Saturday, 28 May 2011

Thai Cooking School

Today I went to the Thai Cooking School in Khlong Phrao.  A 10 minute bike ride away, the cooking school is set back off the main road into the jungle and during high season can get very busy, being low season, however, I could just turn up on the day and get onto the course.  The course lasts approximately 3 hours and costs 1200THB (£23).

The course teaches you to cook 6 traditional Thai dishes, including Tom Kha Gai (Hot sour soup), Chicken and Vegetable spring rolls, Red Curry, Green Curry, Yellow Curry and a King Prawn Penang Curry (my favourite!)

Each dish is made form scratch using fresh ingredients.  It was really good because aside from being taught what herbs go well with which meat/fish or which flavours go into which curry, we learnt about what else they can be used for to make other dishes like soups, salads and pastes.

Dish 1: Chicken & Vegetable Spring Rolls

I really enjoyed making these as you get to flatten out the pastry, cook the mixture, then add it to the pastry.  The rolling technique was a little more difficult than I expected it to be, but hey, every day is a school day!  Once rolled they are placed into a wok half full of palm oil and gradually turned until brown. Once cooked, we used a strange knife I've never seen before to slice them into segments and made a Thai Sweet Chili sauce consisting of Garlic, Salt, Sugar, Chili, White Wine Vinegar and Coconut Sugar reduced down over a high heat. Simple and tasty.

Dish 2:  Tom Kha Gai.

This soup is made with Coconut Milk, Galangal (Similar to Ginger) Lemongrass, Chilli and Chicken. The fried chillies add a smoky flavor as well as texture, color and heat, but not so much that it overwhelms the soup. We were told that the key is to get a taste balance between the spices, if you get it wrong it is easily corrected with an extra chilli or extra Lemon Grass.

Dish 3: King Prawn Phanaeng Curry

Phanaeng curry is a type of Thai curry that is milder than other Thai curries. It traditionally includes dried chili peppers, galangal, lemongrass, coriander root, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, and salt, and sometimes also shallots, peanuts, and shrimp paste.  All of these ingredients you can get from Thai Shops back home.  The curry paste was made by smashing the above mixture together in a Pestle and Mortar until is resembled a paste.  We then added the paste to the wok (without oil) and fried with Coconut milk, then added fresh raw peeled King Prawns.  It takes 10 minutes to cook and is my personal favourite.  Thai people like to crush peanuts and sprinkle over the top.  Very very tasty.

 Dish 4:  Tom Yum Soup (very hot)

Similar to Tom Kha Gai, this soup is clear and and sour.  It is made with about 6 birds eye small chillies and makes your nose run like hell!  If you don't like hot food, steer clear of this one!

Dish 5:  Kaeng Luaeng (Yellow Curry)

This curry is richer and creamier than other Thai curries, since coconut cream is used in addition to coconut milk. This richer curry tends to tone down the overall spiciness of the dish and I found that it tasted much more like an Indian Curry - Hence its popularity on menus outside of Thailand. The main spices/ingredients we used in this were cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, garlic, salt, bay leaf, lemongrass, cayenne pepper, ginger, mace (YES, MACE!)  and cinnamon. Mace is the leaf which grows on the Nutmeg.

Dish 6: Banana and Coconut Soup:

I'm not keen on deserts, but this was very simple to make.  Chop a Banana and sick it in some simmering coconut milk with LOTS of palm sugar.  That's it!

There are Thai cooking schools all over the country so if your ever here, it is really worth doing.  You get a certificate, a recipe book and you can take your cooked food home.

~ Adam

Friday, 27 May 2011

Road Trip to Salak Phet

 Today we got on our bike and decided to go (nearly) all the way around the Island.  After a 30km drive passing by jungle, rainforest, beaches, and residential areas we eventually arrived in a town called Salak Phet.  Salak Phet is the largest and oldest community on Koh Chang.  It is located in the south east coast of the island and is mainly inhabited by fishermen and tradesmen.  There are a wide network of small fishing villages around Salak Phet and are interconnected by makeshift piers and masses of mangroves.

The area itself seems pretty isolated and we didn't see any westerners around, only local Thai people.  I much prefer it this way as you get to feel like your outside the tourist trap and you get to sample a real taste of traditional local island life.

After a walk around the fishing village we got back on the bike and headed a few miles down the road to the centre of Salak Phet. On the way there we passes by a local school which all the Thai children attend.  It's funny to see the look on their faces - sometimes they will do a double-take when they realise the guys passing by on the motorbike are not Thai, which usually generates a smile from them.

We stopped at Wat Salak Phet temple which was originally built during the reign of King Rama V but has now been almost completely renovated and rebuilt.  The detail of decoration on the temple if nothing short of stunning.  This picture really doesn't do it justice but trust me - every inch of this temple is delicately covered in gold leaf, stones, hand carved dragons and Buddha statues, brightly coloured dragons of red, gold green and blue. It is so detailed that you would need a good hour to take in everything, always coming across something you'd missed before.  Remarkable feat of architecture.

The temple is home to several monks in the area who depend entirely on food, money and other offerings which are necessary to their living from the local community.  We donated some money to the offering box and took a look around the grounds.

The temple is surrounded by lush green lawns which are so well kept to the point where at any one time there is at least one monk raking the leaves or trimming and pruning the plant life surrounding the ground.

On the drive back home we stopped off at an old pier on the east coast - I am unsure whether or not it is still in use, but it is pretty big and I've no doubt it must still serve as some kind of entry point to the island - whether it's for tourists or local fisherman.

As the sun started to set, we saw some local men in the water navigating their way through huge nets and checking their catch of the day.  The had been hand fishing for Shrimp, Clams and other shellfish to sell to local fishmongers and restaurant's.

The round trip is about 40km - and it was worth all 40 of them.

~ Adam

Friday, 20 May 2011

Tattoo Time!!

I decided to have a tattoo done today and it was the most painful feeling ever!! (I am a wuss)
We just nipped to the shop to have a look at the images that they had and i ended up sat at the computer looking at owl pictures and within 5 minutes i had chosen the one i wanted!!- i really like to take my time over things.

The guys in the shop were really friendly- except for the one who tattooed me, he didnt speak any english. (But he looked nice ha) It took about 20 minutes for it to be done and i was squeezing adams hand so much that i was literally dripping with sweat. It cost rather alot, 1500 baht which is about £30. I think i could of got it for less but i wanted to get it out of the way as i was so scared! I was really happy with the outcome i just didnt realise that i cant go swimming for 2 weeks- unless i wrap my foot in cling film, great stuff!

It adams turn to get one next.......

Koh Chang Grand Lagoona

We visited Koh Chang Grand Lagoona Resort yesterday, which is located about 10 minutess motorbike drive past the village of Bang Bao. The place was rather strange and many people on the island actually believe that it doesnt exist. It was quite a hard place to find as you have to motorbike down a dirt road and there are signs saying private road which made us abit wary about carrying on. After 10 minutes down the dirt road we reached a security guard sitting in a hut. He looked very happy to see us!! We paid him 150 baht each which is about £3 and he gave us tickets for a free drink, snack and a map! We drove round the corner and reached a bicycle renting service, so we got on our bikes (adams had a bell) and rode to the first stop.

Ship Hotel

Galaxy Floating hotel is a seven deck hotel placed next to the sea. It is quite breathakingly strange once you first see it, but the idea of staying in it would be pretty cool! It cost 699 baht per night which would equate to only £14!!

Right next to the Galaxy Hotel was a deserted beach with sunloungers and palm trees galore! The sea was clear and it was unbeliveable that their was no one else on there! The only people we saw in the whole resort were thai workers and chefs just cycling around or watering the plants.

The scenery and objects placed around this place were amazing, it felt like it had been created by some millionaire,  trying to intise rich people to stay in their own little paradise. (Not sure whether its working if no one thinks it exists!)  If you have ever seen lost it felt like the dharma barracks as it was so secluded and the mountains, trees and cabins were all there!

Hmmmm i wonder what lives in here?!

The Grand Lagoona had many floating hotels which had been created in little lakes around the resort. It is the largest resort in Koh Chang and is so interesting to discover and explore as there is so many random things placed around! It was a very amazing place to see and we are possibly going to spend a night in the big ship!!


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Khlong Phlu Waterfall

Waterfall Sign
Today we went to Klong Phlu Waterfall.  One of several waterfalls on the Island, Klong Phlu is the biggest waterfall (20 meters) on the Island and is about 30 minutes on foot from the Security and Information Desk.  The walk through the jungle to reach the waterfall is what you'd expect - Humid, Wet and full of Wildlife.  The are many species of plant and animal life, including several rare species of tree (Forgotten which ones).  The path is steep and rocky at parts so a rope is required to aid your balance across the pathways.

Along the way we saw Lizards, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Ants and birds - many of which I've never seen the likes of before. 

Clouded Sulphur Butterfly - (Phoebis sennae)

After about 25 minutes we'd trekked 700 metres and the sound of fast running water was getting closer to us.  We had a lot of rain yesterday (March 17th 2011).  In fact it rained heavily non stop with constant flashes of lightening and rumbles of thunder. The heavy rainfall made sure that the waterfall was flowing steadily which was good because last time I came here in New Year 2011, it was totally dry due to the dry season.

Rainwater Lake

Once your at the waterfall the sight is amazing.  The water is gushing down from a height and crashing against the rocks.  Some people were swimming in the water and diving off the rocks into the pool.  I crossed the fast flowing river aided by a rope and some cement bags and the water was absolutely freezing! By now you can tell I don't do cold water!

Khlong Phlu Waterfall

We sat on the rocks and watched the waterfall for an hour.  It is a really nice attraction and if you ever visit the island then it's a must to see.  It is located halfway between Kai Bae and Whitesands and costs 200THB (£4.50) to get in - Which is more than we thought we'd have to pay, but you don't get things like this back home.  The butterfly that made friends with my foot decided to make friends with my t-shirt too and stayed on me for a good while!


Thirsty Work

More to Follow....


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Chang Chutiman Elephant Trek, Klong Prao


Today we went Elephant Trekking in Klong Prao.  If you have done this before then you'll know just how amazing this experience is.  If you are unfortunate enough to have not trekked through the Jungle on an Elephant, then I hope this blog will go some way to encouraging you to try it.  It's hard to explain the feeling you get when its just you, the elephant your guide, and hectares and hectares of uninhabited Jungle and Rainforest.  I supposed 'isolation' would be a good word, except when you take a look around at your surroundings and see 8 inch butterflies, 3 inch wasps, spiders and rainforest birds you realise that you are far from alone.

The trek costs 900 THB (£17) and lasts two hours.  We managed to get a discount from our friend and managed to only have to pay £10 for the whole tour.  Our elephant Rambo (above) was one of the largest elephants I think I have ever seen.  He lumbered over to the perch which you have to climb to get on the ladder.  The first hour of the trek consists of a one hour trek through a rubber plantation then on through a Pomello orchard - Pomello is a citrus fruit - the ancestor of the Grapefruit.
Jungle Path
Once you and the elephant have navigated through the Orchards we then got visit a crystal clear rock pool where Rambo and us cooled off.

Washing Rambo

Being a very hot day, it was nice to take a dip into a cold lake.  Unlike the warm sea, this natural lake was a lot cooler than I thought and I ended up getting into it and scrambling to the elephant to catch my breath!  After making a slight idiot out of myself, I got to wash off the Rambo as he sprayed water over his head onto mine - which was amazing.  It's a bizarre feeling being in a lake with such a huge mammal  - You forget just how big they are when they're in the water as most of their body is submerged.  Sophie joined me and the guide took our camera from us for a good photo opportunity

Cooling Off

On the return leg, you are allowed to ride the elephant yourself bareback which is a tremendous experience.  You need good balance as the shoulder bones moving up and down as it walks along can knock you off balance and there really isn't anything to hold on to.

Which way, your Majesty!?

The sun was beginning to set on the way back which provided some stunning scenery (lot of that around here).  Sophie was sat on the saddle like some kind of ancient queen!  The ride back seems to take a lot less longer than the outward trek even though it takes the same route - I think the excitement of riding the elephant ourselves takes your mind off things and you get taken in by the moment.

Return Leg

Once you arrive back at the Camp you get a complimentary soft drink or beer and a chance to dry off, relax and look at all of the other elephants which operate tours.

If I had the chance, I would do this every day.  It is a unique experience and if you have the chance to do it, you must. 

More to Follow...

~ Adam

Life in Koh Chang

Well we have been here two weeks today and we both feel very settled, life in Koh Chang is very relaxed. Its lovely to stop on the way home to see a beautiful sunset and just relax.

But saying that... we visited Wat Klong Prao temple which is about a 20 minute ride from our house,  and got caught up in a massive rain and thunder storm so had to take shelter for about an hour. The temple was lovely though......... shame about the weather! We regularly get woken up by thunder storms which sound like their right on top of the house, scary stuff!

Leftover from a landslide
 Our day to day routine usually consists of waking up at about 2pm (bad, i know!) and then popping to the beach or for some lovely Thai or western food.  There are so many dogs around here its unreal, but they are so lazy! i tipped some water on one of their faces and it didn't even flinch! (Too much of the good life!)

Then we usually go for some drinks, to a party or BBQ and get in around 4am and sleep at about 6! The sleeping pattern is taking its toll a little bit as there is so much to do and see!

Adam is trying to teach me how to play pool as i realised i was rubbish after playing killer with 10 men and making a fool out of myself. So he's going to make me into a master and i will beat all of them. Muhahahaha!

Adam's new girlfriend (the one in the middle)

The nightlife is really cool here, we went to see a ladyboy show last night which was followed by a fire show. Some of the ladyboys are really convincing and actually beautiful, but a few of them are definite blokes!! All the people we have met are really friendly and they never seem to stop partying!

Swollen foot :(
We went for an elephant trek and i think i must of been bitten, or had a reaction to a bite! Going to the bar last night was fun as everyone took the mic out of me and the night ended up with adam giving me a piggyback out of the bar.....!

More to follow......................


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Bang Bao BBQ

Tonight we got invited to a BBQ at Pierre's house, he lives in Bang Bao in the middle of an old fishing port. There was about 10 of us eating and the food was amazing, Beef, Chicken, Freshly caught Red Snapper (which i ate, the first fish in 15 years!!) and it tasted amazing.

  Noi preparing the food  :) yum


It was a really chilled out night, people just eating little bits and then going to lie down, something i always get told off for in england (not to leave the table until everyones finished eating. ppppffff)

Here's Pierre preparing the BBQ, hes the only Cambodian Dive master, hes going to teach adam how to dive, i might just document with taking pictures hehe! They have two dogs at the house, Zombie and Foxy. Zombie is possibly the laziest dog ive met- i love it! I made friends with them and it fulfilled my urge to see sally dog at home!

 We stayed until about midnight and then drove back to our home Kai Bae which is about at 20 minute motor bike ride on ridiculously scary roads. We were almost halfway back and Adam got hit in the face by something and then it landed on his arm, it turned out it was a 6 inch stag beetle. I cant believe we didnt crash! such a shock, for the rest of the journey i hid behind adam.