College Station

And we’re packed! Hitting the road to Houston early tomorrow morning. Been nice to rest up and relax for a few days ahead of the flight across the big pond.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), 2800 N Terminal Rd, Houston, TX 77032, USA

Pretty sleepy, but we’re ready to fly! See you later Houston, we’re heading to Tokyo!

Narita International Airport

Well, that was exhausting! But we’re here in Tokyo waiting on our connection down to Bangkok. Internal clocks are so confused!! Apparently flying almost 7,000 miles takes a while. I think I watched something like 6 movies....

Suvarnabhumi Airport

And we made it! Looking forward to a bed that lays flat!!



Bangkok was an interesting city. Crowded and hectic with random bits of history and culture scattered out amid the hustle. The jet lag hit me pretty hard on the second day, so we may not have gotten the most complete picture of the city.

The reclining Buddha at Wat Pho was genuinely impressive. Seemed ready to burst at the seems. The crowds definitely made it hard to get a picture to do it full justice, but the moment that stands out the most was the first glimpse of the statue from the outside through a window. I pointed it out to Noah and said, “I knew it would be big, but not that big!” Mother of pearl inlays on the feet were equally stunning.

The rest of the temple complex around Wat Pho was interesting as well. Stone Chinese giants that came over on boats as ballasts. Intricate detail all around. And rows and rows of Buddha statues everywhere you turn.

The ferry boat over to Wat Arun was interesting - and cheap at only 8 baht (about 25¢) round trip! The Chao Praya River is apparently one of Bangkok’s main superhighways. Wat Arun itself was an interesting structure, very detailed and tons of protecting ogres built in. Not sure what the purpose of everything was, but we found the ladder for changing out the lightbulbs at the top!

The Chinatown street food scene was pretty epic. Crowds around all the best food stalls and carts. Zero sense of personal space. I was very grateful for Noah’s height - he could read all the menus over the crowd! We ate peppery noodles with crispy pork from a Michellin-recognized stand. The noodles are rolled into thin spirals and the broth was delicious! Added some pork satays with a smooth and rich peanut sauce. And chocolate filled bread - with the VIP treatment for some reason - made a delicious dessert.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

As soon as we pulled in to Chiang Mai station, I knew this place was much more my speed. Crowded, yes, but a bit more authentic, less polished up for show. Instead of a metered taxi, we hopped in the back of a converted pickup truck. Instead of tall buildings and flashing neon, we drove past the ancient walls and moat. I could tell we were going to enjoy this place.

The little red truck weaved through alleys that google maps said were walking access only and finally dropped us at our guesthouse, Julie’s. With the room not ready yet, we waited in the common area for our cooking class instructor to pick us up.

When Arm, our instructor picked us up, we piled in his tiny truck and met Jeffery and Justine, both massage therapists from the States in town for training in traditional Thai massage. For the next several hours, this would be our class. Arm leading and the four of us learning and enjoying it all.

First, we stopped in the local market for ingredients. Talk about sensory overload! Beautiful colors, strange smells, and unknown chatter. Arm pointed out fruits and vegetables we’d never seen before - kaffir lime, rambutan, and rose apples; pig ear mushrooms, spicy chilies, and three types of basil.

Then over to the fish and meat section, most of which was much more recognizable - mainly because it was still whole or still had its feet! We picked up chicken that was chopped for us - no feet, thankfully! - and pork freshly ground. And of course, we had to have a few extra cups of pig blood and liver for cooking.

After the market, Arm brought us to his home. He hosts his classes on the bottom floor - largest groups being four, maybe five - and lives above on the second. We donned our aprons and sat down to our stations: knife and cutting board, an array of bowls, and mortar and pestle.

We started off making green mango salad, a sweet and spicy combination that’s very popular in Thai food. Shred the young mango, crisp and green, not fully ripe. Break down the chilies, garlic, and dried shrimp in the mortar and pestle. Then add the mango shreds, lime juice, and peanuts. Delicious!

Next up, curry paste for both the khao soi chicken and pork with glass noodles. Grind and blend the ingredients and spices in the mortar and pestle - all fresh, no pre-made pastes or powders. Coriander, cardamom, chilies, and more spices I didn’t know but loved to smell. Curry paste goes in coconut milk, then chicken pieces in to coat and cook. Egg noodles - super fresh - go in to boil and some are saved to fry up nice and crispy. All that makes khao soi. Next up, pork with glass noodles. Curry paste goes directly in with the pork, no coconut milk this time. Once it’s cooked a bit, glass noodles go in to get mixed around and it all gets wrapped up in a banana leaf - swiftly cut from Arm’s backyard garden - to go in the steamer to finish.

While we sit down to enjoy our efforts, Arm begins peeling, slicing, opening the fruits we picked from the market - colorful spikes, surprising textures, even more surprising flavors!

On to the next course! Minced pork with ten spices and mushroom soup. All the fresh spices were toasted again and ground in the mortar and pestle. Then mixed in with the pork using a giant cleaver. Toss it all into a wok to stir fry with rice oil and plate with cabbage, long beans, and carrot slices with a side of sticky rice. Spicy and tasty! Mushroom soup was simple, though the types of mushrooms were mostly foreign to me - pig ear, flat ones, and little round ones. Add some lemongrass and other herbs then toss it all in a pot to cook.

Last but not least, dessert! Sweet sticky rice with banana and beans. Heat up the sticky rice with coconut cream and palm sugar, then wrap it up with banana spices and a few black beans inside a banana leaf. Steam for a few minutes and wow! Nice and sweet without being overly sugary. So good!

We sat and talked around the table with Arm about his life as a professional chef turned cooking instructor, the different varieties of Thai food, and even a little about Thai current events and history. He was in no rush for us to leave, and we all enjoyed the conversation. Finally, we loaded up in his truck and said goodbye, having learned and enjoyed many new foods and having made several new friends.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai - Elephants

The morning started off bright and early for us as we were told to be ready in the lobby by 6:30am. In proper Thai fashion, our ride arrived at 6:45am. We were the first to be picked up. We piled into the back of another converted pickup truck, apparently the mass transportation mode of choice for Chiang Mai. We picked up a European couple - he’s Dutch, she’s Spanish, they live in Amsterdam. Then we added a (very giggly) couple from LA. Six seemed like a nice fit in the little truck. But apparently there was still room for more - a thankfully small couple from Hong Kong. We were told it would be an hour and a half ride to the elephant camp with a quick break in the middle. Off we went, nice and cozy!

As we got closer to our destination, the roads got curvier and hillier - and suddenly we spotted a group of four elephants! They were just milling about in a pen near the side of the road. These weren’t our elephants, but the excitement began building. More curves

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang