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Chiang Mai – Day Two

It was raining.
I woke up, stared at the ceiling and listened to the rain outside. Part of me wanted desperately to surrender myself back to sleep in our ridiculously comfortable bed, but another part of me really, really wanted to make it to sunrise yoga. Before I could back out, I rolled myself out of bed, pulled on a pair of exercise tights and a loose tee, and gently poked Phuc’s arm.
“Babe,” I whispered. “Wake up. It’s almost 7am. We’ve got to get to yoga.”
After MUCH resistance, he finally got up and we waited for a buggy. Sunrise classes are usually held beside the Four Seasons Chiang Mai resort’s lake, but as it was raining, today’s class had been relocated indoors. Phuc was umming and ahhing all the way to class. He’d never done yoga before and was perhaps the least flexible person I knew, so he was very apprehensive.
The class was led by one of the resort’s on-site yoga teachers, and it was wonderful. It had been a while since my last class, and it felt so good to stretch and breathe deeply once again. Phuc did surprisingly well for a newbie, but he wasn’t keen on repeating the experience.
Famished after the intense class, we asked the buggy to drop us off at the breakfast buffet instead of at our villa. The variety of food on offer was EXTENSIVE. I made a beeline for the freshly-squeezed juices and tropical fruit, while Phuc lunged for the dumplings, noodles and freshly-baked pastries. Yeah, we’re a little different when it comes to food preferences... Trust me; I’m working on it.
After we’d stuffed ourselves full, we made our way back to our villa and got ready for the day ahead. We’d be staying at the resort all day, but had an exciting itinerary planned. First up: Rice planting.
We got changed into (rather cute) farmer costumes and walked carefully along the rice paddies to a small shed, where a group of people waited patiently for us. Unlike other resorts that typically flank the beach, the Four Seasons Chiang Mai resort is located in the mountains and features a large rice paddy field. Farmers work in the field every day, growing and harvesting rice, and then donating the rice to the Chiang Mai community. Today, we were to learn how sticky rice was grown.
The process involved a lot more work than I had anticipated. First of all, rice is scattered over the muddy fields to act as seeds. A few weeks later, the resultant seedlings are pulled from the ground, bound together to form small bunches, and then re-sown. Several months later, when they’ve grown taller and have started to bear “fruit” (i.e. rice), they are harvested again, dried, shaken (to yield the rice grains), and then finally milled to remove the husks, rendering the rice ready for cooking and eating. For such a simple staple ingredient, it requires quite a lot of
dedication and work. The experience was eye-opening; it definitely provided me with a newfound appreciation for rice.
We made our way to the resort’s fitness centre to change back into our ‘normal’ clothes (stopping along the way to meet and feed two of the resort’s own water buffalo!), when the size of the fitness centre captured my attention. I mean, how many resorts do you know have their very own Pilates studio, complete with different reformer machines? There were also two saunas, which I vowed (but failed) to use.
We’d really worked up an appetite from all of the rice-planting (lifting gumboot clad feet from thick mud is a lot more challenging than I thought it’d be), so we decided to grab lunch. The view from our alfresco dining table was stunning. The rice paddy field was emerald green for almost as far as the eye could see, and clouds hung low over the mountains in the distance. It was surreal to think that, just over 72 hours ago, we were both at work, and now we were here – on a trip that we’d WON! Even as I write this now, a month after our return, the memory still feels unbelievable. How lucky were we!
After a brief rest in our villa, we were taken to the lakeside barn (where the aforementioned sunrise yoga classes are normally held) and shown how to create animals using nothing but folded banana and pandan leaves. I was gifted a pandan leaf crown, which I thought was a very sweet gesture. It’s so beautiful, the way the people of Thailand connect so deeply with nature.
Next, we walked to one of the terraces to watch the Farmer’s Parade. Every afternoon, when the rice paddy’s farmers finish work for the day, they each play an instrument and sing a song together as they make their way through the field. Some of them carry small drums; others simply march and clap. The tune is catchy, upbeat and cheerful – I guess everybody loves finishing work for the day, no matter where they are in the world, right?
We had a few hours to relax before dinner (as you’ve probably noticed, we ate very frequently during our trip), so rather than wear the loose smock-and-culottes outfit that I’d worn every day so far, I decided to put in a little effort and wear a nice, long maxi dress. I’m glad I did, because dinner was pretty special.
It was held at the resort’s interactive restaurant, Rim Thai. The space is made up of several different stations – appetizers, desserts, a “steamed food” station, a curry station, a “grilled food” station, a “fried food” station, a “stir-fried food” station, and so on. During the day, cooking classes are held on the premises, but at night, it transforms into an interactive dining experience. You can volunteer to cook your own dish at each station, or ask the chef for tips and recipes. Or, if you want to just enjoy, you can tell the chef what you’d like in your dish, and they’ll cook it for you on the spot. Phuc kept going back to for grilled skewers, but I couldn’t get enough of the Khao Soy noodles (see yesterday’s post for a description). It’s usually made with egg noodles, but because I am gluten-intolerant, the chef made me a rice noodle version. It’s so good, guys. If (or should I say, when) you come to Chiang Mai, you have to try Khao Soy.
After dessert, we walked (or rather, waddled) back to our villa and again, fell into our cloud-like bed. No more than 2 minutes later, we were completely asleep.
To read about Day Three, please click here.