#4 from SE Asia – white water rafting, the best cooking class of my life, and Christmas Eve blasphemy.

#4 from SE Asia – white water rafting, the best cooking class of my life, and Christmas Eve blasphemy.
December 28th, 2010
Back in Bangkok

Our fantastic Thai cooking instructor Duan, holding a bundle of pre-packaged herbs used for soup-making.

I wanted to go white water rafting and Jeff wanted to go back to the women’s prison for massage, so we split our ways for a day.

The raft run is on the Mae Taeng River to the north of Chiangmai. This river drains from the mountains in the Doi Chiang Dao National park. Most of the year, this run is rated at grade II to grade IV. But for 3 months of the year, during the rainy season, it becomes a veritable grade V river, with wild drops, flipped rafts, and drownings. But now is the dry season.
The trip was all Europeans and Canadians, and myself. All of the runners were first-timers. I have rafted a number of rivers, including a 7 day trip on the Green and Colorado Rivers. I have really enjoyed this in my life.

We drove for 2 hours up a narrow gorge that had Hmong villages along it. We saw the occasional domesticated elephants working with them. When we got to the launch site, we all took the mandatory safety class. The guides gave us good safety gear, proper life jackets and helmets. Can I take my camera along? Only if it is waterproof. Otherwise you will ruin it.
So I left my camera behind. The advice turned out to be good, for everyone and everything got thoroughly soaked. But I did not get any pictures of the trip.

The river itself was much better than I expected. Clean cool water, and some good runs. At one point in the 10 km run the water drops 60 meters in 1.5 kms. Good escarpment for some nice rides. Hold on, paddle, and get wet. We had no tip overs. I think only one person on the 4 rafts went overboard. They quickly pulled her back aboard. Thruout the trip we were accompanied by 3 kayakers who were there for the group’s safety.
We ended the run with a fairly smooth last kilometer. One could see high water marks on the trees along the shore that were 4 to 5 meters above our low current levels. The guides said that during the rainy season, our 2.5 hour trip is shortened to 45 very scary minutes and the river crashed down the mountain. I think I would pass on that.
As we drifted down to the finish point, we passed a female elephant wading in the river. Nothing between her and us except some water. I like that feeling.

The BEST COOKING CLASS I have ever taken

Duan with fresh herbs

Thai herb s and seasonings in the market

Jeff and Dwight wokking out.

Jeff getting wokked

graduation day with our superb instructor in front

What we made (AND ate) AND took home in this class

1. Red and green chili paste
2. Tom Yam soup
3. Tom Kha soup
4. Pumpkin soup
5. Fried vegetables with ginseng and cashew nuts
6. Pad Thai
7. Peanut sauce (yum)
8. Masaman curry
9. Green Thai Curry
10. Pumpkin Hummus
11. Spring roll (not deep-fried)
12. and we finished it off with mango and sweet sticky rice

I must state that my ‘Thai Healthy Food and Vegetarian Cooking Class’ is the first cooking class I have ever taken. But not my last, I hope. It was taught by Duan, this wonderful spark plug of human energy, humor and knowledge. Duan and her husband have a highly recommended vegetarian restaurant inside the old walled city of Chiangmia. Jeff Mease found the school for me, and he could not have done a better job. He choose vegetarian because he thought that it would stress the seasonings, pastes, and flavorings better than a school with meat. And on that one, I think Jeff was right.
The class only has space for 5 students. Everyone has their own chopping space, burner, and wok. Everyone must complete all the tasks. The larger classes have different people doing different things. You would miss out on some critical tasks. We all felt that this size class was ideal.
It begins at 9 am with a short walk the the historic central food market of Chiangmia.

Duan spent well over an hour explaining to us everything that she purchased fresh, in some cases direct from the growers. We learned the ingredients and differences between green, yellow, and red curries, the seasonings and spices, how they were grown, how long they could be stored, and their additional herbal and medicinal uses. This went on all the while with her cheerful exuberance. She truly loved preparing food, and teaching us how to do it. She was a humorous, joyful person.

We were to make the 12 items above in about 3 and 1/2 hours, with her assistance. Not only make it, but eat as much as you wanted. Duan’s husband did some background preparation and large amounts of setup and cleaning. But the actual food work was left to us. With each dish, Duan first did it, and we basically imitated her. Then we got to set down and quickly eat our creations.
WOW! They were as good as the best restaurants we had been eating in. Somehow, I did not expect that. I felt that, since it was coming from my first-time hands, it would be somewhat flawed someway. But this was not the case. It was mostly a matter of measuring just as Duan had done and following her instructions diligently.

What really stood out for me were the following. Pumpkin soup, peanut sauce,masaman curry, green Thai curry, pumpkin hummus (used as a dip like pumpkin), and mango with sweet sticky rice. I learned how to correctly make some of my regular favorites, like pad Thai and kao soi soup. I regularly eat these favorites in the market. I was pleased to make food as good as the food I have been eating in the market.

I would strongly recommend this school.  Here is the contact info.

May Kaidee’s Vegetarian and Vegan Experience


Christmas Eve Blasphemy

I was reading in my hotel room in Chiangmai on Christmas Eve when I began hearing really loud explosions outside. Huh? I went outside to see some pretty serious fireworks going on. Big ones in the distance, along with Thai kids nearby lighting firecrackers and shooting bottle rockets. The Buddhist Thais celebrate Christmas? Not really, but they know many of their bread-and-butter tourists do. So they throw us a party. The Thais love parties and festivities anyhow, so Christmas was as good an excuse as any.
I have never seen fireworks on Christmas Eve. Have you? I think that to some orthodox Christians, this would be blasphemy. Jesus’ birth was supposed to be a solemn thing. But here it is one big explosion.
I continued walking down Loi Street, past the open bars with the ‘Farang’ (foreign) tourists being hustled by the bar girls for drinks. And here is what I saw.

Santa's naughty little bar girl helpers

Santa's flasher

Santa's ladyboy drag queen helper

One girl was wearing a red Santa jacket with long bare legs. As I passed, she flashed open the Santa jacket to reveal that she was wearing a red bra and panties trimmed with white faux fur.
“Come Here. I have present for you.” She shook it.

I don’t remember Christmas like this when I was a kid. Do you?

6 Responses to #4 from SE Asia – white water rafting, the best cooking class of my life, and Christmas Eve blasphemy.

  1. she also had a few other things she could give you most of them untreatable by known science

  2. cant quite get my head around massage at a womens prison.

  3. Could this be the first biking trip where you come back weighting more than when you left?

  4. How many days was the cooking class?

  5. Great post partner. The bar girls may well have a few unexpected presents to share but I think Dwight has perhaps developed immunity.
    I do think my food hedonism is not helping us to let the pounds fall off as fast as they might.
    Jesse, the class was one day 9am-2pm. It was so fast paced you would not believe it.

  6. You sure know how to travel and find the most interesting things, Dwight.

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