We were already full when we sat down to the final course, a series of sweet sticky rice or bananas in caramelised sauce. Being full didn’t matter, we greedily ate up the wonderful puddings at the end of a fantastic meal. What had made it even better was that we had cooked it all by ourselves, spring rolls, appetiser, stir fry, soup and a curry made with homemade curry paste as well as the lovely desserts. When I say we had cooked it all by ourselves that’s perhaps a slight exaggeration. We spent the day at a Thai cooking school where under expert guidance we created the tasty dishes. The beauty of being at a cooking school is quite a bit of the preparation is done for you and even more importantly all the washing up.
It was a great day. We started off at the market where we were given a full explanation of Thai spices and vegetables. From there it was off to the cooking school to create the feast. Gilly, myself and Alisha all cooked with Lucy as our helper and then we all enjoyed the fruits of our labour. I know it sounds like bragging but the food was definitely better tasting than that we had eaten in the restaurant the night before. It helps to have expert guides. Hopefully we will be able to recreate some of these dishes on the road although we may cheat on the curry paste as this takes quite a lot of work.
Earlier in the week we had crossed back into Thailand. Regular readers of our blog will know that getting into Thailand with a foreign vehicle now requires a permit. Three months ago we had to jump through a lot of hoops to get two permits, so we could visit Cambodia and Laos and then cross Thailand to Myanmar. The rules and requirements for the permit are constantly changing, so although we had one, we approached the border with a little apprehension. We were met with a policemen whose face fell when he saw us. He was looking at our vehicle and then looking worried. We approached him smiling, said hello and he gravely asked us where the vehicle was from. We replied the UK and his concern seemed to increase. I smiled and said I had a permit and his face changed in an instant, he was all smiles, handshakes and very welcoming. I think he was worried he was going to have to give us bad news that we couldn’t come in. After that he could not have been more helpful taking us to all the right offices and ensuring we smoothly entered Thailand. He even took Lucy’s hand and skipped across to immigration with her.
Arriving back in Thailand we immediately noticed the difference with Laos and how much more developed it was. The roads were good and you could see more commerce in the shops. We headed to Chiang Rai, the shopping centre came as a bit of a shock with all it had on display.
The one sight we wanted to see in Chiang Rai was the White Temple. Now I know we have seen a lot of temples but this one is a bit different. It is not old but was built in the 1990s by a famous Thai artist. It is like white porcelain inlaid with glass so makes for quite a fetching sight when you approach it. The decoration inside the temple is also quite unique. I didn’t expect to see Superman in there or Keanu Reeves from The Matrix!
From Chiang Rai we headed to Chiang Mai where we were going to spend the best part of a week. Just outside the old city is a backpacker hostel with a parking area where they let overlanders park. It was down a nice quiet street and whilst we slept in the truck, we could use the hostels facilities and even breakfast.
Apart from the cooking course we spent our time doing a wide range of things in the lively city of Chiang Mai. We went back to visiting more traditional temples and Chiang Mai certainly has plenty of them being a former Royal city.
As Christmas is on its way and we are not sure whether we will have much of a chance to do any Christmas shopping later, we also took the opportunity to shop both in the night markets and in the more traditional shopping centres.
We also took advantage of the modern shopping centres to do “normal” things like go to the cinema. There was also a museum called the Art museum. What it really was was a museum showcasing 3D art which allowed you to take funny photos if you stood in certain positions. The girls had a great time there playing around.
One other thing we had to take care of was that our hot water tank had started to leak, on all the bad roads it had become detached from its moorings and had been bumped around. It wasn’t a big leak but a constant drip. Unfortunately the leak seemed to be in the main unit itself and not coming from one of the multitude of taps that connect to it. I think one of the water pipes may have cracked where it connects to the tank itself deep inside the unit. Unfortunately the only way to stop the leak is to switch all the water off in the truck. I decided I had neither the confidence or the competence to uninstall the heater unit and open up the sealed unit to look for and repair the leak. Asking around to see if anyone may know more than me I came to the conclusion that whilst some people may have more confidence than me I was not sure they had any more competence. Therefore we had to come up with a work around whereby the water would bypass the unit so we could continue to use water in the truck. To do this I would need to cap two pipes. No problem I thought and fortunately in Chiang Rai there were 3 massive modern hardware stores. The problem though was my pipes were 3/8ths of an inch and the smallest in Thailand seems to be 1/2 an inch. So in Chiang Mai instead of going to a big hardware store we went to the market and found an old-fashioned style hardware shop with everything all over the place. Once they understood what I wanted, they spent ages searching piles of stuff. Eventually they came up with a two piece brass solution (I think for gas pipes). These did the job so we have water for the truck and no leak. The problem is we only have cold water, no hot water. Whilst that’s not a problem at the moment in the heat, showers will be a lot more bracing in the Himalayas if we are unable to get the tank fixed.