I arrived safely in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand on Wednesday evening after a relaxing flight. I had loads of legroom and a 6 month old baby next to me. Talk about a busman's holiday! Luckily she was an angel and slept virtually the entire journey and when she was awake she just smiled and gurgled. I'll have that one for my next job thankyou very much!
The hotel I was booked into for the first night was too big, boring and sanitary for my liking so I was eager to get out the next day to find something cheaper and with more character. It in 17 years since I was last in Chiang Mai and I couldn't really remember the city layout so I just started walking. There are plenty of places offering tourist services here (along with massages, laundry, cheap breakfasts etc) and I found Happy Heart Tour Service very helpful. Mr Happy Heart found me a lovely teak travellers guesthouse called Lai Mai which he drove me to on the back of his bike. It looks like a Jim Thomson's. So that is where I stayed for the next 2 nights. Very comfortable and with a swimming pool which is just as well as it rather hot here let me tell you.
I spent the rest of the day wandering around and remembering how much nicer it is here than Bangkok. I had a look around some of the temples which were adorned with colourful flags and lanterns. I just missed a light festival apparently so maybe that's why they were so decorated. I got a bit carried away with photos and thought I would be really templed out by the time I leave south east Asia so I went and had a pedicure. It was much needed and I now have toes to match my sandals. I also booked onto one day cookery class for the next day. In the evening I walked over to the night bazaar which was busy, busy, busy! Loads of stalls selling t shirts, crafts etc but the best bit was the food mall. You buy your tokens and take your pick - so cheap! I had a delicious Phad Thai.
Yesterday morning I was picked up by Vannee and her husband to be taken for my cookery class. I ended up being the only student as some others postponed. I had such a lovely day. Vannee and her family used to own a restaurant in Bangkok but moved to Chiang Mai for some peace and quiet and some air and I don't blame them. She took me to the local market where we bought the ingredients for my menu. I felt like Rick Stein on one of those series. Then we went to her lovely countryside home which she has set up for her business. I made red thai paste and a curry, phad thai, a beef salad, hot and sour soup (my favourite!) and banana cakes. That was the most fun as I had to wrap them up in banana leaves before steaming. I found them delicious even though they were packed with coconut and I do not like coconut! Of course I had to eat all of this as I went along and by the time I left I was absolutely stuffed. No need to buy dinner - I just ate the leftovers later. During one of my breaks Vannee took me to her neighbour who makes clothes for wholesale. There was a small scruffy poodle there wearing a cheap silk jacket and I was amused to see it's bed was made from matching fabric. I wasn't amused when it put it's cold nose on my leg though!
Last night I wandered back to the temple area and it was so quiet compared with the night market distict. I went and reported back to the lady who had booked my cooking class and she said there were a million fewer tourists in Thailand than last year. She also said that Vannee had enjoyed teaching me and having time to chat one to one so that was nice!
Tonight I leave on the night bus to Laos.