A Thai Cooking Course in Chiang Mai and White Temple, Chiang Rai

I’d always wanted to do a Thai cooking course in Chiang Mai – I’d heard it was one of the best places in Thailand to do one and I’ve always loved the northern Thai cuisine. About half our group decided to do the course as it was an optional activity of the trip.

A Thai Cooking Course in Chiang Mai

We started off by going to the local market and learning about all the different foods  – the ingredients were all so fresh and it was great being able to look at and smell them all! There are 27 main herbs and spices that form the basis for Thai cooking and give it it’s special flavour. Included in these are 3 types of basil, 3 types of aubergine (or eggplant) and two types of ginger. Each of the ingredients has different health benefits too – did you know that cloves can help reduce toothache and bell peppers can help reduce perspiration? No, neither did I 🙂

Thai cooking course in Chiang Mai

The cooking school itself is called Baan Hongnual and was a very ambient, peaceful place surrounded by greenery, perfect for inspiring some great dishes! We gave all the ingredients to the staff and they split everything into individual portions for us. We each had our own workstation with everything ready for us – it was very hands-on which was great. We even had beers whilst we were cooking which was a nice touch 🙂

We made tom yam soup (a hot and sour soup) and spring rolls first of all. They were surprisingly quick to make and had less ingredients than I was expecting. We also learnt how to roll a spring roll properly so the filling doesn’t spill out (always my problem on previous attempts)! The next courses were pad thai and a curry of our choice – I chose paneang which has always been a favourite of mine. I now know how to make it properly! It was all absolutely delicious.

Thai Cooking Course in Chiang Mai

We got given a detailed recipe book at the end and I have actually re-created the massaman curry since being back home (it was almost as good). The spices are pretty easy to find in the UK but some of the vegetables are hard to get – they list substitutes but the curry may end up tasting slightly different. Nevertheless, all the recipes are detailed and very easy to re-create at home – I’m looking forward to making a pad thai next.

A Peaceful Haven of Pretty Streets

Chiang Mai itself is a really chilled out, relaxed city – certainly within the city walls anyway. The old city is bounded by a moat and remnants of the wall built 700 years ago to defend against Burmese invaders. It’s a peaceful haven of narrow streets filled within family-run guesthouses and pretty, leafy cafes and restaurants. We stumbled across a clay-making centre and cafe called The Faces which was set in a courtyard full of clay statues and rambling vines and plants, with chairs and tables hidden amongst them all. A fantastic setting for lunch.

Thai cooking course in Chiang Mai

That evening we went to a cabaret show in Anusarn night market – a must-do if you’re in Thailand – and it was spectacular! They were all absolutely amazing performers, and incredibly beautiful. Even though we knew they were men, it was very difficult to see them as anything other than stunning women. They had a few lookalikes – my favourite was Rhianna who was so like the real Rhianna! She was amazing. Liam, one of the guys from my group, got picked to go on stage with 3 other guys and be ‘transformed’ into women. When they returned to the stage in their dresses, jewellery and wigs, and attempted a dance routine, some were a lot more convincing than others. Liam looked pretty comfortable up there I have to say….;-)

Cabaret in Chiang Mai

White Temple, Chiang Rai

The next day we set off for the Laos border – stopping off at the wonderful White Temple or Wat Rong Khun on the way, just south of Chiang Rai. Built in 1997 and the artistic vision of Thai painter-turned-architect Chalermchai Kositpipat, there are some fascinating sculpture installations representing Buddhist principals, as well as contemporary murals and pop culture references replacing the typical scenes of village life and Buddha figures.

White Temple, Chiang Rai

The main building of the temple is reached by crossing a bridge over a small lake. Underneath the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands which symbolise unrestrained desire, with the bridge symbolising the way to happiness by foregoing temptation, greed and desire. It was unnerving seeing all those hands seemingly trying to grab you…we were lucky enough to be there as the sun was setting which gave the temple an even more ethereal quality.

White Temple, Chiang Rai

Inside the temple, the decor changes from pristine white to fiery and abstract. The murals here depict swirls of fire, demon faces and the destructive impact the humans have had on earth. Interspersed are western idols and superheroes such as Michael Jackson, Superman and Harry Potter. The scenes are slightly confusing but the underlying message was clear: the modern world is evil. 

White Temple, Chiang Rai

A Night of Bonding Before Crossing the Laos Border

We arrived in Chiang Khong later that day, a lively market town which serves as the main crossing point into Laos. We found ourselves in the fabulous Rin Bar, along with quite a few other travellers staying in the town, waiting to make the crossing the next day. Numerous shots of the Thai equivalent to tequila, Chang beers, some karaoke and a pool table meant it was a night of bonding. Mutual admiration, expressions of love, various talents showcased – it all came out that night 🙂 And it continued all the way back to our hotel, we didn’t really want to go to bed. This is (one of the many reasons) why I love G Adventures trips. You meet some truly great people.

If you are interested in my trip, I travelled with G Adventures for 2 weeks on their Thailand and Laos Adventure Tour which you can read more about here.

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White Temple Chiang Rai

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39 Replies to “A Thai Cooking Course in Chiang Mai and White Temple, Chiang Rai”

  1. Nice article about your trip to Chiang Mai. I have a trip planned for Thailand which includes Chiang Mai too. I never thought of including what you did into my plan. My trip is planned in the direction of hiking and trekking in Chiang Mai as that is the impression I have of Chiang Mai. Actually I didn’t even know that Chiang Mai could offer cooking classes. I love Thailand food a lot and would love to learn how to make them too. Thanks for sharing.

    1. That’s fantastic you’re going to Thailand. There are lots of long day hikes and overnight trips from Chiang Mai where you can go and trek through the forests and stay with a hill tribe – unfortunately I didn’t have time to do this but it sounds like it would be a great experience. Enjoy your trip!

  2. YOU are bringing back the memories of when I took a cooking class in Vietnam! hahahaha OH MAN was it an interesting experience, but I wouldn’t go back in time and NOT DO IT – I love traveling to experience the CULTURE and that’s EXACTLY what this class was for sure!

    1. I’m glad you had a great experience on a cooking course too GiGi! They are as you say, a great way to experience the country….

  3. Those are some great pictures! Sounds like you had a great time! Thank you for sharing this experience. I’m a long ways away from making it to Thailand, but I enjoyed reading about your experience there.

  4. I love taking cooking classes when I am abroad too! My last one was in Guatemala, where I’ve learned how to make 6 different traditional courses. I would love to learn how to make a proper Massaman curry. It’s one of my favorite dishes from the Thai cuisine.

  5. I remember watching vlogs of a Youtuber I’m subscribed to who visited Chiang Mai and it looked incredible! I would love to learn how to cook Thai food with such a variety of spices. Sounds like you had an amazing experience!

  6. I love that you took a cooking class while traveling! It’s a great way to get to know a place and their food as well. The White Temple is just so stunning and breathtaking. I’d love to see it personally.

  7. Oh I love drag queens, I think they actually have just brought Ru Paul’s Drag Race to Thailand so I can imagine that the cabaret show must have been so much fun! I also love the sound of being able to make a curry of your choice. I would make a green thai curry as that is my favourite.

  8. I have always wanted to take a cooking course! I’m not a bad cook but I know there’s always room for improvement! I love thai food and would love to learn how to make it better! This looks like a lot of fun and would be interested n taking a course like this!

  9. This is such a nice blog of your activities in Thailand. Me and my sister have been planning for a trip to Thailand but hard to plan our itinerary and this is just on time.

  10. I want to visit Thailand soon too and Chiang Mai is one of what I am eyeing too. I have read some posts as well about the cooking experience in Chiang Mai. I guess I need to add Chiang Rai on this my plans too.

  11. This looks like an amazing trip! How cool to learn how to cook proper Thai dishes from the people who know Thai best! Looks like an amazing experience

  12. Reminds me of many of the pictures my dad showed me from when he went to Thailand before I was born. The temple there looks so amazing. Glad to know Liam was so comfortable doing Cabaret. 😉 . It just looks like you had such an amazing adventure.

  13. Asia is one of the places that I yearn to explore. Maybe in a couple of years. I’d love to go to Thailand and experience the rich culture and the beautiful places! This cooking class sounds fun!

  14. Awesome! Thank you for sharing your experiences and recommendations.

    My wife was in Chiang Mai for a couple of weeks, about 2 years ago, and she loved her experience there, and the people she got to meet.

    She also developed a love for the food, which she shared with me. We’re hoping to get there sometime in the near future. I’ll need to bookmark your page and your site to help us set up an itinerary a bit more.

  15. This post is so inspiring and makes me want to get out and travel again. Doing cooking classes in other countries is a great idea. I’d love to learn how to make Thai food. In general, it looks like you had a pretty amazing time. Those upreaching hands are creep-tastic. Btw, you are really adorable both in context and in photo. Keep travelling and sharing, please!

  16. You make me wanna travel the world. There’re so many great places out there and you don’t know if you don’t read what others are writing about. Love your pics…
    Cooking course – hmmm!

  17. I have always wanted to visit thailand and being a foodie , this place wants me to plan my visit just to have thai food 🙂

  18. What a lovely and fun trip you had to Thailand!

    The pictures look absolutely amazing. I pinned one of them. 🙂

    I’ve never been so far and I can only imagine how different it is from our reality, language, food, habits, weather, landscape.

    I’d love to go there one day. How long is the flight from the UK there?

    1. Hi Eliane,

      I can definitely highly recommend a trip there, it’s a great country and so varied. I flew with Emirates and so changed in Dubai – it was 7 hours to Dubai then another 6 to Bangkok. However, you can fly directly which is about 13 or 14 hours I think?

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