There is something about the countryside of any nation that tells you about their soul, their identity. Bouncing around in our van we leave fast-growing Chiang Mai for a date with organic farmers and a Chiang Mai cooking class.
Chiang Mai Cooking Class
The cooking school is the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School.
Have you ever seen galangal grow? Or ginger? Have you ever wondered how on earth jackfruits being so heavy don’t break the branches they grow on?
Well, ginger and galangal (which are related) are tubers that grow underground and jackfruits grow directly on the trunk of their huge trees!
I’m mesmerised by the variety grown here in the organic farm.
Despite the trees and the surrounding mountains, it is hot out here. Farmers have been waiting for the rainy season that has yet to materialise to give a good soak to the dusty rows of beans, garlic, shallots, eggplants and so on.
As we are a small group our stations are ready on the veranda, next to the table where we are going to eventually eat what we cook.
Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice
MB, our instructor, has fantastic English. She jokes and keeps up a funny banter throughout our Chiang Mai cooking class.
We are to keep up with her through the steps of four traditional dishes we have chosen: green chicken curry, pad thai, tom ka gai (the sweet and spicy coconut soup) and finally sticky rice with mango for desert.
It feels like a Master Chef challenge but without the pressure. Lunch is delicious and unexpectedly different.
Making curry paste from scratch is easy and makes an amazing difference. Every herb pulsates with fresh flavour giving the dishes a vibrant touch.
Altogether it is a fun day out starting with a pick up from your hotel, a stop at a local market, an introduction to organic farming on site, a hands-on picking of the necessary herbs and vegetables and finally the actual cooking and eating. It’s a Chiang Mai cooking class definitely worth experiencing.
Lanna Kingdom Luxury
Going back to our accommodation at the Khum Paya Resort & Spa is a real treat after our exertions at the stove.
Just the entrance is enough to put you in the mood. The great Lanna style pavilion serving as reception/lobby has no walls, spectacular architecture and is crammed with antiques and comfy seats.
It looks very authentic but I am told it is a reproduction. I give it to the local artisans for having re-created a beautiful space, unfettered by walls, kept cool by the height of the teak pillars supporting wooden rooves and achieving an altogether inviting place.
Getting to our rooms, we meander through a pathway following a stream with attractive bridges, a waterfall and dense vegetation.
What looks like an inviting pond, is in effect the swimming pool shaded by old trees (see main photo).
The rooms are meant to be turn-of-the-century chic, mosquito nets and all, despite the fact that there is ducted air-con.
An abundance of wood panels and shaded balconies give the rooms that cooling darkness you seek after a day out in the searing sun.
The Centara’s Spas attached to all Centara Hotels and Resorts never disappoint and this one is no exception.
Treatments available are comprehensive but I cannot help but falling for a Traditional Thai massage, my favourite way of relaxing.
Dinner by the Ping River is always treat. There are many locales to choose from and many have live music. It is a matter of poking your head in and feeling the vibe before you decide.
Chiang Mai night markets are lively and the perfect place to find fine silver jewellery and artisanal products such as beaten copper/silver cutlery.
A visit to Chiang Mai is not complete without going up to Doi Suthep, the monastery at the top of the hill.
Climbing or cycling there is an option (it will take hours) but better done by car or motorbike. There are some 300 steps for the final ascent but there is a cable car that will take you there in comfort.
The complex has been recently renovated and the ancient stupa has been re-gilded. It now is a true competitor to the resplendent Burmese temples.
Don’t forget to get a blessing from the ever-patient resident monks… If you go around 5pm you will be able to hear the monks chanting their last prayers for the day. Un-missable…
Maria Visconti was a guest of the Thailand Authority of Tourism and Centara Hotels and Resorts.