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June 14 – Cooking Class and Night Train

On our last day in Bangkok, we are enrolled in a Thai cooking class at the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant. The class had two parts. First, the instructor took to the Bang Rak morning market to pick up produce, spices, and other ingredients for a the meal we would prepare. Although we’d spent a lot of time in the markets already, this insider view was excellent–we finally got to know what we’d been eating out of all those vendor stalls.

After we’d torn up the market, we went back to Blue Elephant, which was a beautiful setting…the classrooms and kitchen set in the top floor of a hundred-year-old mansion, and the restaurant set in the bottom floor. Together, we prepared a four course meal: Tom Yam (hot and sour soup), Som Tam (spicy green papaya salad), Paneang nua (Penang curry), and Hor Mok Poo Tod (deep fried crab souffle). This too was invaluable; we finally got to identify all the missing ingredients that keep home Thai food from tasting like restaurant Thai food. Best of all though, once we’d finished cooking it, we all sat down together to eat it.

Our train wasn’t until 7:30 that evening, so we spent a few hours lazing in Lumphini Park, watching the women sweep the sidewalks and the giant monitors sweep through the pond.

Finally, that night, in the midst of another Bangkok thunderstorm, we made our way to the train station for the night train to Chumphon, where we “splurged” on a first class sleeping compartment–about $52 apiece, including our ferry tickets at the other end. This was our first time in a sleeper, and while the accommodations were not exactly luxe (though substantially more luxe than second class!), falling asleep to the rocking motion of a train might be the most soothing feeling in the world.