When I last wrote, we were wandering around Chiang Mai, and the day after that post we spent all day at a fantastic cooking class where we learned to make a large number of Thai dishes ... the hands down winner was chicken with cashew nuts, which is secretly the most popular dish in Thailand. A close second was the curry with noodles, Khao Soi. Spectacular!
The day after the cooking class we slept in and then took the bus up to Chiang Dao, a small town about an hour north of Chiang Mai, up in the mountains. We stayed at a resort called the Nest ... which is really a small portal into some kind of paradise we can somehow access here on earth. It is a series of gorgeous wooden bungalows spread out across a series of edenesque gardens on the edge of a National Park full of soaring 2,000 meter mountains. Fantastic. While we we there we walked the 500 steps up to an incredible monastery, took a guided trek through the park, exploring a cave, a gorgeous waterfall and 2 Lisu villages and ate at the incredible European style restaurant at the Nest. Best dish was probably the duck in passion-fruit reduction with new potatoes and leeks, followed by an incredible vanilla bean creme brulee. Awesome. After two glorious days at the Nest (and we both wished we had booked longer), we went back to Chiang Mai, picked up our tailored shirts and Aviva's suit, and we to a Thai cultural dance performance that was half-tourist trap, half-fantastic ... the dance where the young men danced while playing veritcal drums was awesome.
Then, Friday, we headed down to Phuket. We were originally going to Samui, but it turns out that Chinese New Years is a bigger deal here than we expected and every flight to Samui was full. So Phuket (pronounced poo-get) it was ... and even though our hotel choices were limited, we ended up with an incredible deal at the Radisson Plaza Resort Panwa Bay, in a deluxe suite with a private balcony including an outdoor bathtub overlooking Panwa Bay. It was unreal. We spent much of Friday and Saturday just lounging around in the seaside pool, having drinks at the swim-up bar, checking out the aquarium and walking in the tidepools just off shore during low tide.
Friday night we ate at a an insanely pretentious beach club, Sri Panwa, down the cape, where we sat at a table that was recessed into a huge cliffside swimming pool over looking the ocean (its really tough to describe so I grabbed this image from their website - we sat at the far left table). The way to the restaurant was a half a mile walk, and we were asked no fewer than eight times if we needed a taxi to get there from the entrance (proving, again, that as we were told, Thais do not walk anywere). The table was only accessible by a series of stone steps through the pool, and as the waiters we walking over to you it looked like they were swimming. The food (giant tiger prawns and sweet/spicy grouper) was great, but the ambience was ridiculous.
Saturday afternoon we headed into Phuket city, made plans for some tours in the next few days, ate an incredible lunch at Siam Indigo (I think Aviva's loster ravioli just edged my braised young duck fillets over hokken noodle clusters) and spent another romatic night on our balcony, before waking up on Sunday to start our tours .... which I will tell you more about in the last update ....