The last day of our vacation raced by. We said goodbye to the elephants, the Burmese serving staff and drove into Chiangmai, some 55 kilometers to the northeast in a fancy van. The driver dropped us off at the cooking school where we offloaded our luggage and went to the market to check out the local produce. We had a guide who was just learning English but except for one item, knew all the English names of the things we would be cooking with. He bought us a sugary snack with banana paste and coconut to tie us over until we had cooked the first part of our lunch.

We were the only students in the class and thus had a semi private lesson. We picked our dishes: Axel was going to cook Massaman curry, a coconut chicken soup (Tom Kha), and Pad Thai. I picked a green curry, a spicy prawn soup (Tom Yum) and spring rolls. The cooking school threw in sticky mango rice as a bonus. We first made the most labor-intensive dish, the curries, then cut up the ingredients for the soups. Halfway through the class we ate what we produced then went back to work on the remaining dishes. When we were done we had about one hour to spare before going to the airport to catch our flight to Bangkok. We found a pedicure place and had our legs and feet massaged and my nails colored.

The planes to and from Chiangmai are jumbo jets that are completely filled and fly about 4 to 5 times a day (Thai Airways); there are other carriers as well, doing the same. It is quite astounding how many people go between those to cities. Some of the passengers are tourists but many are not. The flights are cheap, 40 to 60 dollars each way and going by road or train takes a whole day.

In Bangkok we were shuttled to our hotel for a short night. We had to be at the airport at 4 AM for our flight home, first to Narita and then via Minneapolis to Boston. This time I lucked out and got the upgrade I had requested, leaving Axel behind in his mildly comfortable Economy Comfort seat. Despite the availability of a seat that could turn into a flatbed I did not sleep at all; between the painful shoulder and the noise of the plane I could only doze. Our friend Edward who has a limo service picked us up and drove us home – we were practically comatose.

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March 2015
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