Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Mae Sot, Thailand

You'll probably be glad to know that this is the final post about Thailand! We said goodbye to our friends who travelled with us in Koh Lanta & continued on our way just the two of us to Mae Sot. A small district in Thailand bordering Burma. We were lucky enough to stay with our friends who moved to Thailand last December and lucky enough that they had 3 gorgeous baby kittens to play with. It was so good to see them again and so good to see the work they have been getting involved in as mission workers.

I'm not sure how much I can say so I'll give a little bit of text and a few images for you to get the picture.
Some of the work they do involves visiting a Burmese community that have set up home in a rubbish dump. There are about 200 people in this community. The conditions are absolutely horrible but they say it is easier to live here than in their own country. They have created a home for themselves and try to make a living out of sorting through the dump. As you would expect many diseases and infections are spread easily so the team our friends work for go in regularly with medical help & resources when they can.

We spent a good hour here going into the 'homes' of people, getting to know them and their situations. When I initially walked into the dump my first thought was not wanting to walk through the rubbish (and many more unmentionable things!) but a little girl ran up to me straight away with a great big smile on her face and flung her arms around my waist. It was so easy then to immediately put aside anything I thought about it all to just become part of the community for that moment. There was nothing beautiful about the way they lived but there was something strikingly beautiful about the community they had built together. By the end I wanted to stay. There was hope. This community was so strong the mountains of rubbish were almost invisible and it was just another family in their home. They were smiling always - yes, they wanted things to be better, they want to be able to go back to their country, they want real jobs, constant food and water, to not fear being thrown or pushed out all the time and a future for their younger generations but they were beginning to build the best thing they could for this moment in time.

I'm reminded how much goodness and faith can get us through everything. Having a strong community around us to celebrate the good and fight off the bad together. To be light in the darkness and to stand firm. Community is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Of all the luxurious things we did in Thailand & all the amazing places we stayed, this ending was a really special one...

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Koh Lanta & Monkey Island

A hotel room with pool access? Yes please! Walk straight out of the french doors and into a gigantic infinity pool? Why not!? Gosh, I loved Thailand! Ok, the flights might be expensive when you initially look at them but as soon as you're over there you're laughing! The places we stayed, 5* some of them would be the equivalent of paying for a cheap hotel in England and you could eat like a king for less than £10 each a day. We probably ended up paying the same amount for a 2 week holiday to Europe except we were 3 weeks in Thailand. My point is, if you love travelling you can make it happen. 

We stayed at the Crown Lanta Resort & Spa. We also found a room deal online so it's worth having a look about! Thanking Trip Advisor for so many good places!

We decided the final part of our Thailand trip would be finding an island to relax on. We had done some crazy activities in the other places & wanted this time to soak it all in and enjoy a good book! Koh Lanta was the perfect place. Being low season there were a few shops in the local town that were closed for a few months but I don't think we really missed anything. We found a few really good restaurants to try out but this wouldn't be a place to shop or find many activities to do. 

We did however book a long-tail boat ride around the surrounding islands where we stopped off to explore a cave!

We were picked up at our hotel & driven to get food & drink supplies for the day. We opted to travel in the back of the car out in the open which was ridiculously cool.

After the cave we were taken to Boo Boo Island. I was a little bit disappointed after visiting a few beaches in Thailand that they weren't what you normally see in the holiday brochures of crystal clear waters and white sand so as we pulled up to this island I was more than excited that find that places like that actually do exist! I have never experienced anything like it. Laurie (my friend) and I immediately stripped off to our bathing suits and jumped right in even before the boat fully came to shore! We swam and frolicked for about 10 minutes until we realised our Thai guides were trying to tell us something. Oooppps. We could have stayed in the water at our own risk but we thought better to stay in the shallows as apparently there are A LOT of sea urchins in these waters! We didn't want to risk any medical dramas so got out - but I have to say that little bit of time in the ocean was glorious!

There were lots of little fish swimming in the water which was fun to watch. The only thing not fun about being on a tropical island were the bugs. I've got to kill a few dreams here because places like this are kinda terrifying in reality! There was a bit of 'jungle' that had caterpillars hanging down everywhere which I didn't realise until I walked through a load (uuuuugh!) and sitting down at a table for lunch with all sorts of bugs, spiders & ants crawling around you was not my idea of a good time. When we found out we were chilling on the island for a couple of hours I opted to go for a walk down the beach & find a few rocks to climb. Laurie & I ended up sitting on them for a long while letting the sea rise up over our legs while we reflected on our time in Thailand.
Sam, the poor boy, does not enjoy beaches so he sat relaxing with the bugs (that don't bother him) until it was time to sail away.

Once off the island we were taken to 'Monkey Island'. It has a proper name (which I can't remember) but that's what the locals call it! As our boat came up to the island we saw lots of monkeys come out to see what the noise was then suddenly they swarmed the boat like something from planet of the apes! It was both terrifying and exciting! They grabbed a bunch of fruit that we'd bought for them, some ran off to enjoy it and others stayed on the boat to join us for a while!


On this particular day our friends ended the evening by GETTING ENGAGED!! So exciting!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Me & Mom Cooking School, Chiang Mai

If you're going to do a cooking school in Chiang Mai then this is the one to do! Me & Mom Cooking School. We searched around for a few but this seemed like the one we would get the most out of and boy, were we right!
Being the low season we had the class all to ourselves. Xie, our teacher, picked us up from our hotel (another reason we went with them). She was such a lovely person, we all immediately clicked and knew it would be a great day. The class was from 9am - 3pm so a full days worth of wonderful smells and tasting!

We began by taking a trip to the market where Xie taught us all about different grains of rice, what they were used for and how to prepare them. She went through lots of thai curry pastes, showed us the best sorts of sauces and spices to use in our cooking & we learnt how to find the freshest ingredients. It felt like we were being let into all sorts of secrets!
We had a little bit of time to wander the market to see what was on offer while Xie picked up some ingredients.

We then travelled to her parent's house where the cookery was to take place. The biggest surprise was their garden where they grow all of the vegetables and a few of the spices they use! We were given a full tour and shown how best to grow things. Call us silly, but Dave & I were surprised to find that pineapples do not grow on trees! Where did you think they grew? We never thought about it before but they are grown in the ground like a root vegetable! Took us a while to get to grips with that! And to find out how the spice turmeric is grown. It looks like fresh ginger & we found it fascinating watching her calve of bits of it from the ground. Felt like we learnt a wealth of stuff out there in her garden!
The best use of turmeric I found was how it stops itching of mosquito bites! I was bitten to shreds the whole 3 weeks but rubbing a little bit of turmeric into my bites took away the itch instantly. I was yellow for the rest of the day but it was worth it!

At the beginning of the day Xie gave us a list of 15 different dishes we could cook. Three soups, three curries, three stir-fry's, three sides and three desserts! Since there was the three of us we broke it up in order to have a go at cooking EVERYTHING! Being able to cook such a range of food was more than we expected so we were excited the entire time. 
Above is mango sticky rice, fried bananas with condensed milk & bananas in coconut milk & vanilla!

Some of our feast!!


This was one of our favourite days and we'd say the best Thai food we ate! Xie even gave us recipe books of all the things we made at the end so in a few weeks time for my 25th birthday I'll be cooking up a Thai feast for a few of my friends! Will be nice to bring the things we learnt there into my own kitchen!

I highly recommend this cooking school! It was so personal, so comfortable & Xie was a spectacular teacher with a great sense of humour and full of so much information & knowledge!