I had breakfast with Mia at the guesthouse before heading to the National Museum of Nan. As i was meeting Tao there, i thought i’d take the opportunity to arrive a little earlier and have a look around the museum. It provides a good introduction to the history of Nan : the province, archeological styles, and locally uncovered atrifacts, as well as informtion about hilltribes, weaving designs and colours used, religions and religious ceremonies. In retrospect, the museum should be the first stop for any visitor to Nan, but it was interesting and informative all the same.
Tao was already waiting for me outside when i’d finished my museum tour. We ate, 4km outside the centre of Nan, at a little restaurant owned by a friend of his : vegetable and fish soup, omelete (Tao’s favourite!) and steamed rice, followed by some kind of palm fruit in sweetened water with ice. Tao used to work as a translator before he became a tour guide, which may explain why his English is so good. Furthermore, he has a lot of English speaking friends, which would explain why he also knows a lot of English slang. It’s quite strange to meet a Thai person who understands almost as much English as i do and who appreciates my sense of humour. But then again, maybe sense of humour is universal once you get past the language barriers . . .
I accompanied him back to his house after lunch where i had some tasty vanilla-based tea (actually from the Czech Republic!), listened to him play a few Thai songs on his guitar and then sang along to a few Beetles tracks with him. We then picked up Kai (who’d only just got out of bed, the trek must have tired him out!) and drove up to a couple of silver factories. The jewellery at Banngern Nanthaburi is actually made on site in designs unique to the Nan Province.
Whilst Tao took care of some work-related business, Kai and I wandered around the food market, choosing some ingredients with which to cook a meal tonight round at Tao’s. The idea was to teach me how to cook some of my favourite dishes from the trek. We picked out morning glory, garlic, chillies, sweet basil, galangal, lemongrass, kafir lime leaves,various other herbs Kai didn’t know the English names for, spring onions, green curry paste, eggplant, pumpkin, baby green pumpkins, tofu, coconut milk, tomatoes, limes and glass noodles and last but certainly not least – delicious papaya.
With our numerous bags from the market in hand, we both caught a motorbike taxi back to Tao’s (I was careful how i dismounted this time, as i still have the scar from my Chiang Mai motorbike incident!) and started to prepare the food. Thai kitchens are quite different to kitchens back in the U.K : there is a little square table no more than 12 inches high and everything on here is either prepared whilst sitting on the floor or on a small wicker stool. The gas stove is low enough to be able to stir the contents of the saucepan or wok whilst kneeling down. There is no sink or water tap so if you need to wash your hands you have to go outside, and all washing up is done in cold water on the balcony upstairs, the dirty water either tossed over the balcony on to the garden below or left to run down to one end of the balcony where it will drain, through a small hole, down on to the cement pathway and evaporate in the heat of the sun.
Kai had a good giggle when i mixed too much fish sauce with the morning glory (so he had to add rather a lot of sugar to compensate!) but otherwise we worked well together in the kitchen. when Tao returned, the meal turned out to be a lengthy evening affair due to the fact that – yet again- we had cooked a mountain of food! Tao got his guitar out again after the meal and while he played, the two of us sang Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”. It’s one song i used to listen to a long time ago that i can actually still remember all the words to!
The evening finished with an amusing episode involving the three of us trying to cover Tao’s cement (it was so humid, he suspected it would rain later) with a cheap plastic hooded rain mac he bought from the market for 10THB, and me passing out on his bamboo sofa because i was so full i didn’t even have the energy to move past Tao’s front door!
Photo to follow.