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Tue Dec 15 2015: Cooking up Some Big Decisions

Sawadee Kruhp!

We've been in Thailand for just over a month and not too much has happened. Iva was only with us a for a few days longer in Chiang Mai, so the girls took a cooking class just outside of the city.

First stop before cooking class is a trip to the local market to pick up ingredients

I also took a cooking class, so there are some pictures interspersed of my trip to the market. This is our cooking instructor Phern

Neda is getting some good tips on which are the best spices and sauces to use

About 45 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, our cooking school is in the middle of the farm. Cool!

Fresh ingredients are picked from the garden just outside

The class is set up so that all the ingredients are brought to you and all the pots and pans are washed after you're done with them.
We should go to cooking school every day! 55555!

Oh yeah, I also picked up some Thai Internet lingo. The number "5" is pronounced "ha".... so "55555" = "hahahahaha" :)

Neda's cooking up some delicious Tom Yum Soup.

I'm only attending cooking class for all the eating at the end. And because I look so good in an apron...

Before this class, I had no idea what went into green curry. Basically you pound a bunch of ingreendients and you end up with a paste. Neat!

My green curry paste is on the right, Neda's is on the left. Mine's smoother... 555. The only thing I'm better at cooking than Neda is brute force mortaring and pestling.

The format of the class is that for each dish, our instructor shows us what to do
and then we are off to our individual stations to make magic

I found out that there are just a handful of ingredients that you use for Thai cooking: coconut milk, lime, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, shallots and basil. It's the combination and amounts you use to come up with a variety of dishes.

My favorite dessert is Mango Sticky Rice. Basically it's coconut milk, palm sugar and rice. The purple colour comes from a flower called Butterfly Pea

The girls had a great time cooking. I had a great time eating!

Iva and Neda spend their few hours just hanging out and having fun

It was a sad day when Iva had to leave us to head back to Bangkok and catch her flight back to Croatia. We've been surrounded by friends for over the last two months solid, and now we were left alone to ourselves. While it was amazing to be so social, what we really needed was to properly focus on recuperating from our travel fatigue. The last couple of weeks, we've just stayed inside our cool apartment. Neda experimented with some Thai cooking at home, and we ventured out a few times a week to eat out.

After a Skype session with some friends back home, I noticed how much weight I was gaining. Time to cut back on all the good Thai food... Is there a Thai number for Fat? ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ :(

Lining up to extend our visa (exemption)

Our Thai visa ran out after a month. It's actually not a proper visa, but a visa exemption - since Thailand has an agreement with a lot of first-world countries that allows you to enter the country without having to obtain a visa beforehand. This exemption gives you a 30-day stay in Thailand, but you either have to leave and come back, or you are allowed to extend the exemption once for an additional 30 days while you are in the country for a fee.

We would like to stay longer. A lot longer. Because we've fallen in love with Chiang Mai.

The northern mountain weather is dryer and cooler than the rest of the country. Outside of Yi Peng, there aren't a lot of attractions in the city - no beaches, no big temples - so not as much tourist traffic as a Bangkok or Phuket. Despite it being one of the cheapest places to live in Thailand, it's a very middle-class city with plenty of amenities all centrally located. We've not felt this at home in a city since we stayed in La Paz, Mexico and Medellin, Colombia.

The cost of living here is about 25% of the cost of living in Toronto, with all things being equal. We left a very comfortable lifestyle back in Canada, spending most of the last three and a half years living in a tent and sleeping on friends' couches. Now that we are able to afford the same standard of living that we left behind, this kind of luxury is seductive. We originally came to Thailand not just to escape the European winter, but also to figure out what we want to do with our travels and our lives moving forward. What we're feeling right now is that we are very burnt out and it doesn't look like a few months will solve that. We haven't experienced what Chiang Mai is like all year round, but we are now seriously talking about settling here full-time as ex-pats.

It's such a stereotype - the western ex-pat in Thailand. But once you get here, stuff just starts to make sense: The weather, the friendly people, the low cost of living, the high standard of living you are able to afford... And to think, just a month and a half ago, we weren't even planning on coming here!

There are a number of things we still have to research and figure out. What do we do with our big bikes in Croatia? Do we ride them from Croatia to Thailand? What are the route/carnet/visa issues involved with that? If we do that, we'll only have a window of time in the spring/summer/fall of 2016. Just talking about planning and doing that ride down here is stressing us out, with all its timelines and schedules. Can't we just ship the bikes here? Are we even allowed to import them into Thailand? And how do we stay full time in our newly chosen home?

So much research to do.

Also, we are getting sick of haggling with the Fire Truck drivers. We were thinking about renting scooters. However, after our 30-day visa exemption extension expires, we cannot extend it again and will have to leave the country to either come in on another 30-day visa exemption or apply for a proper 60-day tourist visa outside of Thailand. We looked at renting bigger motorcycles and riding out and back into Thailand, but the rental companies don't allow you to leave the country on their rentals.

So the plan right now is to buy a couple of cheap, used motorcycles. Depending on if we stay or leave, we'll probably be able to sell them and still come out ahead than if we rented bikes. I've found a bunch of on-line classifieds and also put the word out that we're looking for bikes. We've got a month before we have to leave the country so that should be plenty of time to find two-wheeled transport.

Putting the "Ride" back into RideDOT.com!

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