off the boat and taking photos.

Well, everyone else did a cool jump. I... did this.

I especially love how the — eh-hem — incredibly flattering stinger suit just looks like an awkward onesie. Heh!


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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Here's to the Great Ones

Is there anything more wonderful than waking up to this spectacular sunrise on a quiet island paradise?

Yes, there is.

It is when my lovely host — the island's police lieutenant — drives me to the pier to catch a ferry first thing in the morning.

It is when he arranges for his colleague to give me a ride in his police cruiser to Surat Thani, since he is also taking the ferry and is heading there anyway.

It is when he stops three times during the 1.5-hour drive to ask for directions to my destination, yet shows no signs of frustration.

It is when we barely understand each other, but can still manage to commiserate about the heat, comment on the overall deliciousness of Thai food and marvel at the beauty of the coast's majestic cliffs.

It is when he finally finds the Surat Thani bus station, helps me with my bags, shakes my hand vigorously and will not leave until he's sure I can find the bus I need.

It is when he will not accept payment for any of this.

It is when a grandfatherly man on the bus to Champhon takes time to explain how I can show my ticket and receive a free bottle of water at our lunch stop.

It is when this same man, unprompted, tells me he will keep in contact with the driver and make sure I get off at the right stop.

It is when he invites me to his restaurant on Koh Samui as he waves goodbye, leaving me with his business card and a huge grin.

It is when a woman smiles shyly at me as she parks her scooter near the ATM that I'm just leaving.

It is when, a few minutes later, she sprints along the Champhon sidewalk to flag me down, breathlessly yelling in Thai to catch my attention.

It is when she hands me my bank card, which I had left in the ATM. (!!!)

It is when I stare at her, numb with shock, and consider putting her name on the short list for that of my first-born child.

And all of that was just today.


There are people who give places like Thailand a terrible reputation — the kind of people who make travelers clutch their purses tightly and regard every tuk-tuk driver with an air of suspicion. There are endless horror stories online that could make anyone want to just stay home.

I'm quite paranoid in that I tend to think everyone is out to get me, and that creates a huge barrier when it comes to genuinely connecting with people.

You could say my mindset has been a success, since I haven't been robbed or majorly ripped off yet (knock on wood), but I hate that I walk around assuming the worst. I think it's unfortunate and unhealthy to explore new places through such a negative lens, albeit a subconscious one.

Besides, I may be my own worst enemy, judging by my bank-card carelessness.

Today has reminded me that most people in most places are good.

And a ridiculous proportion clearly go out of their way to be great.

I will strive to travel with informed caution, not malignant suspicion.

There must be a happy balance.


To the Thai folks who dropped everything for as little as a few minutes to as long as two hours to help me out today: Thank you. You are absolute gems.

When I return to Seattle and inevitably notice a tourist struggling, I will take the time to help in any way I can and hope I can add as much brightness to his or her day as you did to mine.

Even the simplest gesture has huge meaning.

It says, from one citizen of this world to another, in any language:

"It's OK. You are welcome here. I've got you."


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Monday, April 23, 2012

An Island Escape for One

I had to take a car, a bus, a taxi, a speedboat and a tuk-tuk, but I am here.

Normally I wouldn't butt in on someone's secluded island paradise, but after reading Dave's tantalizing description of this place, how could I not visit when I was only a stone's throw away?

Luckily he spilled the exact location to me over coffee in Chiang Mai. I may or may not have begged.

It came with a set of keys.

A mosquito net (sure could have used one of these at the airport).

A few chairs for lounging, reading and snoozing.

A cat friend.


One heck of a view.

And all the time in the world to relax and unhurriedly explore this quiet little island.

There's not much socializing to be done here, but I'm quite enjoying the time to myself. I'll rejoin the raucous backpacker scene soon enough... maybe.

My Monday consisted of sleeping in, eating a delicious breakfast overlooking the Andaman Sea, hiring a mountain bike and making the hilly trek to a deserted beach (literally no one else was there), spending hours floating in perfectly warm saltwater, reading the first Harry Potter book and generally feeling very content with this whole traveling thing.

Nice place you've got here, Dave.

I think I'll keep it. : )


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Friday, April 20, 2012

Survivor: Chiang Mai Airport Edition

I had every intention of spending last night reading and snoozing my way through a 12-hour train ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

Instead, I found myself in the Chiang Mai Airport at midnight… alone… and in the dark.

Let's not talk about the creepy pair of eyes to the right.

Long story long, here’s how.


I hopped into a tuk-tuk bound toward the Chiang Mai Railway Station at 8 p.m. and watched the streets of the Old City fade away behind me. I had plenty of time to catch my 9:00 train, so I just enjoyed the warm air whipping around me as I silently bid farewell to the city in which I’d just spent a week.

Following the madness of Songkran — the massive, three-day water fight that celebrates the Thai New Year — Chiang Mai felt wonderfully lazy and peaceful. The atmosphere helped me slow down, catch up on blogging and make many sand-and-sun-soaked plans for the rest of my time in Thailand.

First up? That train ride to Bangkok, followed a leisurely five hours later by a flight from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phuket. I was excited to be heading down toward Thailand’s beautiful islands and looking forward to relaxing on the train.

I arrived at the railway station at 8:11 and grabbed a seat in the waiting area. I was checking my ticket just to make sure I was in the right place at the right time when a British woman asked, “Are you on the train to Bangkok?”

“Yup,” I replied.

“Not anymore,” she informed me. “It’s been canceled. You need to go get a refund, and then buy a bus ticket.”


The woman assured me that the bus only took 10 hours and would arrive in Bangkok even earlier than the train, so I knew I’d still be able to catch my flight. Whew — close one!

I headed over to the ticket office to get my refund and chose the shorter of two queues. Looking back, I should have chosen the longer queue simply because it consisted of Thai people, whereas the queue I chose contained just one farang couple. The Thai line went quickly, while the European backpackers took their time going over allllll of the other options for getting to Bangkok over the next few days. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

By the time I got my refund and crossed the room to purchase my bus ticket, a bus had already shown up and passengers were piling on. Was that the bus already??

Meanwhile, the bus-ticket counter was unmanned. Fantastic.

I circled the area, looking for someone who could sell me a bus ticket, and asked a Thai man if I was perhaps in the wrong place. He told me to go back to the train-ticket counter and ask. As I tried to explain that the train-ticket man had already told me to come here, I noticed that a woman had arrived at the bus-ticket counter and was being swarmed by fervent, would-be passengers.

And, wouldn’t you know, by the time I beseeched the Almighty Seller of Bus Tickets, she had just given away the last two seats. Finished. No more buses to Bangkok tonight.


As one man desperately tried to explain to this woman that he needed to get to Bangkok in order to make his flight to Kuala Lumpur and avoid overstaying his visa — wildly gesticulating with his passport all the while — I knew it was a lost cause and just asked where I might find another bus to Bangkok. She pointed to the Arcade Bus Station on a map, and off I went.

One overpriced tuk-tuk ride later, I arrived at the bus station along with a shit-ton of other train-and-bus rejects trying to do the exact same thing. I walked from counter to counter, asking each bus company about a coach to Bangkok, and was met with the same answer every time: “No bus. All full.”

No trains. No buses. One not-cheap flight out of Bangkok that I really wanted to catch, and seemingly no way to get there in time.

And right about now was when I wanted to cry.

But first, I needed to make sure I had exhausted every possibility, and to do that I needed the Internet.

The bus station had free Wi-Fi, but neither my laptop nor my phone could pick up the weak signal. My Kindle wouldn’t connect to the 3G network. I hadn’t yet put a SIM card in my phone, so I couldn’t use data to hop online. And the bus station’s bulky, old-school, paid Internet kiosks were either being used or frozen, and all the instructions were in Thai anyway.

Fuck it, I thought. I’ll just go to the airport!

Why yes, Chiang Mai has an airport, and surely I could either catch a flight to Bangkok or just go somewhere else entirely. At that point, I truly did not care. I even thought about going to Bali! I just wanted to get the hell out of Chiang Mai.

The first ride I found was not a tuk-tuk, but a shared taxi that is more like a truck with room for about 10 people.  I was the second person to get in, followed by eight more people… and I was the very last to get off.

I got a really great, scenic, hour-long tour of Chiang Mai for 60 baht as I stewed about what fate might await me at the airport. I’m only being a little sarcastic — I wasn’t in any rush at that point anyway. Whatever happened would happen!

Of course, once I reached the airport at 10:30, all of the airline check-in and sales counters were closed — the last domestic flight of the day was about to leave at 10:45. A man behind the AirAsia sales counter was counting his till, and he kindly informed me that the counter would open again at 6 a.m., which I thought would be cutting things really close. Based on the flight schedule posted at the counter, I figured I could hop on the airport Wi-Fi and lock down a seat on the 8:25 a.m. flight if it wasn’t already full.

Oh, but what airport Wi-Fi? My laptop found nothing but a string of password-protected wireless networks. Can’t we all just get along and share Wi-Fi, Chiang Mai?

My last hope was that one of the coffee shops or restaurants that had a wireless network would still be open. I hightailed it upstairs to the departures lounge and Burger King was right there… with the lights off and the gate halfway closed.

I stuck my head right under that gate and begged an employee in my most desperate, pitiful, backpacker/hobo voice, “Hello, I’m stuck here for the night and I need to book a flight and can I please, please, please have your wireless password?”

And this outstanding representative of the Land of a Thousand Smiles flashed her pearly whites at me as she uttered these precious words:

“Whopper Jr.”

Boom. Saved by the King.

After a few maddening rounds with “Error 500” on the AirAsia Web site, I finally booked a seat on the 8:25 flight to Bangkok. Sighhh of relief.

It was 11:30 by this point, and I figured it just wasn't worth the time and money to try to find a hotel room. Now all I had to do was settle in for the night. At least I had Wi-Fi to entertain me!

As airport employees filtered slowly out the door, I became very aware of how alone I was in the departures lounge. The night custodians cleaned the bathrooms, then disappeared. Every single store and restaurant was closed. I could hear only the hum of the air conditioner and a TV playing off in the distance.

And then, at midnight, the TV — and the lights — turned off.

I could not stop laughing, and the echo of my tired, stressed, loopy giggles throughout the empty airport was just about the creepiest thing ever. So I did what anyone would do — I put on my headlamp and went exploring.

First, I went to the bathroom, just because I had to go. I quickly discovered that the automatic sinks had also shut off, and I had to rinse the soap off of my hands with a bit of my one-third-full bottle of drinking water. I would have to ration that until 6 a.m.

I then wandered around just to make sure everything was closed — I really could have gone for some food — and stopped short when my headlamp illuminated a display of mannequins just outside of a clothing store. There is nothing creepier than mannequins in a dark, empty airport. That pretty much ended my exploring.

I settled in to sleep on a fairly comfortable row of armless seats, using a pullover sweater as a pillow. Looking on the bright side, I realized that the airport at least had A/C and didn't have mosquitoes, making it wayyy more pleasant than the guesthouses I stayed at in Chiang Mai.

It turned out that I was only right about the A/C.

What kept me awake throughout the night was not the discomfort of the seats, nor the mysterious noises I'd occasionally hear from afar, but the incessant buzzing of tiny insects in my ears. I was constantly waving them away, shaking them off and even smacking them against my body just to try to get some peace. I thought it was just a stray mosquito or two that had snuck in through the automatic doors downstairs.

I wound up applying bug spray at about 2 a.m. to the exposed areas of my skin: arms, shoulders, neck, face, feet. I was wearing stretchy yoga pants, since the A/C was quite cool, so I didn't worry about my legs. Ha, I thought, That'll teach those mosquitoes.


I woke up around 4:30 to the sounds of the day's first passengers checking in downstairs, and went to the restroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. All things considered, I had a pretty good night! I had breakfast at Burger King (as a thank-you, and because it sounded delicious at the time), flew to Bangkok and then caught my flight to Phuket with ease.

Throughout the day, I remembered more and more about those annoying mosquitoes I'd battled in the night. First, my feet began to itch as my flip-flops rubbed against a few bites. Then I noticed a bite on my forehead, plus one under each eyebrow. Raised bumps made themselves known on my shoulders, upper back and all down my arms.

But the kicker? The really unforgivable, awful souvenir of that night? A horror-show-worthy display of 27 big red bumps directly on my bum.

Apparently, stretchy yoga pants aren't worth shit in fending off mosquitoes.

In total, I currently have EIGHTY-NINE BITES all over my body. It is by far the worst mosquito attack I've ever suffered, and it all went down during my hazy, zombie-like bout of sleep at the airport.

Was it because I was the only warm body in the whole building and they had to bite someone? Was it because they thought I'd be lonely there all by myself?

I'm struggling not to scratch the bites, of course, since that's the worst thing one can possibly do. It doesn't help that everyday tasks — such as walking, sitting and existing — make them itch like crazy.

But I can't help but laugh my creepy, exhausted, loopy laugh, because what else can you do?

Other than remember for next time that choosing to sleep in the airport can come back, quite literally, to bite you in the ass.


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Awkward Travel Photo Thursday

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words about yesterday's heavy-ish post. Each supportive comment really means a lot.

Like many bloggers, I suspect, I tend to agonize over each post I write. Sometimes I'll go for a week or two without writing because I put so much pressure on myself to come up with an engaging combination of pretty pictures and clever words. Often I just want to post something short and random and get on with it.

That's why I'm starting a light, fun series called Awkward Travel Photo Thursday. I usually post only my best photos to this blog or to my Facebook page, but not every moment of my travels has been picture-perfect. Sometimes things are just awkward.

And, trust me, I have no shortage of awkwardness to share. I hope I'll be able to give some of you a good laugh!


Many travelers love to pose with cute, native animals. Australia's Cairns Tropical Zoo has an enclosure that holds about 60 kangaroos that visitors can feed, pet and take photos with. They're free to hop around the large area, but mostly they just lie in the sun and look bored. By the end of the day, they are so full of food that they could not care less about visitors.

This one was particularly unimpressed with me.


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On Roadblocks, Breakdowns & Changing My Course

DAY 58

As I checked in for my flight from Cairns, Australia, to Singapore — tried to check in, that is — I realized I had made a rookie mistake.

The nice man behind the JetStar counter informed me that I needed proof of onward travel in order to enter Singapore without a visa, and I had no such thing. In fact, I had specifically checked Singapore’s entry requirements to see if I needed to book onward travel — that is, provide proof that I was going to leave Singapore within 90 days — and thought that I didn’t.

Apparently, I thought wrong.

Please let me in, Singapore. Pretty please?

A year ago, if I faced the possibility of being unable to board my expensive international flight, I would have gone red-faced and broken down into tears. I would have felt extremely embarrassed and angry with myself for not doing more research. I would have beaten myself up and let the situation ruin my day — maybe even my week.

But I’m amazed, even as I write this, to report that this travel snafu did not faze me. I simply took 20 minutes to hop onto the Internet and book a bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in three days’ time, emailed the itinerary to JetStar and then successfully checked in for my flight with plenty of time to spare.

No red face. No tears. I was slightly embarrassed, but it didn’t ruin my day. It didn’t even ruin five minutes of my day.

I was pretty damn proud of myself for that.

DAY 63

Having successfully entered, eaten my way through and exited Singapore, I was now at the the front desk of my Kuala Lumpur hostel, trying to make change for a 50-ringgit note so I could do laundry.

The nice woman behind the Reggae Mansion counter informed me that she could not make change for my note, and that I would have to go buy something small and come back for the 8 ringgits' worth of coins I needed.

My face went red. I felt tears prick the inside corners of my eyes. I mumbled a defeated, "Oh," and then hightailed it up to my room before I started to cry. Then I flopped onto my bed and let the tears flow.

Over laundry.


In one of these situations, I stayed cool and calm in the face of a potentially huge travel issue. In the other, I completely broke down over a tiny, insignificant roadblock. What the hell happened to that unfazed traveler I was so proud of?

The short answer is that I became really, really homesick on day 61 — the day I took that five-hour bus ride from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. The feeling came out of nowhere, but it hit me hard.

My seat was amazingly comfortable, and the bus' air-conditioning was heavenly compared to the thick soup of humidity outside. I had a row to myself. I should have been perfectly content to relax for five hours.

But as I stared out the window at the Malaysian landscape, it began to rain, and my mind wandered back to all the times I've stared through rain-spattered windows in Seattle. I love watching the rain. I love curling up with a cozy blanket, a good book and a mug of tea or hot chocolate even more.

Suddenly, the refreshing A/C felt icy. My spacious row of seats became incredibly lonely. And I longed for a blanket, a real book, a spot on my old couch to relax and maybe doze off. I desperately wanted to grab a milkshake and see a movie with my dad, or bake cookies with my mom.

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur to more rainclouds, and a particularly dark one seemed to hang directly over me. I felt miserable and just wanted to stay in the hostel and stew. I hated the way I felt — like that annoying homesick girl at summer camp who can't stop crying long enough to have some fun. I thought it would pass, but I couldn't ignore the ache in my chest and what it was telling me.

I wound up tearfully Skype-calling my mom and dad and arriving at a decision: I'm going to take a break. 


My plan has always been to fly to California in mid-May for a family trip to Yosemite, but I had intended on returning to Southeast Asia to spend June exploring Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before I attend Portland's World Domination Summit in July.

Now I realize I'd rather stay in the States until WDS so I can slow down, spend time with family and friends, and recharge a bit before heading abroad again. I was disappointed with myself when I got to Kuala Lumpur because I didn't have that thrill I usually feel upon arriving somewhere new. I feel like a really privileged jerk to admit this, but hopping between cities and countries had become the norm and lost its novelty.

I stopped crying long enough to visit KL's awe-inspiring Petronas Towers — wow.

I think, no matter what your circumstances are, that something being different is what makes it special. One short vacation a year can be a huge thrill, while a long period of constant travel — even to the most exciting places — can lose its luster, and you find yourself wanting to do things that used to seem mundane in your old life.

This is not at all meant to be an, "Oh, poor me, traveling is so hard," post. Most of the time, traveling is much easier than I thought it would be, and it's certainly a hell of a lot of fun. I just never expected the emotional side of it to get so intense — the side that has me missing my family, my hometown and all the familiar comforts of my former routine.

There are people who can travel nonstop for a year or more and thrive, but I like the idea of taking a step back after three months of being on the go, slowing down and rebuilding my appreciation for this incredible opportunity I have to see the world — not to mention the fact that it saves me from a few extra long-haul flights across the Pacific.


At first I was sad to miss out on the Southeast Asian countries I'd planned to visit, but I realized I just don't have the same excitement to explore Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam that I've heard in so many others' voices. I've really enjoyed Thailand so far and am happy to be spending 30 days here, but does my heart leap when I think about wandering through Angkor Wat or inner tubing in Vang Vieng? Sadly, no.

My little bit of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In college, I created a massive collage of Greece photos on the wall of my dorm. I've dreamt of driving along the coast of Croatia. I would die of happiness to eat just about anywhere in Italy. Those are the things I should be doing, regardless of how much everyone else raves about Cambodia, etc.

And I could certainly get more bang for my buck by continuing to travel in Southeast Asia, but time is a currency, too — something of great value and of which we have a finite amount. Why should I spend more time traveling somewhere just because it's cheaper when I'd happily drop more money to go places that make my heart do a happy dance?

In the next chapter of my travels, I will move much more slowly. I'll definitely struggle with the urge to see and do everything in every country, but I know I'll enjoy the overall experience more if I strive to ignore that pressure.

While in line for one of Mrs. Pa's famous fruit shakes in Chiang Mai, I shared a bit about my homesickness with Dave Dean. He's been traveling the world for well over a decade, so he knows his stuff, and he said this: In his experience, homesickness really means you miss having a routine, and you can help fix this by slowwwing dowwwn. Find a place you love. Get settled for a while. When you get the urge to move on, do that.

Sounds pretty good to me.


I left my intense homesickness in Kuala Lumpur, thankfully. I thought I'd feel like a failure by changing my grand travel plans, but do you know what I actually felt when I purchased a one-way plane ticket to San Francisco for May 9? Relief.

Now I can enjoy the rest of my month in Thailand with the knowledge that I'll be seeing many of my loved ones again quite soon in California. I'll be able to spend my 25th birthday with family and friends in Seattle. And I can either hang out in Seattle until WDS, or take a few mini-trips to U.S. cities I've always wanted to visit — New Orleans, D.C., Boston and Chicago come to mind.

And after that? I'd still love to visit Iceland in July, and Europe is calling my name.

I'm incredibly excited for what's next.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cooking in Heaven: Chiang Mai's Organic Thai Farm

I intend to write a number of posts about the fantastic things I've done so far in my 70 days of traveling — and I feel like I'm way behind on the earlier stuff — but yesterday I experienced something that I need to write about now.

It was that good.

Welcome to the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School in northern Thailand.

When can I move in?

The Thai Farm taxi picked me up from my guesthouse at 9 a.m. and, along with several other hungry travelers, we headed to Ruamchook Market to learn a bit about the staples of Thai cooking.

Our instructor, who used to be a vendor at this market, showed us several different types of rice and explained what they're used for. She also introduced us to ingredients we would be using a lot, like fish sauce and oyster sauce, and showed us examples of the red, green and yellow curry paste we'd be making from scratch.

We then had about 10 minutes to explore the market on our own, and I mysteriously found myself staring at mango sticky rice heaven. I had to restrain myself from diving face-first into this luscious pile of fruit!

I should note here that I've developed a sweet vice in each country I've visited so far:

New Zealand: Nutella
Australia: Tim Tams
Singapore and Malaysia: Chocolate milkshakes (refreshing on hot days!)
Thailand: Mango sticky rice

At least my current vice involves fruit...?

Our group finished up at the market and drove about 25 minutes to the Thai Farm Cooking School, which was such a lovely getaway from the busier heart of Chiang Mai. Our instructor began by showing us how to prepare regular rice (in a rice cooker) and sticky rice (steamed in a bamboo basket).

We then took a wonderful tour of the organic farm and picked herbs that we would later cook with, like Thai parsley, coriander and spring onion.

We drank in the scents of freshly cut lemongrass and ginger, plus had a taste of green mango straight from the tree. Again, when can I move in?!

Our first project was to make a curry paste of our choice (I went with yellow) using garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger, lime rind, chillies and herbs.

After finely chopping all of the ingredients and pounding the hell out of them with a mortar and pestle, I wound up with my lovely yellow curry paste.

Now, time to get cooking! We each had our own spacious work station in a bright, airy little building. For each course, we had a choice of three dishes, and the ingredients for our chosen dish were neatly laid out for us on a pretty platter. This totally made me feel like I was on a cooking show, where everything is perfectly prepped in advance.

Here was my setup for making Tom Yam soup with shrimp (although the yellow curry paste was saved for later).

Even though various people were making different soups, our instructor seamlessly led us through the process for each one. I did all my chopping, combining, boiling and stirring, ending up with this beautiful soup.

I've never been blown away by soup before, but this was amazing — so flavorful and delicious. I'll definitely be making it again!

The yellow curry with chicken was next, and it was bit spicy for me (I'm a total wimp), but still tasty and the most stunning, rich color. I wound up taking some of this back to my guesthouse and polishing it off at 2 a.m. : )

The next course was a stir-fry, and we had a choice between fried chicken with basil, fried chicken with cashews and sweet-and-sour chicken.

I chose the sweet-and-sour chicken, which actually left me gobsmacked. Between each bite, I kept saying, "I can't believe how good this is. Wow, I can't believe how good this is..."

I will definitely be making this over and over again once I get home. Here's the recipe — try it!

My fellow cooking students enjoyed their dishes as well, and we all shared bites. We also took a break from cooking and eating to make more room for the final two courses, and you can tell just how full everyone felt!

Even the cat. Especially the cat! Heh.

My final main-course dish was one I've been eating like it's my job since I arrived in Thailand: Pad Thai.

I've eaten a lot of it, but this was by far the best version — so fresh, so flavorful, so drool-worthy. I was surprised by how simple and healthy this dish actually is (if you minimize the oil you use). I made the mistake of ordering Pad Thai today for lunch and it fell way short due to the lack of sauce; the key to greatness yesterday included fish sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup and molasses.

The instructor also showed us how to make a lovely tomato-rose garnish!

This was her effort, not mine, but I now know how to do this if I really want to impress someone.

Are you feeling full just looking at all this food? Hang on — the grand finale is worth making room for!

It's really, really bad that I now know how to make mango sticky rice. (And now you do, too.) Of course, the problem back home will be finding mangoes that are even one-tenth as incredible as the mangoes in Thailand... and that's why I plan to enjoy mango sticky rice as much as possible while I'm here.


Five courses. Seven hours. 1,000 baht (about $32 USD). One full and happy tummy. And countless gorgeous details that made this day unforgettable.

I especially adored the designs on every plate, bowl and cup we used, and I know my mom is dying right now — she loves chicken stuff. : )

As if it weren't obvious, I cannot recommend the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School enough. You can do one full-day course like I did, or even spring for a two- or three-day course if you just can't get enough. Everyone walked away with a wonderful recipe book packed full of everything we learned, and some of the recipes are also available here. Plus, our instructor was happy to modify each recipe to fit vegetarian and vegan diets.

Cooking schools seem like they're a dime a dozen in Chiang Mai, but I think the Thai Farm is really something special.

Quite simply, I think it's cooking heaven.


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