Thai farm cooking class meal Chiang Mai

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai cooking class; Loi Krathong celebrations in Mae Jo, Sansai

Date: 20th November 2010

At 9am, I got picked up by a songthaew from The Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School, the cooking class I had signed up for.

Chiang Mai songthaew river viewI 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.

Chiang Mai songthaew ride
My group consisted of a British couple, an American woman, a bunch of French women, a young German girl and one Indian guy (guess who)

The farm was out of Chiang Mai city but after picking up all the guests, our first stop was at a market.

Chiang Mai Nattaya Phothaphun Thai Farm cooking class guide
Nattaya, our cooking instructor and guide around the market

The market stop was to familiarize us with ingredients commonly used in Thai cooking — which to a South Indian wasn’t unheard of.

Chiang Mai market cooking class guide rice varieties
Nattaya explaining us the varieties of rice
Chiang Mai market Thai green red curry paste
Ready-made green and red paste, used in the curries

Chiang Mai market ingredients

Chiang Mai market cooking oil coconut milk

After Nattaya ran us through the basics, she gave us around 10 minutes to look around the market.

Chiang Mai market meat stallsChiang Mai market fried chicken fishChiang Mai market Thai sausages

Chiang Mai sweet dumplings
Sweet dumplings
Chiang Mai market fresh food
How they are made
Chiang Mai meat market plastic bag fans
I was amused by the fans they used — plastic bags with meat & bones in them as the fan blades
Chiang Mai fish market seafood
Despite being in land-locked North Thailand, you still get good seafood in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai market pink eggs
Upon web research, these pink eggs are preserved eggs apparently

Chiang Mai chicken market plastic bag fansWe re-grouped and left for the cooling class farm.

Getting to Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai
The journey takes around 45 minutes from Chiang Mai city

Once at the farm, we were given a brief tour of the surroundings.

Thai farm cooking class lotus plants Chiang Mai

Thai Farm cooking class Chiang Mai group
Two group classes are taken every day (while the cat, just sleeps)
Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai setup
Nattaya setting up our ‘kitchen’
Thai Farm Cooking class Nattaya how to wash rice
Nattaya first explained to us how to wash rice
Thai Farm Cooking class Nattaya washing rice
She was washing the rice in the steam basket itself

Thai farm cooking class rice in washing basket

Thai Farm Cooking class making rice
Steam cooking the rice

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.

Thai Farm Cooking class garden Chiang Mai Thailand

Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai plant
Sorry, don’t remember what this plant was but all I remember is that it’s an important ingredient in Thai cooking
Thai farm cooking class table Chiang Mai Thailand
We all get individual tables of course
Thai Farm Cooking class Mithun Divakaran
…and aprons (Photo taken by the German girl next to me)

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).

Thai Farm cooking class getting started
All ready to chop up and mash
Thai Farm cooking class grinding stone
The old Thai lady wasn’t too impressed by the old French lady’s mashing skills, so she showed her how to pound a grinding stone the right way!
Thai Farm cooking class chicken green curry ingredients
First up for me, Thai green curry (chicken)

I followed Nattaya’s instructions and 25 minutes later…

Thai farm cooking class chicken green curry Chiang Mai
It wasn’t bad I say πŸ˜‰
Thai farm cooking class Tom Yam soup ingredients
Next, Tom Yam soup (I chose to use tofu)

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!

Thai farm cooking class meal Chiang Mai
Yeah, we had to eat all that we cooked

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.

Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai Thailand hut

Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai panorama
Panorama comprised of 10 shots

Thai farm Chiang Mai Thailand wooden worshipThai farm cooking class compound Chiang Mai lotus pondThai farm cooking class Chiang Mai lotus pondThai Farm cooking class Chiang Mai roadThai farm cooking class Chiang Mai open field flowersThai farm cooking class Chiang Mai lotus big leaf

Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai lazy sleepy cat
As if they weren’t lazy enough… a cat in a cooking class!

After a half-an-hour long break, Nattaya called us back in.

Thai farm cooking class bananas coconut milk
We cooked dessert. I made Kluai Bod Chii (Banana in coconut milk)

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.

Thai farm cooking class spring rolls ingredients
Last up, spring rolls
Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai rice paper
The big difference between the spring rolls commonly available in India and the ones I made was the use of rice paper

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.

Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai washing area
We were done with all our cooking by 3pm
Thai farm cooking class Chiang Mai cat sleeping rocks
Sigh, what a life

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.

Chiang Mai Sansai field village houseChiang Mai outskirts Sansai houseChiang Mai sansai field ThailandChiang Mai road sansaiChiang Mai canal roadChiang Mai roadside river streamChiang Mai road outskirtsFifteen minutes later, we reach a junction and Nattaya along with the driver got down to show me where the Mae Jo celebrations will be held tonight!

Chiang Mai Thu Dongkasa Than Lanna

Way to Mae Jo university grounds
That’s where I needed to go

I asked the driver what time the event would be and he told me it would be around 7pm onwards.

Chiang Mai highway 1001 Thailand
The main highway leading into Chiang Mai city

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.

Chiang Mai highway to Mae Jo traffic
As it neared 6pm, traffic was slowly starting to pile up

Chiang Mai highway to Maejo traffic jam

Chiang Mai highway to Maejo cars
It seemed as though everybody was on their way to Mae Jo

Chiang Mai Thai triple scooter way to MaejoGoing to Mae jo Loi Krathong girls

Traffic jam Maejo Loi Krathong Yi Peng festival tourists
The road leading up the ground was jammed
Traffic jam Maejo Loi Krathong Yi Peng festival
Took over half an hour to get to the end of this stretch

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.

Maejo sausage stand Sansai grounds
It didn’t look like a major site where thousands had gathered to release lanterns
Maejo Sansai way to Yee Peng celebrations ground
It was pitch dark with no street lights
Thai crowd walking to Maejo grounds
But I just followed the crowd assuming everybody was heading to the same place
Mae Jo lanterns in sky crowd
It looked like I had a bit to walk
Maejo Khom Loy for sale
The crowds slowly started to grow
Mae Jo Sansai boys Khomloy lanterns Loi Krathong
From here on, people were lighting lanterns everywhere
Maejo Sansai krathongs for sale
Krathrongs for sale
Maejo sansai Loi Krathong grounds parking
Lots of vehicles parked on the other side
Maejo Sansai pork sausages vendor
Lots of pork sausages on sale too!
Loi Krathong Maejo grounds Khomloys crowd
I stopped when a saw a large gathering of people (mostly tourists) lighting the lanterns
Maejo sansai Loi Krathong khomloys
‘Khom Loy’ is what these paper lanterns are called in Thai
Maejo panda khomloy lantern Yi Peng Thailand
You get fairly cute varieties of lanterns too
Maejo house roof fire khomloy burning
Unfortunately, what goes up, eventually comes burning down
Mae jo roof on fire lantern
And if you have a house near these grounds, you probably dread this festival every year
Maejo sansai tourists lanterns vendors
I moved along further down the road in search of the temple grounds
Maejo Yi Peng lanterns tree
Some will get stuck on a tree
Chiang Mai Mae Jo Loi Krathong Khomloys
The tourist crowds just kept getting bigger
Sansai Maejo Yi Peng khomloy lantern full moon night
It was a perfect full moon night in Chiang Mai
Lantern firecrackers Maejo Chiang Mai Loi Krathong Thailand
Some people attach firecrackers to the lanterns
Steamed rice cakes momos Maejo Chiang Mai
If I wasn’t distracted by the lanterns in the sky, I would be with all the food on the ground

Boiled meat vendor Maejo Loi krathong

Maejo Loi Krathong crowds towards grounds
I kept moving forward

Maejo Yi Peng tourists lighting lanterns Loi krathong

Maejo Yi Peng burning lanterns khomloys sky
An attempt by a group of tourists to attach and send many up at the same time… not always successful πŸ™‚
Maejo Loi Krathong crowds Thais burnt khomloy
This one didn’t even make it off the ground

Maejo Chiang Mai crowd lanterns Loy Krathong

Maejo lantern stuck tree Chiang Mai Loy Krathong
If it isn’t trees…
Lantern stuck electric line post Maejo Loi krathong
…it’s an electric line
Maejo Chiang Mai crowds celebrating Loi Krathong
Switched to the 70-200 lens for a bit
Lighter lantern wick Khomloy Loi Krathong
The clarity you get out of this lens is simply amazing

Lanterns khomloy night sky Loi Krathong maejo Chiang Mai Thailand

Donuts baked sweets vendor Maejo Thailand

Soon after I took this photo, and just I was starting to move further, IΒ  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!

Thousand lanterns khomloy at MaeJo Chiang Mai
Waited months for this moment… and I couldn’t be there early enough πŸ™
Maejo lanterns Loi Krathong Chiang Mai
I couldn’t shoot in auto-focus, so I shot in manual — in such a rushed state of mind
Maejo Khomloys tree leaves shadow
In the few seconds I had before the lanterns were out of sight, I tried clicking as many as I could

I forced my way through the crowds, through the sides, apologizing and excusing myself along the way.

Maejo full moon Khomloy lanterns stuck in treeI was desperate to get in to the main grounds no matter what, hoping there would be another launch soon after.

Loy Krathong Yi Peng Khom Loy lanterns
“Jellyfish in the sky”
Maejo grounds big lantern Yi Peng celebrations Chiang Mai
I finally managed to get into the site of the launch
Mae Jo Yi Peng lantern release celebrations
But it was a lost cause. It was over.

I was gutted!

Maejo grounds Loi krathong buddhist stageSansai Chiang Mai Loi Krathong lanterns in skyMaejo grounds Loi Krathong budda statueLoi Krathiong Maejo grounds smiling ThaiSo 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.

Maejo sansai trees lanterns in distanceBut it was all over. Everybody was on their way out, and there wasn’t anything else for me to do besides join them.

Maejo grounds trees people leaving Yi Peng
Maejo ground lake Loy Krathong night

Maejo grounds people leaving Yi Peng sansai river stream
But getting all the way back was going to take some time
Maejo Sansai Loi Krathong crowd leaving
There were over 20,000 people here

Maejo Chiang Mai Loi Krathong lanternsAs I walked past the spots I spent watching people light their lanterns, I couldn’t help but feel even more frustrated at having spent too much time clicking them.

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’.

Maejo Sansai Loi Krathong fireworks celebrations
But as Yi Peng celebrations officially began, I was in no mood for any fun

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…”

Leaving Maejo Sansai Yi Peng tuk tuk
It was going to be another long journey back

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.

Ping river bridge lit up crowds Yee Peng
I asked the tuk tuk driver to drop me near Ping River

The events at Mae Jo kicked off Loi Krathong celebrations in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai krathongs in Ping river
The next two days will see Ping river filled with krathongs

Chiang Mai ping river floats Loi Krathong ThailandPing river floats firework exploding Loi Krathong ThailandThai girl Nawarat bridge Chiang MaiPing river crowds Thai firecrackers Chiang Mai

Yi Peng celebrations Chiang Mai Ping river steps
The river banks on either side were brim with people

Loy Krathong celebrations Chiang Mai ping river bank Thailand

Loi Krathong celebrations Chiang Mai ping river bank firework
(That is a camera’s flash and a firework going off at the same time)

As people flocked to Ping river, I headed the other way, back to my room.

Ping river bridge lit up Chiang MaiToday 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.

Next posts in this series:

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Loi Krathong celebrations; first Grand Parade

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Zoo (Day 4, Part 1)

Thailand 2010: Last day of Loi Krathong; Sunday Grand Parade (Day 4, Part 2)

Thailand 2010: Heading to Chiang Rai by bus, Wat Jedyod and Golden Clock Tower

Thailand 2010: Golden Triangle in Mae Sai; Chiang Rai’s White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

Thailand 2010: Pattaya β€” Beach road, Viewpoint, Jomtien Beach, Walking Street

Thailand 2010: Back to Bangkok β€” Chinatown, Patpong, Platinum Mall and Chatuchak Market

Thailand 2010: Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, Sampeng Market, JJ market (again)

Thailand 2010: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour, Cobra show… and leaving Bangkok

Previous posts in this series:

Thailand 2010: First day in Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong; driving up Doi Suthep

Thailand 2010: Arriving in Bangkok and preparing for Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

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  • pavements


    how did you hire a tuktuk? are they everywhere? is it easy to hire one?

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Tuk Tuks are everywhere in Thailand. Yes, they are easy to come across and hire. Though I usually avoid them in cities like Bangkok because the drivers are reckless and have the tendency to rip off tourists.

  • pavements


    Thank you, I’m planning to go to Thailand, and I’m planning to do just what you did with regards to watching the yee peng festival.

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