I can't believe a full month of 2006 has passed already!
Today has revolved around food even more so than a normal day. I woke pretty early so wandered around Pai in the cold quiet streets. None of teh restaurants had opened, putting pay to my plan of a westernised breakfast of scrambled eggs. Instead I did a tour of the food vendors on the high street - dim sum from one, deep fried dough from another. Egg roti from one combined with a fantastic cup of Thai filtered coffee from another. Then a wander and some postcard writing, then back for a crazy cup of Thai tea - bright orange and very sweet. Lovely.
I cycled out of town a couple of km to a lovely riverside resort where they do veggie Thai cooking lessons. I was the only student. We started by driving to the wednesday market (lucky timing!) which was a crazy bustle of tents with people from teh mountain villages selling all sorts of fruit and veg. We then drove to a place that sells fresh coconuts. Then we spent an hour or so chopping all the garlic, chillis, ginger, shallots, lemongrass, and all the strange Thai ingredients. Then we spent about two hours grinding everything to an impossibly smooth collection of pastes in the pestle and mortar. It took so long! And despite my massive breakfast I was getting really hungry. And then finally we cooked three delicious curries and pad thai. And then finally, finally, I got to gorge myself on the most delicious food I've had in Thailand.
The red and green curreis tasted so amazing with the fresh coconut milk - way better than tinned. Of the two I think I preferred the red curry with pumpkin. But that's partly because I had green curry just before I was ill in Koh Tao, and partly because I'm not a fan of the mini-eggplant we put in the green curry. The third curry was a norther-Thailand style curry. No coconut this time. Instead - red curry paste, Tamarind, dark soy sauce, textured vegetabel protein (the first time I'd ever cooked with this - pretty nice), delicious straw and shiitake mushrooms, and pineapple. Really rich and dark and strong.
And my teacher was great - really interesting to chat to. He's Thai, from Bangkok, but had to leave the city for unspecified reasons. He told me about the dreadful rural hospitals where they prescribe paracetemol for everything, and about the huge 2m flood they had here last year.
I then spent the afternoon digesting with a big pot of green tea next to the river and chatting to a friendly American couple who live in Colorado. They'd come for 2 months of rock climbing, and here they are 3 months later. My enthusiastic description of my ride must have been infectious, because as teh afternoon wore on out came the map, and plans were formed to go to the nearby city of Chiang Mai to buy bikes and cycle around N. Thailand and into Laos down the Mekong. I hope they do it!
I cycled back to my guesthouse, where I did battle with the dribbling shower that randomly switched between boiling and freezing, and changed into my freshly laundered clothes. I can't describe how good that felt...
Back on the road today - a long day if I'm to make it to a guesthouse - a rather unlikely 105 miles with a 1400m pass inbetween. Think I may be having a night in a police box or under the stars.