Categories
Thai Culture

The Royal Park Rajapruek

Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion

I first visited The Royal Park Rajapruek (also transliterated as Ratchaphruek) in December of 2006. It was then popularly known an The Royal Flora Expo and officially known as The International Horticultural Exposition at the Royal Agricultural Research Centre, Chiang Mai.

King's emblem
60th anniversary emblem

It was created by the Department of Agriculture to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s accession to the throne and also his 80th birthday (on December 5, 2007). I was one of 3,781,000 visitors that first year.

Later it was retained as a learning centre for botanical agriculture and site for agro-tourism and culture. In 2010 H.M. The King gave it the name “The Royal Park Rajapruek.” Rajapruek is the Thai name of Cassia fistula, commonly known as the Golden Rain Tree. It is the Thai national flower. Its yellow blossoms correspond to Monday, the day H.M. King Rama was born.

Kasma and I revisited the Royal Park this year in its current incarnation.

One of the tourist sites recommends giving “2 to 3 hours.” We spent 6 and didn’t see everything.

Note: The photo above left shows the emblem created for the 60th Anniversary of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign. The centerpiece is an abbreviation of the king’s name in golden yellow, the color of Monday, his day of birth. The abbreviation is set on a blue background, which is the color of the monarchy. He was born in the Year of the Rabbit, according to the Chinese Zodiac. Above the centerpiece is the number 9 in Thai script – he was King Rama IX.

(Click images to see larger version.)

There’s a slideshow of images at the bottom of the page.

The Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion

The Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion was and is the architectural highlight of the park, a beautiful pavilion built in the traditional Lanna style. You see it first in the distance as you enter the park located at the end of a wide boulevard-like path lined with statues. The Lanna kingdom was founded 700+ years ago in Northern Thailand and developed its own characteristic style, which is used here.

Walkway to Royal Pavilion
Elegant walkway to the Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion details
Royal Pavilion details

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves about the grace and beauty of this magnificent structure. (There are more photos in the slide show.)

Inside the Royal Pavilion
Inside the Royal Pavilion
Front detail
Detail of the inside of the Royal Pavilion

Ceramic sculture
The Progress by Sompetch Manorin (ceramic)
Bas-relief
Goddess of the Earth by Sagon Suthiman

In 2006 the bottom floor of this beautiful structure housed a number of stunning artworks. It now contains exhibitions honoring His Majesty the King under the theme, “The Development King through Six Decades” with information about his life and works and including videos about the beloved monarch. I highly recommend watching the video presentation if you get a chance: I found it inspiring and uplifting.

Park Layout

Royal Villa closer
Walking towards the Royal Pavilion

The park is divided into 9 zones scattered across 200 acres (80 hectares). It consists of numerous outdoor gardens and buildings containing exhibits and indoor gardens. The indoor buildings include The Kingdom of Tropical Dome, Shaded Paradise, Orchid Pavilion, Desert Plants Greenhouse and Bug World. Outdoors you can see the Palm Garden, Sawadee Garden, Flower Garden, Royal Garden, Garden New Theory and Lotus Garden. There are some example hilltribe houses and international gardens as well. The park map (offsite, opens in new window) will give you an idea of the scope of the park.

On this recent visit, we took a leisurely stroll through the entrance area and the lovely initial gardens and then up the broad walkway to the Royal Pavilion. We spent quite a bit of time in and around the upper floor of the Pavilion and then more time with the exhibits and videos about the king on the bottom floor. From there we focused on the Shade Garden, Orchid Pavilion and Bug World. After that, 6 hours later, we were ready for a rest with the remainder, sadly, left unexplored.

Shade Garden

This is a thoroughly enjoyable wander through the pathways of temperate climate plants with many beautiful bromeliads.There are more photos in the slideshow below.

Shade Garden pathway
Meandering path at the Shade Garden
Bromeliads blooming
A row of bromeliads

Orchid Pavilion

This is a fabulous collection of orchids. On the occasion of our visit one the highlights was the many drifts of phalaenopsis orchids – just a stunning display. The exhibit consists of an extensive outdoor area as well as indoor rooms.

Orange orchid
Lovely orange orchid
The author amongst the orchids

There are many more orchids (and shade plants and butterflies) in the slideshow below.

Bug World

I’ve been to many “Butterfly Farms” in the past; Bug World has them all beat. I’ve never seen so many butterflies and so many different kinds of butterflies in one place. We spent over an hour here, either tracking butterflies to photograph or lurking at plants that they seemed to prefer, waiting for a chance to get a photo.

Butterfly feeding
Butterfly feeding
Giant moth
Giant moth

Recommendation

Photo of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulydej

If you are a plant lover visiting Chiang Mai, this is a must-see. It is also an excellent stop for lovers of Thai Culture and an opportunity to learn about the life and works of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

My recommendation would be to go in the winter; if possible in December around the time of the King’s Birthday (which is December 5): it’s the season where the gardens appear to be at their most lush, with the most flowers in bloom. We were there on December 18 of last year (2017).

It opens at 8:00 a.m.: get there as soon thereafter as you can; it can get pretty hot there and there’s not always shade along the walkways, though a shuttle service is available. That’s another good reason to visit in December – it’s in the “cool” season. (Though I’ve also heard it said that there are two seasons in Thailand: hot & hotter.)


Royal Project Rajapruek Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.


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Websites for Further Information and Visit Planning


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2018

Categories
Food Restaurant

My Choice Restaurant in Bangkok

My Choice sign
My Choice Restaurant Sign

My Choice Restaurant, on Sukhumvit Soi 36 (Soi Napasap) in Bangkok, has been one of our (Kasma’s and my) favorite restaurants for over 2 decades, dating back to their original location on Sukhumvit Soi 24 and then at the location on Soi 36 they had prior to the latest move.

They are located on Sukhumvit Soi 36 about 450 meters (a quarter mile) in from Sukhumvit Road. (Note: I think the address found on the web of 19 Sukhumvit Soi 36 is their old location: you need to go further into the soi to reach the restaurant.)

(Click images to see larger version.)

All the dishes mentioned can be seen in the slideshow at the end of the blog.

My Choice Interior
My Choice Interior

They serve delectable Thai food in a comfortable, elegant setting. At lunch time the dining area is filled with light. Any dish is liable to be a “wow” experience, where you wish you had more space in your stomach or less people at the table so you could eat more and more of it. In a 2001 review, The Nation called it “one of the city’s better Thai restaurants.”

One of the hallmarks of My Choice comes from the extremely fresh ingredients. I remember one occasion when we came for lunch and ordered the Spicy Grilled Eggplant Salad (something I am always tempted to order here). It took a little longer to arrive than the other dishes; when it came, the eggplant was still hot from the grill. Talk about fresh!

Everything we’ve ever had here has been good. I’d recommend that when you eat here, don’t simply order things that you’re familiar with: use this restaurant to expand your Thai culinary horizons by taking a chance on a dish you’ve never heard of before.

Yum Salads

Eggplant salad
Spicy Grilled Eggplant Salad

One of the things that My Choice does especially well are the type of salads known by the Thai word yum. This type of salad emphasizes sour (from lime juice) and spicy (from Thai chillies, prik kee noo).

Before she retired in 2020, Kasma always brought small-group tours to My Choice, often for two meals during the trips, and she always included at least one yum salad. My personal favorite is Spicy Eggplant Salad (Yum Makeua Yao) made with roasted eggplant. The long eggplants used in much of Thailand (including My Choice) are a green variety that roast up with a delicious smokey flavor. (There is a green variety in the U.S. that doesn’t compare.)

If you want to try a different flavor, give the Spicy Crispy Fish Salad (Yum Pla Grob) a try. The smoky fish flavor blends in wonderfully with the hot/sour dressing.

Other favorites are Spicy Winged Bean Salad (Yum Tua Phoo) (smothered in crispy, fried shallots), Spicy Water Mimosa Salad (Yum Pak Krachehd), Spicy Banana Blossom Salad (Yum Hua Plee) and, for people who like bitter melon, Spicy Bitter Gourd salad (Yum Mara). If you like mackerel, there’s the Spicy Minced Pork Mackerel Salad (Lahb Moo Pla Too) (also available with minced beef or chicken) – this one is actually a “larb” (pronounced “lahb.”)

Curries

Panaeng Beef Curry
Panaeng Beef Curry

My Choice also excels with curry dishes of all kinds. The curry we order most consistently is Panaeng Beef Curry (Kaeng Panaeng Neua), which is a rich, coconut-milk based curry.

At a recent visit we ate two fabulous red curries. The first one was King Prawn in Red Curry with Eggplants (Kaeng Gung Yai Makeua Yao). Wow. I just wanted to eat all the fabulous curry sauce made from fresh coconut milk – it was so rich and flavorful. As a plus, the prawns were whole, head and all. The second dish was a “Choo Chee” (red) curry, listed on the menu as Fried Fish/Shrimp with Curry Paste (Pla/Gung Pad Kreung Choo Chee): also rich and flavorful. You couldn’t go wrong, either, with the Red Curry with Roast Duck (Kaeng Phed Ped Yang).

Chicken Curry
Chicken Curry in Southern Style

The best green curry I’ve ever had was one time at My Choice; and I’ve been eating delicious Thai food that Kasma makes plus at restaurants all over Thailand since 1992. On the menu it is Green Chicken Curry (Kaeng Khiow Wahn Gai); you can also get it with pork or beef. When you taste it, it is immediately obvious that it is made with fresh coconut milk. It is always a wonderful dish, always excellent and typically served with delicious, flakey roti.

Another outstanding curry, this one made without coconut milk, is Chicken Curry In Southern Style (Kaeng Gai Khua Pak Tai) (see above left). Be warned: this dish is spicy! A dry curry, it’s made with Thai eggplants, long beans, often with baby corn, chicken and a very spicy indeed red sauce. If chillies indeed release endorphins, thus improving your mood, this dish can put you into a state of bliss. (For more information on Southern food see Kasma’s article Southern Cooking – Thai Style.)

Other Favorite Dishes

Stir-Fried Ivy Gourd Greens with Pork

I’ll only mention a few of our other favorites, things that we order time and time again, whether or not we are with trip members. The advantage to coming with a group is that we can order more dishes; the disadvantage is that we have to share favorites!

One favorite is Roasted Duck with Gourd Leaves (Ped Ob Tam Leung). It consists of succulent Thai duck (much better than duck that I’ve had in the United States) with a type of gourd leaf all served in a brown sauce. This is a good non-spicy dish to throw into the mix. Thai people usually serve a variety of flavors and spice levels in their meals. We also order Stir-fried Ivy Gourd Greens with Pork (Moo Sap Tam Leung) – photo above right.

Grilled pork neck
Charcoal Grilled Pork’s Neck

We absolutely love the Charcoal Grilled Pork’s Neck (Ka Moo Yang). I always want to eat the whole plate myself.

A new favorite, after a recent lunch, is the Spicy Deep Fried Catfish Fillet Pla Deuk Tod Krob Pad Ped. Spicy from a red curry sauce it is particularly tasty, with lovely, fresh winged beans as part of the mix. As always at My Choice, the flavors were balanced beautifully.

A terrific spicy dish is Stir-Fried Squid in Chili Sauce (Pad Chah Pla Meuk). This is a very spicy dish that receives added flavor from fresh green peppercorns and a root called krachai in Thai (often known as “rhizome” here in the U.S.).

One dish we enjoy – though be warned: it’s not for everyone – is Stir Fried Preserved Egg with Sweet Basil Leaves (Kai Yiow Ma Pad Bai Khaprow). The eggs are preserved in a mixture that typically includes clay, ash and salt (with other things) for up to several months turning the egg dark, almost black, in color and some people find the taste too strong. We find it delicious.

One-dish Meals

My best recommendation for My Choice is to go with as many friends as you can so you can order a wide variety of dishes. Nonetheless, you may find yourself there alone at a lunch hour and just want something simple. They do have a number of noodle and one-dish rice dishes under the category “Hot Dishes.”

Rice plate
Coconut Rice served with Papaya Salad

We like the Coconut Rice served with Papaya Salad (Khao Man Som Tam) (found under “Recommended”), which comes with a piece of fried chicken. It’s a fun and tasty combination.

Then there are noodle dishes found all over Thailand. They do a very good version of Pad Thai with Shrimp (Pad Thai Gung Sohd) and their Rahd Na, on the menu as Fried Noodle with Pork/Chicken/Shrimp/Fish in Gravy Sauce (Kuay Tiow Rad Na Moo/Gai/Gung/Pla), is good as well. Another favorite is the Black Olive Fried Rice (Kao Pad Nam Liap). If you really like black olives, you can order Stir Fried Black Olive with Pork (Nam Liap Pad Moo Sap) as a separate dish.

Dessert

We recommend you finish up with a nice bowl of ice cream. My favorite is the plain Coconut Ice Cream (Ait Cream Kati), though I also like the Taro Ice Cream (Ait Cream Peuak) and the Lemon Basil Seeds Ice Cream (Ait Cream Med Maeng Lak). These coconut-based ice creams (they appear to be dairy-free) are a good way to cool down a mouth that has just eaten some spicy dishes.

Author eating
The author enjoys a meal

Getting There

Map
Map to My Choice, Click for larger

Sukhumvit Soi 36 (Soi Napasap)
Bangkok, Thailand 10110
Telephone: 02-258-6174

The restaurant is located about 450 meters (1/4 mile) in on Sukhumvit Soi 36. You can take the skytrain to the Thong Lo stop and walk into Soi 36 but it’s a narrow soi so you may want to have a cab take you into the restaurant.

Further Reading

See also: Black Olive Rice at My Choice Restaurant (blog entry)

Read the 2008 article by Bangkok Restaurant Guide, review and food critic – My Choice Restaurant review on Sukhumvit 36 (offsite, opens in new window). This review is still accurate about the food; however, it is out-of-date on the atmosphere, which is much more elegant and subdued at this new location.


 

My Choice Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.


[portfolio_slideshow size=full togglethumbs=true togglestate=closed]


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2018