Date: 20th November 2010
I chose Thai Farm Cooking Class as supposed to the few that were in walking distance from Rux Thai because after viewing their website, it was the setting that convinced me to go far just to learn how to cook Thai curry.
The farm was out of Chiang Mai city but after picking up all the guests, our first stop was at a market.
The market stop was to familiarize us with ingredients commonly used in Thai cooking — which to a South Indian wasn’t unheard of.
After Nattaya ran us through the basics, she gave us around 10 minutes to look around the market.
Once at the farm, we were given a brief tour of the surroundings.
While the sticky rice cooked, Nattaya guided us out to the farm they have in the compound, in which they grow a lot of the ingredients we use in the cooking classes.
Prior to even arriving at the farm, you are given a checklist of 5 dishes you want to learn how to cook. For eg; you have the option to choose to make either Thai green curry or red curry or yellow curry. Similar options for a soup, side dish, spring rolls and dessert. The choices include vegetarian and non-vegetarian (usually chicken or shrimp).
I followed Nattaya’s instructions and 25 minutes later…
After that, I made stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts (Gai Phad Met Mamuang Him Mapaan). And once that was done, it was lunch time!
But as we all gathered around our table, we passed around each of our dishes, so everybody could try out the different dishes one learned to make at Thai Farm Cooking Class. After lunch, we chatted about our respective travels within Thailand and elsewhere. I asked some of them if they had plans to see the mass-release of the khom loys or paper lanterns at Mae Jo. Most of them didn’t know what I was talking about, which was surprising, as I assumed the event was a major draw in Chiang Mai, and everyone knew about it.
I wanted further information about the event and specifically, when exactly it was. And since finding English-speaking Thais is a bit of rarity, I approached Nattaya and asked her if she knew about the events at Mae Jo. She told me she wasn’t sure about when it was but did let me know that she would ask our driver, as he’s better informed about these things.
We still had two more dishes to cook up but Nattaya told us we could take a nap or walk around the property if wanted to. I chose to walk.
After a half-an-hour long break, Nattaya called us back in.
The desserts were fairly simple and easy, and quite similar to the ‘payasams’ we make in South India — so nothing unique in taste for me.
Any Far-East Asian reading this will be like: “Of course it’s rice paper!” but here in India, a lot of the Chinese food isn’t the least bit authentic. So instead of rice paper, a lot of them use wrappings made of wheat or maize dough. The crispness you get from using rice paper makes it taste all the better!
With each of our 5 dishes done, we sat around our table one last time for evening tea and had a bit of what we had cooked last. I say a ‘bit’ because most of us were full from our lunch not too long ago, and so we packed up our dishes for later consumption.
As it neared 4pm, we left the farm and made our way back to Chiang Mai. Nattaya told the driver to stop on the way and show me where the Mae Jo celebrations would be, because apparently it was close by from here.
I asked the driver what time the event would be and he told me it would be around 7pm onwards.
I got dropped back at Rux Thai at around 5pm. I had the bike I rented yesterday returned to the travel agent. I contemplated keeping it for one more day so that I could ride to Mae Jo on it but considering the distance, I didn’t want to risk losing my way in the dark.
I freshened up, re-packed my bag with all my camera equipment and quickly made my way out again. This was the main event, what I came for! I wasn’t going to miss it!
I hired a tuk tuk who offered to wait there at Mae Jo and then drop me back, all for 500 baht.
By the time I did reach the parking area, I got down and stored the driver’s number. He told me he would find a spot to park and asked to call just as I’m on my way back out.
Soon after I took this photo, and just I was starting to move further, I heard a large crowd cheer in the distance. Everybody looks up…
…thousands of lanterns in the sky!
They released it!!
I couldn’t believe it, I missed it!
I start to run, but so do the others… all of us eventually stalling at a point where there were just too many people. I knew I had to capture something, so I quickly swapped my 70-200 for the wide angle lens!
I forced my way through the crowds, through the sides, apologizing and excusing myself along the way.
I was gutted!
So as the many inside stood smiling, content with what they were a part of, I stood there glum. Disappointed and upset. The frustrating part was that I was so close! Had I walked 5 minutes earlier, I could have made it to the main grounds just in time for the big release.
I even met tourists and other other photographers who invited me to join them. It looked like so much fun, and I was very keen to join them… but I told them I wanted to ‘head on’.
It took me nearly 40 minutes to slowly walk all the way back my tuk tuk. As soon as the driver saw me, he asked me in his broken English, gesturing with his hands whether I saw the big release and got good photos. I shrugged, and said: “Hmmm…”
I came wearing just shorts and a tee, because it was quite hot during the day. But the journey back proved to be rather chilly since I was in a rickshaw, and I tried my best to avoid getting cold.
The events at Mae Jo kicked off Loi Krathong celebrations in Chiang Mai.
As people flocked to Ping river, I headed the other way, back to my room.
Today was a long day. One that started with high hopes and sadly for me, ended on quite a low. To add insult to injury, I could feel my body start to heat up a bit and I feared it was due to the cold breeze I had to endure on the ride back from Sansai. The thought of falling sick lowered my spirits further.
For dinner, I had the left over spring rolls and the banana dessert I made during the cooking class. I was in no mood to eat something better. Took a hot bath and went to bed, disappointed.
P.S: For those who are wondering why it was such a the BIG freakin’ deal for me to not be a part of the launch of thousands of lanterns from the Lanna Dhutanka temple, watch this video (preferably in HD). The ‘moment’ starts at 1:46.
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