I awoke on a sleeper train headed to northern Thailand. Outside the window lush jungle and bamboo huts passed by. Moments like this give me the greatest appreciation and a realization of exactly where I am in the world at that moment.
A woman appeared in the doorway with breakfast -- rice soup. At first I thought it was an odd thing to eat in the morning, not to mention it's ~100 degrees. But I knew I'd be eating rice three times a day for the next two weeks and I embraced it. Rice is a staple here, when locals ask each other how they are doing, it translates to "have you eaten rice yet?"
Arrival in Chiang Mai, another day for exploration around a foreign city. You don't have to walk far before you stumble upon a temple and take a detour to explore. Entering the temples and wats gave me a feeling of tranquility. Maybe it was the quietness, maybe it was the fact that it was exotic, maybe it was the giant Buddhas smirking at me. Whatever the reason, I was overcome with peace. I sat in each one, staring up at the mosaics and flowers that adorned each altar.
That night I took a Thai cooking class. My guide and head chef, Pham (pronounced palm), led a field trip to the local market where he taught about the local fruits and vegetables. We collected the items we'd need for the menu and walked to our cooking venue.
Pham then proceeded to teach me how to whip up four delicious Thai courses: pad Thai, hot and sour soup, red chicken curry, and mango sticky rice. Pham had a fantastic sense of humor and told us about his life. He spent a brief time as a monk in order to study philosophy and English. From there he decided to become a chef in a small restaurant, and eventually made his way as an instructor at Smart Cook. The people here are very kind and welcoming. They want to share their life with you, and I'm all ears.