It’s difficult to believe our trip is coming to an end. But after all the temples, fried fish, and clothing shops, it is time to fly back to Bangkok for our last shopping and eating adventures before returning home. We will miss the North’s cooler weather, but we can have all the cool weather we want in the Bay Area, so perhaps a little Bangkok Winter heat is just what we need?
Incredibly, this is the twelfth trip I’ve taken in Thailand with my Thai cooking teacher Kasma Loha-Unchit, and somehow it doesn’t get old. Bangkok and the other places we visit are constantly changing, each group has its own dynamics, and through some miracle, we find new things to eat each time. Let the exploration begin!
We have become deeply attached to our villa overlooking the infinity pool overlooking the sea. We do not want to leave, but our time in Phuket is up and we must move on. Most of our group will stay overnight in Bangkok, providing additional time to relax or to shop. Geneva and I fly out tonight and will have a thirteen hour layover to explore Seoul. Let’s do this.
Being Sunday, it’s a perfect day to head to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Thailand’s largest bazaar. I only had one taker for this plan, so there will be multiple itineraries today. We’ll meet up for dinner and share stories.
During my research on group activities, I accidentally discovered a site called Cookly, which lists numerous cooking courses in Bangkok. Amongst the fancy professional and hotel cooking schools were several home-based classes that offered a great value and, I hoped, a setup one could better hope to recreate back in the States. Today we’ll have the opportunity to see for ourselves.
The Royal Orchid Sheraton is very close to Chinatown, which is the first stop on our walking tour this morning. I suppose it would be more accurate to say walking, boat, bus and tuk tuk tour, but we will get to that soon enough. The first challenge for my friends is fighting the jet lag and getting to the lobby by 8:15 to meet our guides.
Five friends will be joining me on their first trip to Thailand this afternoon. I don’t think I’ve learned enough Thai to function as a tour guide, but I have apps for translation, mapping, and reviews, so I’m hoping it will all work out. This morning, I have time for one more massage before checking out of the Salil and moving across town.
The last day of any of Kasma’s trips dawns bittersweet. We will celebrate our time together with a dinner feast, but our little tribe might never find ourselves all together in one place again. At least we have photos, and nearly 24 hours of potential adventures ahead.
On Kasma’s Southern trip, we have a couple days here in Thailand’s enormous capital city before heading for the beautiful coast of the Andaman Sea. If all goes according to plan, there will be delicious meals, bargain hunting, massages, and good internet connectivity. Unfortunately, this year the air will be even more polluted than usual. In truth, I don’t mind having another excuse to avoid strenuous outdoor activity in the tropical heat, but I brought masks just in case.
Today we’ll fly to Bangkok and wrap up our adventure in Southern Thailand with the traditional feast of Northeastern food and entertainment — my tenth. It’s remarkable that after all these years I still can’t predict whether my purchases will fit in my bags and meet the weight limit. But then, it wouldn’t be travel without surprises.
After taking a couple of days to orient myself to local time, I will at last be meeting up with our group for the first of many dinnertime feasts, and tomorrow our journey begins in earnest. At mid-day I will move from the condo to our hotel, but first, I’ll have one last breakfast on my own. Maybe it’s time to take a break from pork noodle soup? There are so many other kinds of noodle soup I could try.
When I mention to people that I’m traveling to Thailand with my Thai cooking teacher Kasma Loha-Unchit, they often think I am coming here to learn how to cook Thai food. I always feel a bit sheepish explaining that I take my Thai cooking lessons right at home, in Oakland, California (The Art of Thai Cooking), and I come to Thailand to eat as much properly cooked Thai food as humanly possible. Not out of mere gluttony — also to refresh my taste memory of the heights to which my cooking aspires. Today I will finally take a cooking class on this side of the Pacific and learn some variations from the techniques I’ve been taught in the past. But first, how about some pork noodle soup for breakfast?
Before my trip last year, my sister gave me Thailand’s Best Street Food (Amazon.com), and since I wasn’t able to work my way through the entire list then, I’m going to resume my work today and try to eat as much Bangkok street food as possible. I think I’m ready for any eventuality: I brought Tums, Pepto-Bismol, and a Z-Pak.
My roommate Greg kindly agreed to drive me to the airport for my flight. Although I had ambitions of leaving home by 8:00AM — wait, why are you laughing? — true to form, with so much to pack in so little space, not unsurprisingly, our actual departure was much later. As I rolled my bags toward the counter and spotted the self-check-in machines, I suddenly remembered what I had forgotten to pack. It wasn’t the mask, snorkel, or fins, six (!) cameras, their chargers, or innumerable batteries. It was the one thing you most need for an international trip, and I don’t mean clean underwear (although, at that point, it might have been welcome). Call an Uber: I forgot my passport!
Today we return to Bangkok for a final feast and lots of farewells, and tomorrow morning I have a few bonus hours for shopping and, of course, frantic packing. But first, we must pick over the Tanya Inn’s breakfast buffet one last time and dash to the Chiang Rai airport where, true to form, a delay will have us cooling our heels. Same same.