Well folks, we have moved into the adventure phase of the holiday - in case I forgot to mention, this is our shopping, culture, adventure & relaxation holiday. We did culture and shopping in Bangkok, are doing shopping and adventure in Chiang Mai and will be doing relaxation in Koh Samui:-)
Happy to note that 1 hour foot massages here in Chiang Mai are down to a paltry $5 - yes, you read that right - $5 - same with a 1 hour Thai massage, which I will be getting this evening and I am happy to report that this type of massage does not include any sort of violation - I stay fully clothed!
Yesterday Diane and I went to a Thai cooking school that had come highly recommended to me by my friends Michelle and Chris. Given that they are foodies, I knew that this place would not disappoint and it didn't. We were picked up in the morning and taken to their main office to register where we met a lovely lady from Tasmania named Lyn who we ended up cooking with for the rest of the day. Our first stop of the day was to a local market where we were given a tour and each had to "buy" a local ingredient for our cooking. When I say "buy" - essentially we handed the stall person our piece of paper with what we wanted and how much and somehow it got paid for. One thing that both Diane and I noticed was the level of cleanliness and the good food handling/sanitation in the market - at a much better level than I had expected. Next we were taken about 10 minutes out of Chiang Mai to the cooking school which was set in a lovely community. We were each given our own cooking station, complete with wok and assorted cooking utensils. The format of the day was they would show you in an air conditioned classroom what we were making and then you would go out into the open air, although covered kitchen and you would have to replicate what was made. The beauty of it all was in between cooking sessions the little cleaning fairy came along and cleaned up your station and reset it with everything that you would need for the next dish. In the end we made a noodle dish, a yellow curry with chicken, chicken with cashews, a prawn salad and a dessert - I am sure we made something else but I can't remember. In total, we were there about 5 hours, 6 including the market.
Last night we opted to go back to the Night Market for some more shopping. Now the night market here is nothing like it is in Bangkok. Firstly, it is less crowded and secondly, the knock-off quality is a fraction of what it is in Bangkok - not a place that I would be buying a Rolex (which by the way I did buy in Bangkok) Nevertheless, Diane and I have each managed to purchase something each night and I am sure that tonight will be no different.
Today was an AMAZING day! As it is my bday, we decided that we wanted to do something fun and chose to go ziplining up in the jungle and it was so awesome. The hotel that we are staying at recommended Jungle Trek Chiang Mai and they sure did not disappoint (they also got good reviews on TripAdvisor). We were picked up at 9am and taken up into the mountains about an hour north of Chiang Mai. It was a gorgeous drive up into the jungles and I was amazed to see all of these remote little towns just dotting the landscape with nothing more than a few people living there. By the looks of it, their homes are rather simple and sparse and although there looks to be electricity in the area, I am not sure that many people had it in their homes, which makes me kinda wonder what they do at night when it is dark?
Back to ziplining. In total we went on about 30 different ziplines with the longest one being just over 300m. We had to do 4 apeils (repels down) with the longest being 40m down. We also had a couple of suspension bridges and a lovely .5km hike uphills - in the hot and humid forest. Let's put it this way, I didn't realize that if I kept going down I would eventually have to go back up and it was a hellish back-up when you are overweight and out of shape! :-) In the end though it was so worth it - although I did have a nasty crash coming into one of the platforms with a tension wire. I banged my leg into it pretty good and managed to cut it on a bolt but the staff were so good in doctoring me up. They were all very concerned that I was alright (which I am) although I will have some bruising. What I learned with all of this is that when you bang yourself or have a fresh bruise, put Tiger Balm on it as it stops the internal bleeding - what went from looking like really, really, really nasty bruising will not just be some nasty bruises. Another thing with this company was safety - it was paramount! I was truly amazed a how conscious they were about safety - not just for their customers but also for their staff. At all times you were safety strapped to the platform or the zipline. After the first couple of zips, and after I developed trust in my gear, I just let go and went for each and every time - it was so much fun. On top of it, our guides were super funny.
Tomorrow is going to be a shopping/relaxation day. Our hotel is amazingly beautiful - complete with an active rice paddy, so it will be nice to spend a little time enjoying it. We have also heard that there are a couple of really good silk shops here in in town that we want to check out so. . . .that will be tomorrow. Oh, one last thing - shortly after we got back from ziplining there was a knock at the door and there was a staff member holding a small chocolate cake with happy birthday written on the plate - it is those little extra touches that make this place great. (it was great cake!)
Until tomorrow. . .