The zoo, Sunday walking street market, and Thai cooking class.
First off, thanks for the comments on the blog! I write this blog late at night after everyone else is asleep. We are having a great time in Thailand and I do believe we're having more fun than I imagined. Yay!
We left our mountain retreat in Chiang Dao after another relaxing morning. The 1.5 hour drive south was easy.
We checked into Awanahouse. It's a bit of a change from the other places we have stayed so far. This is a modest guesthouse with a large bed and bunk beds all in the same room. The shower isn't a separate unit - it's just sprays all over the bathroom. But it has AC, a small pool, and is only about $45 a night. It's in a great central location so we're doing just fine. Luckily, there are some great cheap food options right across the small street. The "no durian" sign on the door is amusing. Durian is a fruit sold everywhere and it has a pungent smell. We haven't tried it yet.
On our first afternoon, the kids went for a swim and then we found some great Northeastern Thai food. The kids were thrilled with $1 smoothies. We walked around the old town a bit and did a little shopping. The shopping is great and so affordable! We settled on a pizza place for dinner run by an Italian guy. The city feels very international with tourists and expats from everywhere. Everyone seems very relaxed and friendly. I had a great evening walk and even got a little lost. Yikes!
The next morning, I went for my first run of the trip. The old city is encircled by a square-shaped moat. Each side of the moat is about 1 kilometer long. That was enough of a run for me! Next, we had one of our favorite breakfasts. The tripadvisor app has been very useful for finding great restaurants, Again, the prices make it fun to splurge on a yummy breakfast.
We decided to take a songtaew to the Chiang Mai Zoo.
The zoo has two panda bears so we knew it was a must-see attraction for DD#2. She is crazy about pandas! There are about 35 pandas in various zoos around the world making them quite rare. This was as up-close as you can probably get to a panda munching on bamboo. Both pandas had just been fed when we arrived. There was only a low barrier between us and the pandas.
And just when you thought the panda fun was over, there are souvenirs made from panda dung. Who can resist that?
This zoo was different in several ways. First off, most locals drive from animal to animal. You could drive through the zoo! We chose to walk. There was an old monorail line through the zoo that would have been great had it been operating. Also, the number of animals that you could feed was astounding. Feeding the hippos was my personal highlight. We were almost uncomfortably close to their gigantic mouths!
After the zoo outing, we had another Thai snack. This one involved our first culinary miss of the trip. None of us were fond of fermented pork roasted in banana leaves. Oh well. We took a swimming break and then went out to explore the Sunday Walking Street Market. This was probably my favorite market experience ever! I spent hours looking at Thai made crafts, jewelry, souvenirs, clothes, food, you name it! The market was so large that I never made it to the end. The hordes of people were exhausting but it was worth it. At 6:00, the Thai National Anthem came over the loudspeakers. Everyone became still and quiet to show their respect. I found some great deals at this market.
DD#2 was thrilled with her $5 Thai dress.
The next day was one that I had been anticipating for months - a full-day Thai cooking class! We were all excited to have our own wok station to make some traditional Thai dishes. The instructor was so knowledgeable and passed along her cooking wisdom with humor and confidence. A Lot of Thai was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone. I can hardly wait to try some of our favorite dishes at home. I even bought red and green curry paste at the market. Here is before and after Pad Thai:
We all learned so much today. We stopped half-way through the day to shop at a nearby food market. I'm eager to find some of these ingredients at home. The kids even had smoothies in a bag!
I have been so impressed with our kids when it comes to eating. They are open-minded and try just about anything. Don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of arguments and bickering. But the food thing has been easy.
After the cooking class, we were stuffed and happy to relax at the hotel. I went across the street to a massage shop and had an hour-long foot massage for about $6 + tip. Incredible! Massage shops are everywhere. The kids went for a swim and we called it a night. Tomorrow is our big day zip-lining through the jungle!