Poo, bikes, islands and a whole lot of sun…

It’s amazing how quickly it is to get back into the routine of life and feel like your holiday has sailed away back to a distant island, but as we’ve been back to reality for a week, I’m enjoying looking through the photos that take me back to a place of fascinating culture, friendly people, crystal clear waters and a sun that I’d argue is possibly harsher than Australia’s!

As I left I had a wish list of things to achieve, see or experience in Thailand and whilst I didn’t quite fulfil everything, in typical Ramrakha style we filled in every possible hour of the day to ensure we made the most out of our holiday summarised in 4 words: Poo, bikes, islands and a whole lot of sun…

1. Learn to cook a traditional Massaman Curry.

Check. We enjoyed a wonderful Saturday morning with the cheeky Poo, a talented cook and a social entrepreneur who’s cleverly used her name to market her ‘Cooking with Poo’  lessons that support Thailand’s biggest urban slum – Klong Tooey. My favourite part about these classes is that we’re cooking right in the midst of it, in her adapted space in the slum, unlike the hundreds of other cooking classes available throughout Bangkok, taking place in fancy kitchens in top hotel chains. The experience is definitely unique and really calls you to count on your blessings. Before our class we had a lesson in Thai delicacies in the Klong Tooey market, a place not for the faint-hearted as we strolled past frogs, pig heads and bugs of all shapes and forms. The smell of the meat, fruit and vegetables, combined with the intense heat and noise of sellers shouting out across their stalls or the splash of a hose as animal insides were washed down the street was overwhelming but stimulating – I travel for these rare types of experiences!

Back to Poo’s kitchen we cooked a delicious lemongrass chicken salad (recipe below), a stuffed omelet (none for my egg-opposing mouth!) and my favourite – Massaman Curry. This is definitely not the easiest dish to replicate at home, but I am committed to cooking this traditionally one Saturday before the end of the year. If you’re invited to this lunch, feel very important, this is not a meal to be made nonchalantly after work! 🙂 Enjoy the recipe at the bottom of the post, it’s quick and easy and absolutely DELICIOUS!!

2. Ride an elephant with a sustainable tourism provider.

There is nothing like plonking through a jungle as the sun streams through the leaves, with the sparkling view of the sea in sight, on top of an elephant. It was a wonderful experience sharing Navin’s first elephant ride with him, especially with Siam Safari, a fantastic company which obviously cares about the elephants and the overall experience and education of their guests. After our elephant trek we learnt about Thai cooking, rice production, rode a buffalo, saw some baby elephants playing soccer and rubber tapping. If you enjoy travelling to learn about other cultures and ways of life, Siam Safari is definitely for you. Topped up with lunch on board a junk boat on the picturesque Chalong Bay this is a must have experience in Phuket!

3. Go for a cycle around Cape Panwa

This wish list item wasn’t achieved in Cape Panwa but rather in the crazy bustle and traffic of Bangkok, just because we like to challenge ourselves that little bit extra! 😉 We booked into a 25km half-day cycle of Bangkok Jungle on our first afternoon in Bangkok with Spice Roads, another fantastic company that allows you to see the hidden parts of Asia by bicycle. Possibly one of the most terrifying moments of my life as we road across the 6-8 lane roads on a Friday afternoon, I am grateful we saw another part of the city that most tourists may overlook. Bangkok Jungle is like stepping back into time – a quaint part of the city just across the river, the island maintains the lush green life that I’m sure Bangkok once enjoyed decades ago. Cycling on paths just wide enough for our bike, 2m above a muddy swamp pushed me way out of my comfort zone and really put me in the mindset for my training for my upcoming Cambodia trip. Including a ride through the Klong Tooey slum, Spice Roads is definitely a great way to see busy Asian cities in a new light. If I’m not sick of cycling by the time I get to Vietnam in January, I’d love to do another cycle in Ho Chi Minh too!

4. Enjoy a traditional Thai massage

My one regret is not getting a massage every day… our massage was pure bliss and the rewards were felt days after…and for only $10AUD / hour we could have had SEVEN massages for the price of a Thai massage in Sydney! There’s nothing quite like having a tiny, harmless looking Thai lady walk across your back to release aches and pains!

5. Visit a temple

Unfortunately this was the one wish we didn’t get to fulfil properly. We saw a lot of temples in passing, especially on our cycle tour but didn’t get the opportunity to stop and enter, so one day I’ll eventually have to get back to Thailand to visit the Grand Palace 😉 In place of temples however, we did visit a LOT of islands… Phi Phi islands, James Bond island, Koh Panyee floating village… we definitely saw a lot of sun, sand and sea. I’ll be posting our spectacular photos on Flickr soon and will include a link once they’re live.. but for now enjoy this one!

If you’re looking for your next holiday destination, Thailand should be it. It’s such a beautiful country full of great activities, food and experiences to suit everyone and not to mention it’s CHEAP. Let me know if you need any more recommendations, would be happy to share!!

For now, once I get over my terrible sunburn (as I said before, Thailand sun is HARSH!) it’s time to amp up my training for my Challenge 4 Change in January.. in 2 months I’ll be cycling and trekking around Cambodia to raise money for the Oaktree Foundation. You can sponsor me on my challenge here: “Caitlin in Cambodia” – THANK YOU!

Lemongrass Chicken Salad Recipe (Yum Ta Krail)

1/2 cup thinly sliced lemongrass                   3 tbsp roasted peanuts

1 – 5 chillies (or none if you’re me ;))            3 tbsp roasted coconut

1 tbsp sliced red onion                                       3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp coriander (more if you’re me ;))          3 tbsp lime juice

300g chicken mince                                           1/4 tbsp brown sugar

1. Thinly slice the lemongrass, red onion and coriander and leave to the side

2. Brown chicken mince

3. Roast peanuts and coconut in a fry-pan (no oil) for 5 minutes or less on medium heat

4. Combine fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar in a bowl

5. Combine coriander, lemongrass and red onion with browned mince, add liquid and mix well.

6. Serve with coriander and enjoy

I tried this at home this weekend and whilst it wasn’t as fresh as the ingredient in Poo’s kitchen it was still very DELICIOUS and makes a perfect take-in lunch for work! YUM!

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