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.
As part of my ongoing series of blogs on coffee in Thailand, I wanted to just touch briefly on something that I’m seeing more and more here in the Kingdom: upscale coffee shops with western-style pastries. I’m seeing these fancy coffee houses more often both in malls and as stand-alone shops. I’ll look at just a couple of them, which can serve as examples.
(Click images to see larger version.)
The Missing Piece Cafe
The Missing Piece is part of a complex that includes the Moon Glass Social Bar and an excellent restaurant, Baan Khanita at 53 (Sukhumvit 53). They are located on Sukhumvit Soi 53, the soi just before Thong Lo (Sukhumvit Soi 55); the upscaleness of Thong Lo is spreading!
The Missing Piece is a small cafe (just a few tables). When you go in, you can see a selection of western-style desserts, including several types of cake and the passion fruit tartlet, which we ordered (see photo below left).
It’s a pleasant, clean shop; the barista was dressed in a uniform of sorts, which seems to be the norm in these more upscale places. Another characteristic of these shops is that the baristas all seem to actually know how to make the drinks correctly. At some of the smaller, individual stands, you never quite know what you’ll be getting. At one stand in Khao Yai National Park, for example, the latte consisted of an Americano to which the barista added some condensed milk. Here, I ordered a cappuccino and my wife ordered a caffe latte – you can see the results in the picture above.
The drinks were perfectly fine: good coffee, nothing extraordinary. The tartlet was pretty tasty: not bad at all. We had a slice of chocolate cake on another occasion and it was delicious.
Another characteristic of these shops is that you’ll pay a bit more for coffee. In smaller one-off stands or shops, you expect around 35 to 40 baht per cappuccino or latte. In the chains (such as Amazon, or Inthanin Coffee) you’ll pay a bit more: 50 to 60 baht, and our local Amazon Cafe (in the Imperial World mall in Samrong) charges 70 baht for a cappuccino. To be sure, in some places such as airports, the prices are already higher. Here the price was 70 baht plus another 70 for the tartlet (the cakes were 110 baht). With VAT and service charge, we paid 243 baht for our two drinks and the small pastry. Definitely upscale pricing for Thailand. This is the only coffee shop where I have ever been charged VAT and a service charge.
I should note that the chains have gotten on the western dessert bandwagon. I had a cheesecake at our local Inthanin Coffee and the local Amazon Cafe has cheesecake plus other cakes as well.
As a side note, Starbucks is among the most expensive coffee places – drinks seem to cost what they do in the states, which is high for Thailand, and even higher than at these (much nicer) individual, upscale coffee places. My advice is to avoid Starbucks; besides, the coffee is just not that good there.
Ease Café at Impact
My second example is Ease Café at the Impact Muong Thong Thani Center (offsite, opens in new window). We attended the annual December pre-Christmas OTOP City here. Side note: if you are ever in Thailand before Christmas you must go to OTOP City. OTOP, of course, means “One Tambon, One Product” and cities and regions all over Thailand participate in making handicrafts and products of anything you can think of. At OTOP City you get to see the best that the provinces of Thailand have to offer, all in one place. A fabulous event with (a guess) around 1,500+ booths.
Ease Café includes nicely made coffee drinks with beautiful western-style desserts. Above left is the caffe latte Kasma ordered along with the multi-layer cake we sampled. Both were quite good.
The trend of higher prices continues here. The latte and cappuccino came in 3 sizes at 70, 80 or 90 baht. The cake was only 65 baht. There was no VAT or service charge here, so our two drinks and piece of cake came to 210 baht.
Offering different sizes for drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes is also somewhat new in Thailand (except for western chains): in the past (and at most shops today) there was just one size offered. The first place I saw multiple sizes at a Thai cafe was at Café Doi Tung last year.
Above left you can see the cafe as it is situated inside the Impact event center. Also, true to form, the interior is quite clean and somewhat fancy, as you can see with the photo (above right) of the sitting area. All of it is très moderne. The baristas were all dressed in uniform, another continuing trend. It’s a comfortable quiet place, a good option for taking some time out from the event you are attending.
Watching the coffee culture grow in Thailand is interesting and fun. I see the กาแฟสด (kafae sot) – fresh coffee – sign in more and more places, sometimes in a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere or in some back alley in Bangkok.
In addition to the upscale cafes, I’m seeing more chains, some of which I’ve never seen before and others (Inthanin Coffee, Amazon, Black Canyon ) that seem to be increasing in number. There has been a veritable explosion of places to drink coffee all over Thailand, especially during this past year. More restaurants have their own espresso machines. I see more Thai people drinking coffee; they are the main clientele for most coffee shops.
One thing I seldom see is drip coffee – it’s nearly all expressed (espresso, Americano). Also, very few places have decaffeinated coffee (one exception being the overpriced Starbucks). I guess the Thais wonder what the point of decaf is.
I recently found a very good duck noodle shop in Thong Lo (Sukuhmvit Soi 55, pronounced “Tawng Law”). This noodle shop is part of a chain; in Thai it is called บะหมี่คนแซ่ลี, which can be translated as Khon Sae Lee Noodles or just Lee’s Noodles. It’s found on Sukhumvit Road just past the start of the Soi (Sukhumvit 55, Thong Lo) itself.
Note: This was written in 2014 and on my recent trip (ended February 2020) I did not verify that the shop is still there; it does appear to still be on Google Maps where it is called Bamee Kon Sae Lae. (see link below).
(Click images to see larger version.)
Walking up Sukhumvit, crossing Thong Lo (Soi 55) after exiting the skytrain (BTS) I saw this sign and the young woman obviously assembling a bowl of noodles. The picture on the right shows the area where she assembles the noodles and also a bit of the noodle shop itself, which is pretty much your basic Thai shop-front food shop.
The sign says what type of noodles are sold here: บะหมี่ – ba mee – egg noodles made with wheat. This shop claims home-made noodles. The food hanging in the front of the shop (see below) lets you know that they make duck and pork noodles.
At duck noodle shops I usually order บะหมี่เป็ดแห้ง – Ba Mee Ped Haeng – which literally means dry duck noodles. You have a choice of getting the noodles dry or as a soup: บะหมี่เป็ดน้ำ – Ba Mee Ped Nahm. I always get the dry noodles.
The dish I ordered here, shown to the left, included shrimp and pork wonton, which you can see to the right of the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. In addition the dish contains the noodles, slices of roast duck and blanched green vegetables. I’m not sure what the Thai name would be (with the wontons); the restaurant does have menus in English, complete with pictures.
In Thailand, dishes such as this are meant to have their flavors adjusted to your taste preference using the ubiquitous Thai Condiment Set. I added a healthy dose of dried red chillies (as you can see below right), followed it up with several (small) spoonfuls of a vinegar/green chilli mixture (for sour), some fish sauce (for salty) and just a touch of sugar to help meld the flavors. After a couple tastes and a couple of small adjustments, the noodles could be mixed up and eaten.
The price for the duck and wonton noodles was 60 baht; for noodles with just duck (no wonton) the price is 50 baht.
The verdict: it’s a very good bowl of noodles. The noodles themselves are tasty with a good texture. The roast duck is succulent and moist. The pork and shrimp wonton are very, very tasty; they are seasoned very well. All in all, it will do as a replacement for the other Thong Lo Duck Noodle Shop that I patronized for so many years (now, sadly, closed). I would say, though, that I preferred the noodles, which were a bit wider, at the old shop; also, they had a better source of sour – vinegar with crushed red chillies. Still, this new shop definitely satisfies the craving.
Lee’s Noodles serves more than duck, as you can see from these pictures of the front of the shop. They have crispy roasted pork, roasted red pork (shown here) and also crab. You can get the egg noodles served with each of those or you can have your meat of preference served over rice. You can also combine meats in any combination.
I will certainly return here. I may have to eschew my beloved duck noodles in favor of the “everything” combo (for 80 baht), which has: duck, crispy roasted pork, roasted red pork and crab as well as the pork and shrimp wonton.
By the way, all the time we were there eating there was a steady stream of customers, both in the shop and getting noodles to go. What with customers eating there and the to go orders, the woman assembling the noodles never stopped the entire time we were there.
Ba Mee Khon Sae Lee (Thonglor Branch)
1081 In front of soi Thonglor, Sukhumvit 55-57
Klongton Nua, Wattana,
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (unconfirmed) Google Map of Lee’s Noodles Thong Lor (offsite, opens in new window)
Written by Michael Babcock, December 2014 & June 2020
For many years Auntie Nim’s Desert Shop – ร้านของหวานป้านิ่ม (Raan Kong Wan Pa Nim) – in Nan was the perfect place to satisfy a sweet tooth or two. Located across from Wat Sri Pan Ton near the intersection of Chao Fa Road & Suriyapong Road, it served Thai kanom wan – sweet kanom – and ice cream. It was a great place to satisfy a craving after a good dinner.
Update: Alas! Auntie Nim’s is no more! The word is that Auntie Nim retired; it was closed when we visited in 2018. I’ll leave this blog up as a historical record.
(Click images to see larger version.)
I’ve included a couple pictures above of the outside – the one showing the street sign during the day and the second showing how I first saw the shop: all lit up at night and (as we saw when we approached) bustling with people, nearly all Thais.
The main attractions here were the traditional Thai kanom served in a sweet coconut sauce. As you walked up to the counter, you saw a number of large bowls with various sweet things in them. Many of them were served by putting them into a bowl and adding sweet coconut cream to them.
These two popular items will give you an idea of the desserts here. On the left is Kanom Bua Loi – dumplings in a sweet coconut soup. The dumplings have a soft, interesting texture. To the right is Kanom Pa Kim Khai Tao. A couple of different kinds of noodles provide the texture to this dish.
Above left is another sweet coconut milk-based dish, this one with job’s tears. Like the two dishes above, the filling (Job’s tears, in this case) in the coconut soup provides texture and contrast to the sweet coconut milk. To the right we see their chocolate ice cream: it’s worth a try as well.
Where it was Located
ร้านของหวานป้านิ่ม – Raan Kong Wan Pa Nim
95/2, ถนนเจ้าฟ้า, ตำบลในเวียง อำเภอเมืองน่าน จังหวัดน่าน, 55000
95/2, Wat Sri Pan Ton Intersection, Chao Fa Road, Nai Wiang Subdistrict, Mueang Nan District., Nan, Thailand
One of the highlights when we visited Northen Thailand earlier this year (January 2014) was the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Hosting the region’s largest collection of folk art and teak artifacts from the Lanna Kingdom, the adjective I would use to describe it is gracious. The highlights, aside from the art, are a beautiful golden pavilion, an elegant peaceful garden and a museum of Lanna art, contemporary and old.
When we came here, I knew nothing about the place at all. As we walked in on foot towards the Cultural Park, we came upon a wooden walkway over a lovely pond, surrounded by natural beauty and peacefulness. In the back we saw the Golden Pavilion: a beautiful teakwood building in the Lanna style of architecture that was presented as a gift to the Princess Mother to celebrate her 84th birthday in 1984. It was constructed by 32 wooden houses given by various people in Chiang Rai out of love for the Princess Mother. The Golden Pavilion reflects the deep love and gratitude towards the Princess Mother and all that she had done for the Northern people.
The walkway itself is a work of art, with it’s wooden beams and supports. There are lovely details on the sides of the pavilion as well (see upper right).
The stairway and door of the pavilion are rich in detail and beauty, as these two pictures show: a row of elephants walks you up the stairs and on the lintels above the door, celestial beings great you.
At the bottom of the stairs we were met by a young woman in a lovely Thai dress who was our guide into the pavilion.
The Pavilion is not a museum. The idea was to include notable religious and secular objects, many used in Lanna ritual and displayed within context; there are ritual items such as candelabras, wooden standards and containers for floral offerings. The interior is candlelit and there is a feeling of sanctity. One of the more prominent images is a wooden Buddha statue named Pra Pratoh, which, according to inscriptions, was created in 1693.
Photography is forbidden inside the pavilion. The ritual objects are around a hallway or balcony surrounding the interior of the building overlooking a central courtyard with a white sand floor. A red and gold pillar rises from the center of the floor. It’s a lovely, quiet space.
You can see the inside of the pavilion in this picture (above left) from down below, looking up from the white sand floor. If you click on the (left) picture (to enlarge) you can see part of the walkway with the objects displayed in the back of the photo.
Many of the ritual objects displayed in the Pavilion were candelabras that hold 7 candles. The two photos shown above were taken from outside the pavilion where a number of these candelabras were displayed around the building’s base.
Background of the Cultural Park
Mae Fah Luang is one of the titles of Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother, who was the mother of the current King of Thailand. It means “Royal Mother from the Sky,” in part a reference to the Princess Mother’s work in bringing medicine to the rural areas of the north by helicopter, often accompanying the medical teams herself. The Foundation grew out of all of her work on behalf of the Thai people. It began life as the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation that the Princess Mother founded in 1972 to offer market access for craft-making villages in Northern Thailand; it was renamed in 1985 to reflect the increasing emphasis on social issues, including education and sustainable development, that were being developed based on the Princess Mother’s philosophy and ideas.
The Cultural Park was established at what was called the Rai Mae Fah Luang, a center for education and skills training for hill tribe youth in Northern Thailand. It was established to house the Royal Collection of Lanna Art in order to make the art available to the northern people in order to educate them about their cultural heritage. It is the largest collection of Lanna art in the region.
The word Lanna means “a million rice fields” and the Lanna Kingdom was founded in the 13th century AD by King Mengrai. It was basically a federation of smaller princialities in the north, including areas in Burma, Laos, Thailand and southern China. Conquered in the mid-16th century by the Burmese, it became a vassal state of Siam in the late 18th century, remaining a loose federation with up to 57 city states or principalities. In 1892, Siam officially annexed Lanna and it became part of Thailand.
From the Golden Pavilion, we spent time wandering around the second main feature of the Park: the garden, a botanical collection with indigenous and rare plants from the northern region.
The garden has some beautiful specimens, such as these giant air plants (above left). Many plants have interesting leaf structures.
There are graceful details throughout, such as these urns at the edge of a pond. Statues are nestled in amongst the plants.
There’s a lovely use of rocks and stones to add accents and interest, such as the two photos above.
These three photos show some of the other features in the garden.
Even the walls of the building are interesting, with wooden carvings part of the structure.
Haw Kaew – The Museum
The other main part of the Cultural Park is the Haw Kaew. According to the brochure handed out at the Park, “Haw Kaew presents a permanent exhibition based on artifacts and religious items made from teak, as teak was used in people’s everyday lives. In addition there are revolving exhibitions featuring “topics related to the diverse ethic cultures of Lanna.”
One of the first things that you see when you come into the museum is a portrait of the Princess Mother. It is hard to convey the devotion that most northern people feel for this extraordinary woman. She was instrumental in bringing education, skills training, medicine and dental care to the rural northerners. In the west we seem to have a somewhat jaundiced view of royalty. It’s different in Thailand because of the dedication of the current royal family, which began with the Princess Mother. (See the Wikipedia entry on Srinagarindra (the Princess Mother).)
The museum includes a collection of contemporary art by northern Thai artists. Above left is a painting by Dr. Kamol Tassananchalee based on what the sign calls “Thailand’s most popular love song” – Lovelorn Song, the lyrics by Chalie Intravichit. In the center is a wood carving – “Creation,” by Jarron Chaijajit. To the right is a banner, attributed only to “a Chiangrai artist.”
I loved this wooden sculpture with all of it’s textures and folds.
Still, the bulk of the collection consists of older Lanna art. Above left is a row of nagas (the naga is a mythical dragon) taken from various Lanna temples. The museum includes a number of enshrined Buddhas, such as the one in the center above. There are numerous wooden carvings, such as the one above right, presumably of a celestial being or princess.
The picture above left shows a manuscript chest that would have been used to store Buddhist scriptures. To the right is a teak carving of the Buddha enclosed by 2 protective nagas; the sign for this piece says “Enshrining an image of the Lord Buddha Shan.
The Slideshow below has further images from the museum.
Note: There’s also a smaller buiding on the grounds called the Haw Kham Noi . It houses mural paintings originally done in tempera painted directly on teak panels in a temple in Phrae province; they were saved from sale as antique by the villagers and sent here for safekeeping. We did not see the murals when we were there.
Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park
313 Moo 7, Baan Pa Ngiew
Tambon Robwiang, Amphoe Muang Chiang Rai,
Chiang Rai 57000 Thailand
Phone: 053 716-605 (to 607), 053-601-013
Hours 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed Monday
Entrance fee: 100 to 200 baht. Mae Fah Luang Website (offsite, opens in new window)
Information from this blog comes, in part, from the following websites:
โกจ้อย ขนมจีนไก่ทอด กระบี่
Ko Joi Kanom Jeen Gai Tod Krabi
One of my favorite excursions in Krabi, Thailand, is to go eat a type of noodle called kanom jeen at Ko Joi restaurant in a Nuea Klong just south of Krabi town. It’s a little, somewhat out-of-the way restaurant where they make their own fresh kanom jeen noodles and some absolutely delicious gai tod (fried chicken). Their main sign, in Thai, says โกจ้อย ขนมจีนไก่ทอด กระบี่ – Ko Joi Kanom Jeen Gai Tod Krabi.
(Click pictures to see a larger version.)
Kanom jeen are perhaps the only noodles popular in Thailand that do not come to Thailand via the Chinese. This is ironic as the word for Chinese in Thai sounds very much like jeen – for years I thought that was what the jeen in kanom jeen meant: it’s not. Kanom jeen is a 100% rice noodle consisting of rice, water and (optional) salt. It is made by first fermenting the dough, then expressing the dough through a cylinder with holes into hot water (for cooking). According to Kasma these noodles are indigenous to SE Asia and originated among the Mon ethnic group, who called them kanawn jin. They are found throughout SE Asia, in NE Thailand, Northern Thailand, Southern Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. The noodles are documented in the Ayuthaya Era (15th to 18th centuries) and may have existed since the 8th to 11th centuries.
We’ve already blogged on a Southern restaurant that serves kanom jeen (Wang Derm (which his become Krua Nakhon), in Nakhon Si Thammarat). What makes Ko Joi special is that they make the noodles right there and you can watch the process in its entirety. (See slideshow at bottom of page.)
In many places, kanom jeen noodles are used as a rice substitute: you can order green curry or whatever that will be served over the noodles. Here, you have one choice: Kanom Jeen Namya, which Kasma translates as Southern-Style Rice Vermicelli Topped with Spicy Fish Namya Curry Sauce. And it is spicy! Kasma’s recipe, which she used to teach in Advanced Set E-2, calls for 10 large dried red chillies (soaked and chopped) and 40 to 50 dried red chillies (finely ground) pounded into the chilli paste. The dish even without the chillies would have an intense flavor from all the other herbs. The lovely yellow color comes from fresh turmeric.
The dish is served with an assortment of raw and blanched vegetables and various kind of pickles, which can be eaten separately or stirred in and eaten with the noodles, as you can see above right.
At nearly every southern restaurant, there’s a platter or two of fresh vegetables and herbs to accompany the meal. At Ko Joi you get two plates: the one above left has two kinds of pickles, cucumbers, long beans and bean sprouts. The one above right has various leaves and herbs, such as Thai Basil.
The other plus for Ko Joi is that they make a fabulous fried chicken (gai tod) to eat with the noodles. Above left you see the chicken marinating in a sauce prior to frying. Above left you see the chicken sizzling away in the oil.
Be warned, though: you may need to stay in line for the chicken piece you want as sometimes there’s a number of people waiting to choose.
When you see the photo above left, you can imagine why there’s a line to order the chicken! The chicken is absolutely delicious: crispy fried on the outside and succulent and flavorful on the inside. I find it impossible to eat only one piece!
Above right you see pretty much a complete meal: the vegetable/pickle platter to the right, then the Kanom Jeen Namya with a piece of fried chicken just behind.
The inside of the restaurant is nothing fancy: basic tables and plastic stools to sit on. The chicken is simply served on pieces of paper. You don’t come here for the fancy setting!
The one other dish I’ve seen here is a Fish Innard Curry – Kaeng Tai Pla – which is incendiary. The dish has a pretty strong taste and is, in my opinion, an acquired taste. (I’ve not yet acquired it.)
This is a fabulous excursion; plan on going for breakfast and do make sure you watch the noodle making in the back room. For now, check out the slideshow below.
Directions are found below the slideshow.
Slideshow – Making Kanom Jeen
Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.
Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.
Kasma and I got together in 1992 and since then I’ve been to Thailand every year but one, always with Kasma. Yes, indeed, I do know that I’m a lucky man. Traveling with a Thai woman who specializes in finding interesting places to visit and knows so much about Thai food and Thailand is good in one way; in another, I’m not sure how many of the places we visit I could find if I ever did have to travel on my own.
Ko Joi is found in Nuea Klong (North Canal) which is about 17 km south of Krabi town and about 3 km from the airport. It’s directly across from a Chinese shrine and is accessed from left-hand turn onto a small road from the Highway. Your best bet for getting there, is to find a songtao or hire a car and driver in Krabi town and get them to take you there: Kasma says it’s well known in Krabi and people there will know it.
This is a breakfast and lunch place. As far as I can tell, it opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes either at 1:00 or 2:00 p.m.
โกจ้อย ขนมจีนไก่ทอด กระบี่ (Ko Joi Kanom Jeen Gai Tod Krabi)
752/3 หมู่ 2 ต.เหนือคลอง อ.เหนืองคลอง
752 Moo 2, Tambon Nuea Khlong, Amphoe Neaung Khlong
Krabi, Thailand 81130
Phone 075-691145 , 081-8941932
Restaurants coordinates: 8.07165, 98.999717 Google Map of Ko Joi (offsite, opens in new window) – name spelled as Ko Choi.