Monday, August 25, 2014

FEBRUARY 6, 2014: THAI ELEPHANT HOME, RED CHILI COOKING CLASS



February 6, 2014

     Today we are being picked up at 7:00 am so we will miss breakfast as breakfast starts at 7:30 am.  We are going to spend the morning with elephants.  I'm really excited about this but a little anxious also.  Our driver is the wife of the guy who drove us around on our tour of the wats the day before yesterday.  It's about a 1 hr. drive.

This is the road where we turn to get to the Thai Elephant Home

     THAI ELEPHANT HOME  Cost is 3000 baht for the 2 of us.  I had done some research and there were only a few places that I would pick for my elephant experience.  I wanted to go to a place where the elephants didn't "perform" and that got good reviews from others as to what they saw in terms of treatment of the elephants.  We had been to Africa on safari and it's quite a thrill to see hundreds of elephants in the wild as opposed to what you see when you go to a zoo.  In the past in SE Asia elephants had been used for work purposes like logging which no longer exist.  When we arrived there was a fire going and our breakfast consisted of toasting bread over the fire.  There is only one other couple going with us but they are much younger.  We were given a briefing on the elephants and learned the 5 basic commands.  Phonetic spelling:  map long means up, look means down, pie means go, how means stop, ben means turn.  We then changed into mahout clothes.  I should mention that my husband and I both wore water shoes that we brought from home.  Normally we would use them at a beach where entering the water that would have stones underneath instead of nice sand.


Don't we look cute!

     We were taken to where our elephants were and given bananas to feed them and for us to get used to them and for them to get used to us.  There's this HUGE one that the mahout says likes me as I feed him some bananas.  He thinks I should ride him.  I look up and see how far I would fall and say "no thanks, he's too big for me, I'll take a smaller one!"  His name is Booma.  It fits him.  My husband ends up on him.




This is Booma


     I need to be honest and say that the mahouts had tucked in the back of their pants a kind of stick with a hook on the end.  This would only be used in case of an emergency for the safety of the tourist and at no time during our entire morning did I see any of the mahouts using this on the elephants.  (On a later outing which I will talk about we stopped at a place in Chiang Rai where you could have elephant rides and sadly I saw one elephant with chains around his legs.  Needless to say we did not ride those elephants)  I'm thinking how in the ___ am I going to get up on the elephant's back.  There's a demonstration and I'm surprised that I made it without falling off and embarrassing myself.  Not bad for someone pushing 69!  Of course my husband looks like he's become one with his elephant!  A lady has my camera and she will take pictures for us.  How nice.  We start off.  There is nothing to hold on to but the top of the elephant's head or you can hold a rope behind you with one of your hands.  This narrow piece of rope loops around the belly area of the elephant.  The other guy and I are holding the rope.  His wife/girlfriend and my husband just have their hands on top of the elephant's head.  The lady taking pictures  keeps asking me"are you ok, madam?"  I must admit I was scared for the first 15 minutes or so but then started to relax.  We have a long slow walk through the forest where the path is not always level.  There are some steep parts to go up and then down.  Finally we come to a street which we cross.  Good thing the traffic gives way to the elephants!

And we're off!








I'm hungry!

Our little group

It's a nice day for a walk



     This takes us to the river.  We go into the river on the backs of our elephants.  The command for down is given and we get off.  The water is not past our knees.  We and the mahouts who have walked along side (making sure we're safe) have a good time washing, scrubbing the elephants.  Then there's splashing and an elephant behind me sprays water down on me.  It's a neat picture as I totally wasn't expecting that.  We are kissing the elephants and they are kissing us back.  I'm reminded of our Africa trip at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi where the giraffes would come up to you and give you a kiss to get food.  This kiss feels like slight suction from a vacuum cleaner.  The water felt good-not too cold.  Using our "expert" knowledge we get back on the elephants for a short easy ride back to where we started.  Our elephants lift us up in the air as we lay across their trunks.  What fun!  I'm sorry it's over but the all day option would have been too much for me.  This was just perfect.  Of course there's an area where you can buy a T shirt which I do for 450 baht.  I also buy an elephant charm for a necklace/chain for 250 baht.  There's a tip box which is shared with the mahouts, other staff and I give the lady who was taking pictures for me some extra baht.  We change out of our clothes and have the option to take a shower if we want.  As we are leaving we notice another group just getting started.








People are taking pictures of us










Going back my mahout decides not to walk






Next group
     We drive back via Thapae Gate.  We see some of the floats which will be used for the start of tomorrow's Festival of Flowers.

Thapae Gate and the moat around the old city











Lots of tiny light being hung






Wonder where these pretty flower arches will go?



Moat

Going across the Narawat Bridge


     Our driver drops us off at BAKE AND BITE.  Cost for the driver is 1500 baht.  It's lunch time and there are a lot of people here.  I order a ham/cheese/lettuce/tomato sandwich and a coke.  My husband has lentil soup and a mushroom spinach quiche.  We share a generous slice of carrot cake that is out of this world.  I buy some almond cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and macadamia chocolate chip cookies.  Total for all of that plus lunch is 445 baht.  We have a nice walk back to our hotel.  On the way we stop at the Circle Source paper store where I buy some sheets of writing paper for my friend back home along with some envelopes.  Papers here are made from plant fibers such as saa, sugar cane, bamboo.  The paper I buy is 100% saa fiber paper.  www.online-natural-paper-shop.com    The location of our hotel has proven to be very good as it is close to so many good places to eat and not far to the Narawat bridge.  Close to a laundry.  I made a great choice for us.  We have time for an hour at the pool before our cooking class pick up.


Yummy desserts

Mushroom spinach quiche 

What's left of the carrot cake before I realized I didn't take a picture.  





     At 3:30 pm we are picked up for our cooking class with RED CHILI COOKING SCHOOL.  Cost 900 baht per person.  There are 8 of us-2, Alex and Susanne,  are from Holland; 4, Dan, Elaine, Mark, forgot the name of the other,  are from Ireland and these 6 are much younger than us.  However we all have fun regardless of our ages.  Our instructor Theerayut Aon is very detail oriented.  He wants to make sure we have a great experience.  We start with a market tour (same as what we did in Cambodia) so we can see where our ingredients come from and learn about some ingredients we may not be familiar with from where we all live.
Getting ready for tomorrow

Market

Our chef/instructor Aon explaining what we are looking at.


These looked so good!

I love strawberries













     Then we arrive at our cooking area which is outside but has a roof covering to protect from heat or rain.  His method of teaching is to prepare first showing us the step by step process and then we do it on our own with his help if needed.  He also checks to make sure we are doing it right.  We begin with a soup choice-tom yum or tom kha (I make one kind and my husband does the other), then we make pad thai, a curry paste-red or green (same again) , our curry, chicken with cashews with explosion or without  The explosion occurs when everyone but me has Aon sprinkle water into the pan causing a burst of fire/explosion.

Our "stations"

Some of the ingredients





A good picture showing the cooking area

Soup








Pad Thai



Red curry


Chicken with cashew nuts with explosion!  Here's my husband and Aon.

Chicken with cashew nuts

Our efforts look pretty good, don't they!

Green  curry

     There is so much food for us to eat but it is so great tasting.  Even the steamed rice is good.  Best of all we made it ourselves!  We have water apples for dessert which I thought were red pears but they're very tasty.  Then as it's now getting dark we light a Lanna lantern.  We say our wishes for luck, let it go, and watch as it soars into the night sky.  We are then driven back and arrive to our hotel around 9:00 pm. (Aon will e-mail those of us who shared e-mail addresses the recipes and some information on Thai spices)  It's been a long, but very satisfying day.  We top off the night by opening and finishing the bottle of wine I bought on our trip to Doi Inathanon.  It's not as sweet as I feared it would be but the hint of strawberries makes this a nice dessert wine and goes great with one of those cookies I bought!   I can't believe that our time in Chiang Mai is over!  Tomorrow we head to Chiang Rai.  Part of me is sad about leaving but then I think that we get to spend 2 whole days with the legendary Jermsak.  Will he live up to all his hype/praise that I've read on Trip Advisor and Fodor's??  We shall see.  Yes, we shall see!

Yummy, delicious!

My husb and had a great time!

Water apples

Lanna lantern



Up and away!

Aon















   

    

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