Thailand is the Land of Smiles, but also opportunities. No wonder it’s become a home away from home for so many travellers from all over the globe. You can truly seek a better life in this tropical paradise.
Of course, it depends on what your definition of a “better life” is. For those coming from economically poorer countries, Thailand is the engine of Southeast Asia, offering chances to earn in demanding, highly-active sectors, especially in the thriving hospitality industry and other tourism-related businesses. But also those with Western passports – whose earning power would be arguably better in their home countries – are happy to take a pay cut for the sunny weather, exotic landscapes and blend of Western and Eastern living that is so truly unique to this Southeast Asian country. Many Europeans and North Americans discover Thailand as wide-eyed, culture-shocked tourists then end up coming back for a longer haul, understanding how easy it is to live a life not completely dictated by the ultra-conventional Western grind.
By Laurence Civil & Luxury Society Asia team
The capital Bangkok, with its shiny skyscrapers and burgeoning population, is certainly a hectic city, but in Thailand, the culture maintains that things must always be sabai sabai. It’s a multi-faceted little phrase that “I’m relaxed,” “I’m happy,” or “chilling out” depending on the context of the conversation. But it’s more than just that, sabai sabai is a way of life. What it boils down to is taking it easy and not sweating the small stuff. These words might sound sugary sweet, but for foreigners it can be quite a powerful concept: sabai sabai stands up to the miserable rat race that so many Westerners are bred into.
You just don’t have the stresses of Western life here. You don’t need to trouble yourself finding parking places; just take a motorbike. You can rent a gorgeously furnished high-rise apartment or beach villa for a fraction of what the same home would cost in New York or LA. Many expats don’t even cook because food is so cheap, readily available and delicious. Lots of supermarkets and convenience stores are open 24/7. Decadent massages in lemongrass-scented parlours, shopping that ranges from traditional markets to gleaming mega-malls and a quick hop to undiscovered versions of beach and island bliss all up the ante.
Thai culture is strong and well-defined, from its cuisine to its interlacings with Buddhist faith, but on its periphery a vibrant cultural melting pot is blossoming.
Needless to say, foodies are spoiled by such multiculturalism, not to mention all the tropical fruits and rich local produce. In Thailand, you have the perfect balance of stark local traditions and foreign diversity all at once. So of course it isn’t hard to slip into the rich ambiguity of it all and feel at home.
Thai culinary skills – Discovering new flavours is a key part of travelling today. Being able to learn how to prepare key dishes from your destination and to be able to recreate that sensation back home is possibly one of the greatest souvenirs a traveller can buy. That combined with the global popularity of Thai cuisine is why we have selected five very different Thai cooking schools in Bangkok. We want to inspire everyone to learn how to cook a few simple authentic Thai dishes.
Issaya Cooking Studio
This culinary education and demonstration centre is located on the lower level of Central Embassy. The studio is the natural culmination of its parent restaurant – the renowned Issaya Siamese Club (www.issaya.com), the flagship restaurant of Thailand’s internationally acclaimed Chef Ian Kittichai – and Sub-Zero & Wolf kitchen equipment.
The 170 square metre space features a large cooking school facility that converts to a chef’s table for intimate dining as well as a bespoke event space, complete with bar and lounge areas.
Naj restaurant in Soi Convent opposite BNH Hospital has a two-decade Thai culinary heritage to share. On arrival students meet Naj’s executive chef at the herb garden where they discuss the uniqueness of Thai food and it’s healthy ingredients. Then during a 30-minute theory class they receive a booklet of Naj’s home recipes and learn the secrets of Naj’s cuisine. Detailed discussions and demonstration are followed by hands-on cooking.
Bai Pai a home style learning environment, prides itself on authenticity. It runs half-day course either in the morning or afternoon conducted in English by Thai professionals each with a minimum of 10 years culinary experience. They guide students in a completely hands-on fun-filled session delivered in a relaxed environment. You will learn traditional and practical Thai techniques, plus you will be advised on the substitution of Thai ingredients with acceptable alternatives found back home.
Opened in 2002 on the 3rd Floor of a palatial 1920s colonial style building on Sathorn Road opposite Surasak BTS station. The classes, either morning or afternoon, combine theory and practical sessions. Classes start with a visit to the morning market where students are introduced to Thai ingredients and taught what to look for when buying. They take them back to the school and are taught to cook the four dishes they will eat for lunch. They have a similar school in Phuket.
Established in 1986 by the late Charlie Amatyakul, the flamboyant Thai culinary guru, it is located on the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River to the main hotel building. They offer a six-day morning course to teach students how to plan a Thai meal. Monday to Thursday classes focus on ingredients and techniques. Having gained a foundation of Thai cuisine, Friday and Saturday mornings are used to put them into practice.