Gifts From Abroad: What To Bring Your Family When You Come Home

My wife and I travel a lot, sometimes together, sometimes separately. We both have careers that require us to travel and while it can be tough to be apart, at least we have the regular ritual of seeing what gifts from abroad are popping out of each other’s suitcases!

My wife just came back from an astronomy meeting in Tokyo and brought back this haul of loot. The Japanese are masters of packaging, whether they’re being stylish and traditional or garish and modern. I wonder what a supermarket full of this stuff must look like. The panda head cookies are especially good. I’ve always wanted a bag of decapitated pandas. The T-shirt is for her, because she knows I’m fond of her “especially cuteness.”

What I forgot to include in this photo were the three bottles of sake she brought back. While I’ve always had my sake warm, she tells me it’s often served cold in Tokyo and that regulars have their own monogrammed bottle reserved for them behind the bar!

When I came back from writing my travel series about Greece, I brought her and my son lots of olives since they both love them. I also brought back some honey from Sparta. My wife adores honey and it’s a good gift to bring from abroad because it tastes different in every region. Of all the honey I’ve brought her from far-flung places, she’s liked the Spartan honey the most.

You’ll notice that we mostly bring back consumables. A great way to share the experience of your trip is to share some of the tastes. Also, we live in a European apartment (read: small) and we have too much stuff anyway.

What gifts from abroad do you like to give or receive? Tell us in the comments section!

Thai Cooking Classes: Eat Your Way to Bliss

When Brian Battjer went to Thailand (see Justin’s post), he did partake in one of the fine aspects of this country, the Thai massage. Even a half-hour hand or foot massage is bliss.

While massages transport you to heaven through the sense of touch, a Thai cooking class will bring you there through your taste buds. Besides that, it’s fun and a way to meet fellow travelers. And, if you happen to be traveling with kids, it’s one of those things to do as a family where everyone is happy. Our daughter was 8-years old the first time we took a class. We returned the next year for course number two.

Cooking schools have several options ranging from one day to several day courses. We did the one-day option, signing up at the travel agency stand at our hotel the day before the class. All travel agencies in Thailand seem to have a big book filled with tour options and will point you towards a class that suits your needs. Cooking classes will list the menu items. We headed to the one that had green curry chicken for our first class.

Our cooking school class in Chiang Mai involved meeting at the cooking school to eat tropical fruit from Thailand before taking a trip to the market where the instructor lead us from stall to stall to tell us about each of the ingredients that makes Thai food so delectable. Afterwards we became chefs and worked in pairs to cook five different dishes from salads to main courses to dessert. Our daughter was paired with John, another participant who was there on his own. We figured John would let her chop and dice more readily than we would. She chopped away with a very large knife at the cooking station next to us.

After we cooked each dish we ate it before cooking another. This is one way to cook your way through breakfast, lunch and up to dinner. Here is a link that lists cooking classes in Chiang Mai. One of the schools, Chaing Mai Thai Cookery School looks like the one we went to, although it’s not. Ours was run by a guy named Tim, but I don’t think they have a website since I haven’t come across it. Here is another interesting option. Chiang Mai Kitchen also offers a “stay in a countryside village” and the fare is organic. From the website photos you can see what dishes you’ll be cooking and it looks like a lot of the ingredients are grown on-site.