Days left in Singapore: 24
Days left until arrival in the Queen City: 31
|And now the next contestants on the new Season of "Hell's Kitchen..."|
So I realize that the Bull is looooooooooooong overdue in giving you all the recap of our two Thailand adventures. In fact, the parts of Chiang Mai that I'm going to cover tonight are from October 27th and 28th, which is over a bloomin' month ago. Oh well, better late than never, right? And so, apologies out of the way, let's get amongst it.
We landed fairly late in the evening on Thursday night, really just in time to check in at the hotel and grab a nightcap at the bar across the street. Jenny had stayed at this place previously with Yazz, and she'd told me that it was really nice. However, we got an upgrade, which meant that our room was PIMPTASTIC. Seriously - it was ENORMOUS, complete with a four poster bed and a door that would have been the envy of any temple in Southeast Asia. Our room opened onto the pool and our table for brekkie, which was included every day (and sooooooo guuuuuuud). All in all, the first night started off great (even if we did get kicked out of the bar when we tried to order a third Chang).
|Sammy the Bull waiting patiently for his 19,000 calorie |
breakfast. Hey, travel takes it out of you - gotta carb up!
We then made the move to head into town, but we just couldn't make any headway because everywhere we looked was GREAT shopping. We went about nine steps before finding a tourism office, where we popped in and booked our two tours for the weekend. We then went back to the room, put the vouchers in the safe, and headed back out down our street, only to stop another 2 blocks on at a used book shop. In a word - NIRVANA.
Seriously - this place was piled high with TONS of books that I'd been looking for, and in true a) used and b) Asian fashion, they were cheeeeeeeap. Consequently, 15 minutes and 8 books later, we were loaded down again and had to head BACK to the room to drop off all the purchases.
We finally do make it into town and go for a wander along the river. Jenny had told me that Chiang Mai had a very Asheville, NC feel to it, and I definitely got that vibe walking around. It's in the mountains (they loom like an enormous shadow in the background against that amazingly blue sky), and you'll find that most folks are pretty relaxed about, well, everything. I loved it instantly. Our wanderings took us across the river and down a ways before cutting back and and wandering into our first temple of the trip. It should be noted at this point that Chiang Mai is famous for its temples (I know, I know - what place ISN'T famous for temples in Asia) - and I must say that they definitely have a monopoly on uniqueness. Take our first one, for example - Wat Bupparham.
|Welcome to the Church of Donald Duck..."life|
is like a Hurricane, here in Duck-berg..."
This place was WICKED strange, but the architecture was actually very impressive, and I'm really glad that we went. Plus, the sky was getting CRAZY dark as we wandered around, which a) cooled things down a bit (much needed), and b) made for some fantastic photos.
|Typical fish market stall - most of the fish are still alive and|
flopping - one actually popped off its tray and hit Jenny!
|"Fat" selecting the spices and veggies for the evening.|
Now I don't think it's ANY surprise that Team Taylor does little to no cooking. Jenny whips up a stir fry or pasta from time to time, and back stateside we do break out the crock pot from time to time. 99% of the time, however, it's either a) eating out or b) Jenny making a salad whilst I eat a sandwich, half a bag of chips, and half a block of cheese (and I wonder why I look so chubby). But call me crazy, I was REALLY excited about this. And I will state publically - I had a BLAST.
|Muffin Puffin in action at the wok - Gordon Ramsey style. Look at those |
fish cakes! 100% oil, fat, and odd parts of fish! Yummmaaaahhhh...and
check out the guns on that girl! Ocean swims never stood a chance!
So here's how it works - you pick 5 dishes, and then you whip them up one at a time, cooking them at your own personal wok, and then bring it back to eat. Here's how Team Taylor rolled:
|Jala posing with the sea crabs we used for "flavoring" in our|
papaya salads. She's the one I about set on fire 30 or 40 times...
The Bull: Papaya Salad (spicy!), penang curry (the curry and the dish are considered 2 separate items), hot and sour soup, cashew nut chicken
The Striker: Fish cakes, hot and sour soup, green curry, chili prawns
The entire night was HILARIOUS. Jenny was WAY better than me (shocking, that), and I felt really bad for the Belgian gal (Jala) beside me, as I a) about set her on fire with hot oil 10 seconds into the first dish, and b) was a screaming lunatic when I rubbed red chili in my eye at one point in the evening. Let me tell you - I would rather be WATERBOARDED than do that again. My eye and hand felt like I'd put them in "the box" featured in Dune for about 6 hours.
3.5 hours later, stuffed to the point of explosion, we bid farewell to the cooking school and did what you do on a Friday night in Thailand (or any other country outside of the Middle East for that matter) - hit the bars! Jenny knew a street that she and Yazz had visited during their time here, but she did warn me that it was a bit, well, scuzzy. WOW. Understatement of the century.
|All smiles despite 20 minutes of swinging that 50 pound |
grinding stone to make green curry - honestly, could she be
So this place was JUST great - good drinks that were ice cold, plenty of atmosphere, and even a list of "You might be Taliban if..." quotes in the bathroom (some were bloody brilliant). At one point, there were two guys talking at the bar, and one of them (American) said, "Honestly, you can't really tell any difference between Scotch and Jack Daniels." I tried, readers, I really did - but I just won't stand for that shit. And so I leaned over and politely explained to the guy about oak aging, charcoal mellowing, the reasons you use oak and maintain a cooperage on site, and why single distilled is WAY better than smoking the flavor, which is why I prefer JD to Scotch. I did concede that Jameson's and their triple distilling method was better and smoother than JD and probably a better whisky, even though I preferred Middle TN's aqua vitae. There was an Irish dude beside us who'd been mum the whole time, but when I gave propss to Middleton, he lit up like a Christmas tree and offered me a toast.
The highlight for this guy (but maybe not any of the other patrons) came when a local walked in with his guitar and just sat down and started playing. At first folks were just sitting around enjoying it. But then, for the second time this year - memories of my father struck again.
I'm sitting there with my Chang when all of a sudden I hear, "I'm runnin' down the road tryin' to loosen my load..." and I perk up like a Jack Russell Terrier. I try to contain myself, but, well, the guy is sitting RIGHT BESIDE ME, and I just can't stop. I wait until it the sacred moment, and then in tribute to my father I put my hand on the guy's shoulder and SCREAM: "I'm standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see. It's a GIRL my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me..." All of sudden - I have a new best friend.
|"We haven't had that spirit here since...1969..."|
It was then back to the hotel, where we passed out at 1 AM. After all, we had a big day on Saturday - but that will just have to keep until tomorrow.
On a side note, I discovered the song "Jet Lag" by Simple Plan tonight. I think it pretty much sums up the last month without Muffin Puffin. I LOVE YOU, PUMPKIN!!!!!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and (newly friends with a Dutch girl named Helena and now a veteran of the "Manly to the Spit 10K walk" - and home in just 2 more sleeps!) Jenny