Our last full day in Vietnam was spent at the Hidden Hanoi cooking center. We took a "street food" cooking class in a small group; just us and another couple from Singapore. When we arrived, we were greeted with fragrant Jasmine tea and a short introductory lecture about Japanese cuisine.
For the Christmas holiday, Kelsi and I decided to spend a week in the Nilgiri Mountains of Tamil Nadu for a luxury cooking homestay with an Indian family. Indian food is one of our favorite type of cuisine and we had been looking forward to the (vegetarian) cooking lessons for weeks. We were hosted by a family with three generations -- grandma and grandpa, son and his wife, and the little almost-two-year-old grandson -- but when it came time to cook, it was grandma Renu with us in the kitchen.
After elephants and Loi Krathong, our week and a half in Chiang Mai was topped off with a day long Thai cooking course at a local organic farm with John and our new friend Yuki from Shanghai who we'd met at the airport. The class was one of my favorite food activities on our trip, and gave me the long awaited opportunity to ask someone who actually understands Thai cooking the nagging questions that have been problematizing my pad thais and cursing my curries for years.
While Tibet is an actual province within China, there are also areas of neighboring provinces that have large Tibetan communities and cultural influence. Dubbed “semiautonomous regions”, these areas permit visitors to enter and get a taste of Tibet without the hassle of the permitting process required by the Chinese government to visit the province of Tibet. With this in mind, we set off for a two day journey to the town of Kangding in the western region of Sichuan bordering on Tibet. It was the first day in China where we could see clear blue skies instead of smog, and the sparkle of the afternoon sun through the brief afternoon sun shower made the visit worth all 12 hours on the bus to get there.