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The Royal Park Rajapruek

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, January 30th, 2018
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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Monoliths
Monolith detail
3 garden elephants
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Fountain
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Royal Villa closer
Bird on structure
Walkway to Royal Pavilion
Closer to Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion side view
Front facade
Elegant facade details
Royal Villa details
View backwards
Inside the Royal Villa
Front of Royal Pavilion
Front detail
Lovely detailing
Ganeesha
Ceramic sculture
Bas-relief
Photograph of mourners
Door with statues
Manicured gardens
Royal Pavilion and gardens
Shade Garden pathway
Bromeliads blooming
Bromeliad close-up
Lovely foliage
Shade flower 1
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Dragon sculpture
Orange orchid
Orchids
Orchid drift
Orchid Pavilion pathway
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Phalaenopsis close-up
Orchid Pavilion room
More orchids
Cattleya orchid
Vanda orchids
More orchids
Two resting butterflies
Butterfly feeding
Butterfly on stone
Another feeding butterfly
Giant moth
Brown butterfly
Butterfly with blue wings
Beautiful butterfly
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This row of elephants is one of the first things you see after entering the park

One elephant provides a perch for a bird

You see these elegant monoliths soon after entering

A detail on one of the monoliths

These whimsical white elephants are in the garden just after you enter

You can just glimpse the Royal Pavilion way past this elephant

Moving past the first garden is this fountain with the Royal Pavilion seen still far behind

Emblem created for the 60th Anniversary of the King's reign

We've now walked past the fountain toward the Royal Pavilion

Another little bird just hanging out

The elegant walkway to the Royal Pavilion

One of the statues lining the walkway with the Pavilion in the back

The Royal Pavilion at The Royal Park Rajapruek

A side view of the Royal Pavilion

The lovely facade of the Royal Pavilion

Some of the elegant work on the facade of the Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion abounds with lovely details

The view back along the walkway to the Pavlion

The interior of the Royal Pavilion

Approaching the front inside the Royal Pavilion

Detail of the inside of the Royal Pavilion

Such lovely detailing everywhere

Ganeesha by Khumai Detduangta from the original exhibit in 2006

The Progress by Sompetch Manorin (ceramic) from the original exhibit in 2006

Goddess of the Earth by Sagon Suthiman from the original exhibit in 2006

Photo of mourners of the late H.M. King Rama IX - part of the video at the exhibit hall

This is the exit from the lower level of the Royal Pavilion

Some of the gardens surrounding the Royal Pavilion

A distance shot of the gardens with the Royal Pavilion in back

One of the meandering paths at the Shade Garden

So many lovely bromeliads were in bloom

Close up of one of the bromeliads

One of the many lovely shade plants at the Shade Garden

Another lovely flower.

So much lovely color

This dragon was part of the decoration in the Shade Garden

This orchid was one of the first I saw after entering the Orchid Pavilion

The Orchid Pavilion was an explosion of orchids

There were often many blossoms on the same orchid plant

One of the pathways in the Orchid Pavilion

Here I am amongst the drifts of phalaenopsis orchids

A close-up of the phalaenopsis orchids in the previous photo

This was another room in the Orchid Pavilion

There were so many lovely flowers

One of a few cattleya orchids in bloom - it wasn't the season

Some stunning vanda blossoms

Let us say good bye to the orchids with this photo

Two resting butterflies at Bug World

Bug Word was full of plants to attract the butterflies

These orange butterflies abounded at Bug World

This plant was particularly popular here

The giant moth was the largest insect there – the size of a man's hand

We spent an hour tracking the colorful insects

Some of the butterflies had such lovely rich colors

This one was too shy to open its wings

With this green butterfly we bid farewell to Bug World

We'll close our slide show with a photo of Rama IX on one of the buildings at the Park

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Websites for Further Information and Visit Planning


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2018

Kasma’s 30-year Anniversary Message

Kasma Loha-unchit, Monday, May 25th, 2015

This June marks the end of 30 years that I have taught Thai cooking classes in my kitchen. Up until six months ago, I was entertaining thoughts about throwing a big anniversary celebration (much like the 20th anniversary party many of you attended), but thoughts of the stresses and strains of planning, preparing for and cleaning up after such a big bash have more than changed my mind. I would like to, however, send a big thank you to all of you who have enthusiastically taken my classes over the past three decades for all the support and the wonderful times shared cooking delicious meals in my kitchen.

In about a week, I will be turning 65 and joining the ranks of Medicare. Over the past few months, I have been seriously mulling over when I would retire, especially when I see that many of my friends (and many of you) have retired and are enjoying the newfound time to pursue myriad interests awaiting them. As much as I enjoy teaching and taking people traveling around Thailand, and I know I will miss doing these things and all of you when I retire, the prospect of not having to run around to shop for classes, to push myself in the tedious and never-ending tasks of cleaning up before and after classes, and to deal with problematic students and trip members (and there have been more than a few each year) who drain me both physically and emotionally, makes retirement more and more appealing every day.

At this point, I am thinking that I will retire possibly within the next five years. So, those of you who have friends or co-workers interested in taking my cooking classes should let them know very soon. I will probably retire from beginning classes in two to three years. For those of you who wish to take all my advanced classes, I will try to cycle you through most of them before I retire. It’s possible I may add one last series (Advanced J) before I retire to give you some of my mother’s treasured recipes so that they are forever preserved for posterity. There’s no need to bury any secrets.

As for the Thailand travel trips, I will probably retire from doing them in five years or possibly sooner if Sun, my trusted helper and driver of my van, decides to quit to pursue other interests and there is a strong possibility that this can happen any time. I do not wish to train anyone new to replace him. So, if you have ever entertained thoughts of joining one of my off-the-beaten-path trips in which you will see, taste and experience things you will never have the chance to do traveling on your own, do start planning now as I will not always be around.

All said, I am actually sad to be writing this message, but I would like you to know the approximate time frame so that you can take advantage of what’s left of what I have to offer over the next few years. There’s no one I can train to take my place as what I do I learned over a lifetime of experience starting when I was five years old in my mother’s kitchen.

Thank you again to all of you for all the good times nourishing one another and sharing a sliver of your lives in my home.

Kasma


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, May 2015

Doi Suthep – A Personal View

Michael Babcock, Friday, February 20th, 2015
Doi Suthep Scene

Monks at Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai is the most important temple in northern Thailand. This blog is a slideshow of images I took when visiting in January 2015. Temples in Thailand can consist of many buildings inside a compound (the wat). There is nearly always a stupa (called chedi in Thai) and a building with the main Buddha image.

The main feature of Doi Suthep is a large chedi in an inner courtyard; a sala around the courtyard contains temple murals and many Buddha statues. In-between the chedi and the sala is an area with many “chapels.” One of the customs at Doi Suthep (indeed, at many temples) is to walk around the main chedi 3 times in a clockwise direction: one time is for the Buddha, one time is for the Dhamma (the teaching of the Buddha) and the third time is for the Sangha (the community supporting the Buddha). Outside the chedi area are many more statues and various buildings.

I love photographing temples in Thailand. Everywhere you look there are arresting visual images and details that are easy to overlook if you focus on seeing just the main attractions. Doi Suthep is particularly rich in photogenic features. I’ve been there many times and each time it is varied and different. This photo essay represents this year only.

Since one picture is allegedly worth 1,000 words, here is my “30,000 word” blog, each picture accompanied by a minimum of words to provide context.

You may want to walk through the photos by clicking on each image so that you can have time to read the accompanying text. Give time for the slides to load. Please enjoy.

Doi Suthep Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

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Doi Suthep Scene
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Doi Suthep is on a hill; this is the first Buddha image you see as you arrive at the base of the hill.

Passing shops, you come to the base of the stairs, where these Lisu girls wait to be photographed (for a fee). The Naga (mythical dragon) protects the stairs.

Being photographed can be boring work.

The lower staircase has some interesting details, such as this crocodile.

Another detail at the bottom of the stairs.

The stairs to the temple, with over 300 steps; a tram is available.

One of two giants who guard the top of the staircase.

The main chedi against a cloudy sky.

A Buddha in the inner courtyard surrounding the chedi, with murals on the wall in back.

Another Buddha statue: the inner courtyard is lined with different Buddhas and murals.

One of the temple murals.

A mural of the Buddha's Enlightenment as witnessed by the Earth Mother Goddess.

Close-up of the Earth Mother Goddess.

The roofs of one of the buildings on the compound.

The main chedi is surrounded by many chapels, such as this one.

Monks with the "9th pre-requisite" - a digital camera.

Many people, including monks, walk around the main chedi 3 times (once for the Buddha, once for the Dhamma and once for the Sangha).

The author of this blog. Photo by his wife, Kasma.

This statue is found in the area outside the main chedi area.

A statue of the Earth Mother Goddess in the area outside the main chedi area.

A view from outside the main chedi.

Two young Thai dancers in the area leading to the main chedi - there are usually entertainers there.

Close-up of one of the Thai dancers.

A guardian statue at a staircase outside the main chedi.

Solicitation for tips at a coffee shop at the top of the stairs.

Fried food for sale at the bottom of the staircase on the way out; that area is lined with shops.

Fried quail eggs at the bottom of the stairs. Delicious!

A photograph of Chao Dararasmi, Princess Consort of the Fifth Reign, one of many old photographs at the bottom of the stairs off the road.

Chao Dararasmi and her niece, a photo at the bottom of the stairs off the road.

We'll end with the first image.

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Written & Photographed by Michael Babcock, February 2015

Kaeng Ron Baan Suan – A Chiang Mai Restaurant

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Perhaps my favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai is ร้านอาหารแกงร้อนบ้านสวน – Raan Ahaan Kaeng Ron Baan Suan – meaning, literally, “hot curry garden house restaurant;” it’s usually referred to as Kaeng Ron Baan Suan. According to their website, it features “Delectable Northern and Thai Cuisine in a Traditional Lanna Garden” and the food is very delectable indeed! They have a number of Northern specialties that make it well worth a visit.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Restaurant Front

Entrance to Kaeng Ron Baan Suan

Restaurant Sign

Sign for Kaeng Ron Baan Suan

To the upper left is a photo of the entry into the restaurant. The picture on the right shows the restaurant sign – แกงร้อนบ้านสวน (Kaeng Ron Baan Suan). You can find the restaurant location below.

Restaurant Interior

Eating in the garden

Restaurant Server

Our server

The seating area is, indeed, in a nice garden setting (shown to the left). To the right is our server on one of Kasma’s small group trips to Thailand. Before she retired in 2020, Kasma took two of her trips here for a lunch-time feast with some of the delectable northern dishes that the restaurant is known for.

If you’d like, you can go directly to a slideshow of some of our favorite dishes at the bottom of the page.

Of course, the main reason for coming here is the food, which is spectacular.

Dipping Sauces

Platter with sauces

Fried Naem Sausage

Fried Naem Sour Sausage

Kasma always begins with at least one of the two dishes above. At the upper left is a platter with various vegetables, meats and pork skin that will be eaten with the sauces on the platter. The right-most sauce in Nam Prik Nuum – a very spicy, young green chilli sauce. The left sauce is Nam Prik Ong – a pork-based sauce.

Kasma also finds it hard to pass up the dish on the upper right – Fried Naem Sour Sausage Slices (Naem Tod). To eat this dish, you pop a piece of the fried sour sausage into your mouth along with some or all of the accompanying items of your choice: fried peanuts, ginger, a bite of Thai chillie (hot!) and/or some cabbage.

Naem is something you really should try when in Northern Thailand. Check out Kasma’s blog Don’t Miss Naem Sour Sausage When Visiting Northern Thailand. Naem is often served “raw” (it is a fermented product) so Kasma prefers to order it in this form where it is cooked from the deep-frying.

Hunglay Curry

Hunglay Curry

Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice

The dish on the left is another “must-order” dish (there are so many here!) – one of my top ten favorite Thai dishes: It is Northern Hunglay Pork Curry (Kaeng Hunglay), a flavorful pork curry made with rich, fatty pork – so delicious. At this meal, Kasma always orders sticky rice served in a traditional fashion: each person (or pair) gets an individual basket with the sticky rice, which is eaten with the fingers.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad

Two other favorites above. The first dish is “Garden House” Crispy Fried Chicken (Gai Tod Baan Suan) – their own particularly delicious version of fried chicken. The other dish is, of course, Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam).

Fruit Salad

Fruit Salad

Charcoal-Grilled Catfish

Charcoal-Grilled Catfish

Two more great dishes. On the upper left is another of my current top ten Thai dishes: Thai-Style Hot-and-Sour Mixed Fruit Salad (Tam Ponlamai). I first had this scrumptious salad here at Kaeng Ron Baan Suan. It looks like a fairly innocuous fruit salad but nothing can really prepare you for the combination of sour/hot-spicy (from chillies)/garlicky explosion of flavors in your mouth: in combination with the fruit it is extraordinary.

The second dish, especially tasty here, is often found as a street food: Charcoal-Grilled Catfish, “Sweet Fish Sauce” and Neem Leaves (Sadao Nam Pla Wan Pla Doog Yang). The neem leaves have an extremely bitter taste by themselves; however, in combination with the succulent grilled catfish and the sweet dipping sauce they add an exciting taste and texture to the dish. I don’t know of anything quite like this in western cuisine.

Eggplant Dish

Stir-fried Eggplant

Curry Dish

Northern Spicy Curry

Two more dishes that Kasma orders here. To the upper right is Long Eggplant Stir-fried with Holy Basil (Makeua Yao Pad Kaprao). On the right is Northern Spicy Curry with Vegetables (Kaeng Awm).

Drinks

Papaya Drink

Papaya “Smoothie”

Watermelon Drink

Watermelon “Smoothie”

I usually get a blended fruit drink to accompany my meal; they are essentially fresh fruit blended with a little ice to make a fruit smoothie. This type of drink is called pan, which is pronounced with a “bp” at the front, so more like “bpan.” They are a very refreshing drink to go with all the flavorful and (often) spicy dishes.

Desserts

Assuming you have room left after such a scrumptious feast, there are a number of Thai kanom to try, which will refresh your mouth after the spicy food.

Dessert

Ruam Mitr

Gingko Nut Dessert

Gingko nut dessert – Oni Pae Guay

Above left you see a version of Iced Sweet Coconut Milk with Various Tidbits (Ruam Mitr). On the right is Oni Pae Guay, made from a creamy, smooth and sweet, mashed taro paste (but less sweet than the Chinese version), topped with slices of cooked Chinese red dates and a few gingko nuts, with the added Thai touch of a salty-sweet coconut cream sauce. (See Kasma’s recent blog on Gingko Nuts.)


Slideshow of Dishes at Kaeng Ron Baan Suan

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Dipping Sauces
Fried Naem Sausage
Hunglay Curry
Sticky Rice
Kaeng Hoh
Fried Chicken
Green Papaya Salad
Fruit Salad
Charcoal-Grilled Catfish
Eggplant Dish
Curry Dish
Papaya Drink
Watermelon Drink
Thai Dessert
Gingko Nut Dessert

Platter with two dipping sauces – Nam Prik Nuum & Nam Prik Ong

Fried Naem Sour Sausage Slices (Naem Tawd)

Hunglay Curry (Kaeng Hunglay Moo) from Kaeng Ron Baan Suan Restaurant

White Sticky Rice (Kao Niow) served in a traditional basket

Thai-style "Chow Mein" (Kaeng Hoh)

"Garden House" Crispy Fried Chicken (Gai Tawd Baan Suan)

Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

Thai-Style Hot-and-Sour Mixed Fruit Salad (Tam Ponlamai)

Charcoal-Grilled Catfish with Neem Leaves (Sadao Nam Pla Wan Pla Doog Yang)

Long Eggplant Stir-fried with Holy Basil (Makeua Yao Pad Kaprao)

Northern Spicy Curry with Vegetables (Kaeng Awm)

Papaya "Smoothie" (Malagaw Pan)

Watermelon "Smoothie" (Taeng Mo Pan)

Sweet Coconut Soup with Various Tidbits (Ruam Mitr)

A gingko nut dessert - Oni Pae Guay - at Kaeng Ron Ban Suan restaurant in Chiang Mai

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Location

ร้านอาหารแกงร้อนบ้านสวน – Kaeng Ron Baan Suan Restaurant
149/3 ม.2 ถ.เลียบคลองชลประทาน ต.ช้างเผือก อ.เมือง จ.เชียงใหม่ 50300
149/3 Moo 2, Lieb Klong Chonprathan Rd.,Chang Phueak, Muang 50000
Tel.+66 5322 1378 , +66 5321 3762
Map to Kaeng Ron Baan Suan (offsite, opens in new window).
Hours: 10:30 to 22:30

Here’s another review of Kaeng Ron Ban Suan (offsite, opens in new window).


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2014

Coffee in Thailand, Part 1

Michael Babcock, Monday, April 1st, 2013

Over the past few years there has been a proliferation of places selling fresh-brewed coffee in Thailand. This blog looks at some of the places where this phenomena is taking place.

For the most part, the coffee is pressed coffee (as with “espresso”), made to order. More often than not, you’ll see the whole beans and the grinding mechanism in the same place – at many of the smaller places, the coffee is ground to order.

Espresso Machine

Thai coffee making machine

Coffee

Cup of coffee

Most of the coffee is dark-roasted; sometimes overly so. There is a lighter roast called “Blue Mountain” that is available at some places – I tend to order that when it’s available and find it much to my liking.

Sign Close-up

กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign

(Click images to see larger version.)

If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll want to memorize two words of Thai in the Thai script (spelled without an intervening space): กาแฟสด, pronounced kafae sot. กาแฟ (kafae) means “coffee” and สด (sot) means “fresh” – so “fresh coffee.” It’s probably not strictly necessary because the stands and cafes selling coffee are also recognizable by the espresso machines and the coffee beans they usually display; in addition, the signs often include a cup of coffee (as to the left). In some places, there’s a sign in English. On other occasions, knowing the script has helped me find a place I might have overlooked.

Local Stands & Coffee Houses

I’m now finding these “fresh coffee” stands all over Thailand. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other larger towns, you’ll find them on the streets and in markets, often just a simple cart with the coffee grinder and a small espresso machine. The picture below shows a coffee stand found on Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lo – pronounced “tawng law”). It’s a fairly typical example.

Coffee Stand

Thong Lo coffee stand

Making Coffee

Thong Lo barista at work

The pictures below show another coffee stand, this one found at Worarat Market in Chiang Mai. The barista makes a very good cup of coffee.

Coffee Sign

Sonnen Cafe in Worarat Market

Thai Barista

Barista at Sonnen Cafe


Coffee Stand

Sukhothai coffee stand

Stand Close-up

Close-up of stand

I am seeing more places where you can purchase a coffee and sit down. We visit a the Sathorn Golden Textile Museum in Sri Satchanalai (in Sukhothai province) that has this coffee stand; they have excellent “blue Mountain” coffee. This stand is found indoors amongst a number of other shops.

Coffee Beans

Coffee beans in Sukhothai stand

Sukhothai Coffee

Blue Mountain Coffee


Coffee House

Before Sunset Coffee

Barista 2

Mae Hong Son barista

I’m also finding more places that we would think of as a proper café – some place to buy a coffee and to sit and enjoy it. This is “Before Sunset Coffee” and is perched right on the edge of a beautiful view in the parking lot at Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu in Mae Hong Son.

Coffee To Go

Caffe Latte at Before Sunset Coffee


Sign

Sign to Samut Prakan Cafe

Coffee Stand 2

Stand in Imperial World

I’m guessing that much of the increase in popularity of coffee initially was driven by Western tourists who wanted their morning fix. Now more and more Thai people seem to be embracing the drink. “Coffee houses” are making their appearances in the neighborhoods as well. Kasma owns a townhouse out in the Samrong district of Samut Prakan, which is immediately adjacent to the SE corner of Bangkok. It’s a very Thai neighborhood: usually I’m the only westerner I see on the streets, in the markets, or even in the Imperial World shopping center across the way; Imperial world has at least 7 or 8  non-chain coffee shops in addition to Amazon, (one of the chains). With so few westerners to be seen, Thais must be buying coffee. Even in the local fresh market there (Talat Samrong), there’s a fresh coffee stand. I do know that over the past couple of years our driver, Sun, is drinking more coffee.

Sign Close-up

กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign

My favorite place to get coffee is a no-name coffee house on Sukhumvit Road in Samrong. This cafe is found on the odd-soi side of the Sukhumvit between soi 111 and 113, marked only by a กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign. They make a rich coffee made with foam, a real caffe latte. (The second picture in this blog, at the top of the page, is a caffe latte from this cafe.) Thais must be it’s primary customers: there just are not enough of us fahrangs (the Thai word for westerner).

Cafe

Samut Prakan Coffee House

This shop is owned by a young lady who says it is her “hobby.” She also has a regular job. I’ve only seen her there once; the other times there’s been the same young woman employee, friendly and competent. I don’t think the cafe has free wi-fi, like so many coffee houses in the United States,; I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this is commonly offered. I have seen it advertised at coffee houses in the touristed areas, particularly in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Many Internet cafés also sell coffee; I frequent one in Chiang Mai.


See also:


Written by Michael Babcock, April 2013

Don’t Miss Naem Sour Sausage When Visiting Northern Thailand

Kasma Loha-unchit, Friday, March 1st, 2013

Naem (or nem), also known as jin som in the northern Thai dialect (jin = meat, som = sour) is a common way of preserving pork meat in several Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In Thailand, it is mainly done in the northern and northeastern parts of the country – the land-locked regions where a lot of pigs are raised and pork features prominently in the local cuisines.

Wrapped Naem

Naem wrapped in banana leaves

(Click images to see larger version.)

In the days before refrigeration, when a pig was slaughtered, there was usually too much meat to cook and eat up fresh in dishes like laab, soups, curries and stir-fries. The remaining meat would be chopped up and preserved with salt. Pork skin, also often too much to eat up by cooking fresh, was added to improve texture.

Now as then, cooked sticky rice or plain steamed rice is used to make the meat develop a sour flavor. Garlic and Thai chillies are added to further improve flavor. In the olden days, pork fat was in the mixture as well, but in more modern times, naem is made mostly of lean pork meat, which gives a better color to the soured meat.

Naem Maw 1

Naem maw (made in a large pot)

The sour flavor imparted to the meat from fermenting rice is distinctive and unique and is unlike the sour from citrus, vinegar, tamarind, or any other tart fruits. It is simply delicious and quite addicting for those of us who like foods with sour flavors.

Originally, the meat was cured by placing the mixture in a pot or a large bowl and covered to make it airtight, thus giving the name naem maw (maw = pot). Market vendors still sell naem in this form – that is, it’s sold bulk in a large bowl, the vendor cutting and scooping up the amount customers want and wrapping it in pieces of banana leaf, secured with a bamboo pick. In city markets nowadays, this form of naem is usually already pre-cut into uniform chunks and wrapped in plastic with a label slapped on.

Naem Maw 2

More naem maw

Naem Maw 3

Naem maw on top of naem taeng

Naem Taeng 2

Banana-leaf wrapped naem taeng

Later, naem began to be made in short, cylindrical bundles tightly wrapped in several layers of banana leaf and tied tightly with bamboo strings. Nowadays they are mostly made in long, sausage-like logs tightly wrapped and sealed in heavy-duty plastic wrap. Both these forms of naem are called naem taeng (taeng = cylinder). Naem is also tightly wrapped in small pyramidal shapes tied with bamboo strings. Often the leaf-wrapped packages are hung in a cool place (in the tropical room temperature) out of direct sun exposure and allowed to cure until the sour flavor develops. The banana leaf helps moderate the temperature of the meat so that the internal temperature does not get too warm. These days, these banana leaf-wrapped packages are often wrapped again in plastic wrap to keep the banana leaf from drying out.

Naem Taeng 1

Naem taeng (cylinder naem)

In modern times, plastic wrap has become prevalently used in wrapping naem, because it is easy to use and makes it possible for buyers to see the color of the meat. In the tropics where room temperature is fairly warm, it usually takes only 2 to 3 days for the sour flavor to develop, but in temperate climate kitchens such as in the Bay Area, it takes about a week. When juice or moistness can be seen through the plastic wrapping, the naem is usually ready. With the banana leaf-wrapped packages, buyers look for leaf wrappings that are not too freshly green, but not too dried out either.

2 Naem Taeng

Traditional & modern naem taeng

Naem Taeng Unwrapped

Naem Taeng Unwrapped

Grilled Naem Sausages

Grilled naem sausages

Sticky rice was originally used as the souring agent, but later the preference turned to regular cooked rice because it keeps the meat sour for longer after the sour flavor has developed and gives the meat a better pink color. Sticky rice, on the other hand, develops the sour flavor more quickly, but also loses the sour flavor faster, giving the meat a shorter window of opportunity for consumption at its optimal sourness.

Food Platter

Food platter, naem on the left

One reason why many northern Thais still prefer to have some of their naem wrapped in banana leaf is that it can be cooked by roasting in the ashes of their charcoal brazier, burning the outer layers of leaf to give the meat a smoky flavor. Often, naem is eaten raw and the small pyramidal leaf-wrapped packets are pretty and easy to serve individual people in a meal. Raw naem, appearing as those translucent, pinkish slices of meat, is a common part of the northern hors d’oeuvre platter, accompanying slices of spicy sai oa northern sausage, baloney-like moo yaw, crispy fried pork belly with skin (kaep moo), an assortment of steamed or boiled vegetables, and the favorite spicy green chilli dip called nam prik nuum.

Naem Ready To Eat

Naem, ready to eat

Raw naem is frequently made into hot-and-sour yum salads with shallots, pickled garlic, Thai chillies, aromatic herbs and fried nuts, but if you are squeamish about eating raw, cured meat, cook the naem by roasting in banana leaves or by lightly steaming or baking before slicing to make the salad. But if you wish to enjoy the delicate texture of raw meat like Southeast Asians do in a safe manner, you may wish to freeze the sausage for about two weeks to kill off any parasites before consuming.

Naem With Garlic

Sliced Naem with Pickled Garlic and Chillies

Naem Fried Rice

Naem Fried Rice

Other common ways naem is eaten in northern Thailand are: stir-fried with pickled garlic/leeks and chillies; scrambled with eggs and onions; incorporated into fried rice; deep-fried by itself in slices or round balls and eaten with fried peanuts, diced ginger and chillies; added to curries, spicy soups or stir-fries with mucilaginous vegetables like pak bpang (zan choi in Chinese or the “slippery vegetable”) or okra to reduce the mucilaginous property; sliced and tossed with crisp-fried rice, slivered cooked pork skin, fried dried Thai chillies, slivered ginger, fried peanuts and other ingredients to make a crisped rice and sour sausage salad – a delicious street and market food that has now become popular in many restaurants that serve regional cuisines in Bangkok and other major cities throughout the country.


Some More Thai Dishes with Naem Sour Sausage

Fried Naem Maw

Fried Naem Maw

Crispy Fried Naem

Crispy Fried Naem Sour Sausage Balls

The picture to the above left shows naem maw cut into cubes, dipped in egg and deep-fried (naem tawd) at Kaeng Ron Ban Suan in Chiang Mai. On the right is deep-fried, crispy naem sour sausage balls in a crispy taro basket in a Chiang Mai restaurant.

Soup With Naem

Soup with naem

Stir-fried Naem

Naem Stir-fried with Egg and Spinach

To the above left is a soup made with the flowers of pak bpang (zan choi in Chinese) and naem to reduce the mucilaginous property of the vegetable at Come Dara restaurant in Chiang Mai. To the right is naem stir-fried with egg and spinach at Keuy Chiang Mai restaurant.

Naem Salad

Crispy Rice and Naem Sour Sausage Salad

Naem Salad 2

Crispy Rice and Naem Sour Sausage Salad

To the above left is Crispy Rice and Naem Sour Sausage Salad (Naem Kluk Kao Tawd) at Ton Kreuang in Bangkok. To the right is Crispy Rice and Naem Sour Sausage Salad (Yum Naem Kao Tawd) at the Isan restaurant of Vientiane Kitchen in Bangkok.


Naem Slideshow From Kasma’s Classes

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Rolling Naem
Prepped Naem
Assembling Naem Salad
Naem Salad 3
Fried Naem
Stir-fried Naem
Stir-fried Naem 2

Rolling the naem sausages into a tight cylinder in Kasma's class

The soured naem sausages sliced and ready for cooking in a weeklong intensive class

Assembling the Crispy Rice and Naem Sour Sausage Salad in a weeklong intensive class

Crispy Rice and Sour Sausage Salad made by students in Kasma's Advanced B weeklong intensive class

Fried Naem Slices on Crispy Taro Baskets, in Kasma's Advanced D weeklong intensive class - students made the naem and fermented it for 5 days

Naem Sour Sausage (made by students) Stir-fried with Pickled Leeks and Thai Chillies in Kasma's Advanced D weeklong intensive

Naem Sour Sausage (made by students) Stir-fried with Bitter Melon, Eggs and Thai Chillies in Kasma's Advanced D weeklong intensive

Rolling Naem thumbnail
Prepped Naem thumbnail
Assembling Naem Salad thumbnail
Naem Salad 3 thumbnail
Fried Naem thumbnail
Stir-fried Naem thumbnail
Stir-fried Naem 2 thumbnail

Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, March 2013