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Doi Tung

Michael Babcock, Sunday, September 17th, 2017

(Click images to see larger version.)
(There’s a slideshow of images at the bottom.)

Doi Tung View

View at Doi Tung

One of my favorite places in all of Thailand is Doi Tung, a mountain (doi means mountain) 1,389 meters high located in the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai province close to the Myanmar border. On Kasma’s Northern Frontiers trip (we have one scheduled for January 2018) we spend a day visiting 3 of the attractions there. I leave each of the three with a peaceful feeling, my heart full.

The area now is a lush, beautiful forested area with prosperous, thriving communities. It has not always been so. Had you gone in the mid-1980s you would have seen a barren, deforested area denuded by slash and burn agriculture. The roughly 11,000 people composed of 6 different ethnic minorities were living in abject poverty without basic infrastructure. People barely survived by cultivating opium, illegal logging and human trafficking.

The story of how its transformation came about is why there is such a special feeling to Doi Tung.

A Brief History of Doi Tung

The Princess Mother

The Princess Mother

Doi Tung was transformed because of projects initiated by an 87-year old woman, Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the mother of Kings Rama VIII and Rama IX and the grandmother of the current King Rama X – the Princess Mother (as she was called).

In 1987, at the age of 87, she came to Doi Tung for the first time and said “I will reforest Doi Tung.” Ever since she began hiking in the remote rural areas of northern Thailand in 1964 she had a special interest in the impoverished communities of the north. She encouraged and supported education, promoted traditional crafts as a way of earning a living and had a particular interest in improving medical care. (She had been trained as a nurse and her husband, the late Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, a trained physician, was the father of public health in Thailand.) In 1969 she had established mobile medical units that would bring trained personnel to remote regions, often accompanying them herself and earning the title Mae Fah Luang – “Mother from the Sky.”

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The Royal Villa & Garden

The people in Doi Tung were from 6 different ethnic minorities – Akha, Lahu, Tai Lue, Lawa, ethnic Shan and ethnic Chinese – who were not even accorded citizenship. The Royal family made no distinction – their compassion was for all people living in Thailand, whether citizen or not.

The Princess Mother initiated several projects at Doi Tung with the goal of bringing the people of the region out of poverty. The model came to be known as SALD – Sustainable Alternative Livelihood Development – with its stated goal “to transform poor and vulnerable communities from dependency and basic subsistence living, towards full socio-economic sufficiency and independence.” (From About Doi Tung.) The key word was “sustainable.” The Doi Tung Development Project was set up in 1988 to oversee and coordinate the many initiatives.

Doi Tung Coffee

Doi Tung Coffee

To cement her commitment to the transformation of Doi Tung, she built “a home at Doi Tung” – The Doit Tung Royal Villa. She had always traveled back and forth from Thailand to Switzerland, where she had originally moved with her three children in 1933. As she aged, she had been searching for a location to build a home and the northern climate of Doi Tung was a good substitute for Switzerland.

The project used methods first established by her son, H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), starting in 1969, when he set up the Ang Khang Royal Agricultural Station, which was the first successful attempt world-wide to transform a poverty-stricken area by replacing opium production with crop substitution.

At Doi Tung, the multi-pronged approach included education, medical care, treatment for addiction and job/skills training. Macadamia nut trees were planted with coffee plants underneath in order to create high-quality, shade-grown coffee for sale. The Doi Tung brand was created, a high-quality brand that had 4 branches – food, handicrafts (including woven clothes and accessories as well as ceramics and pottery), horticulture and tourism. By 2001, Doi Tung was self-sustaining.

Since 2003, the Doi Tung Development Project has been recognized by the United Nations as one of the best examples of alternative development in the world. Communities from Thailand, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Columbia have traveled to Doi Tung to learn how they can implement the principles at their locations. (See How it Spreads: Lessons from Doi Tung.)

Café Doi Tung

Café Doi Tung Treats

Café Doi Tung Treats

Our trips to Doi Tung always begin with a visit to Café Doi Tung. Coffee is one of the premier products of Doi Tung and since it is very tasty, it’s a great way to support the people there. I’ve already written about the Café in a previous blog (you’ll need to scroll about half-way down to the relevant section):

The coffee is delicious and the setting amongst the hills is a great place to enjoy your drink.

You can also purchase two of the signature products of Doi Tung: coffee, both as beans as well as individual cup drip-coffee packets; and macadamia nuts in the form of plain or seasoned nuts, macadamia nut butter (yum!) as well as macadamia nut cookies. The macadamia nuts are some of the best I’ve ever eaten – large and sweet. These products are now availalble all over Thailand – we regularly purchase them at several supermarkets in Bangkok.

The Royal Villa

Royal Villa & Garden

Royal Villa & Garden

The Royal Villa – picture a Thai-style Swiss chalet – was built to be the residence of the Princess Mother. It is a symbol of her commitment to transforming Doi Tung into a prosperous, self-sustaining community.

Because of its location, the climate is much more reminiscent of Switzerland than tropical Thailand. The two times I’ve visited Doi Tung it has been refreshingly cool.

The Princess Mother loved to garden. The villa is surrounded by beautiful flowers, many of them temperate climate plants, and also orchids. The walk up to the villa leads through planted flower beds to the house itself.

Wood carving

The Villa is filled with lovely wood carving

Alas, I’m unable to provide any photos of the interior of the villa where photography is forbidden. It’s a shame but perhaps best because photographs might not be able to adequately portray the peacefulness and beauty of the home. There is a lovely attention to detail throughout that includes beautiful wood carvings. As you go in, you are able to get an audio tour that explains what you are seeing. In the main hall, which would have been a reception area, there are beautiful art works as well as exhibits about the Princess Mother’s activities – including embroidery, reading detective novels and pressing flowers.

Much of the house has not been changed from when she was living there. I mostly was struck by the simplicity and serenity of her living areas.

Outside of the main reception hall is a balcony with a stunning view of the surrounding hills. When the Villa was built the view would have been quite barren. Now you see a thriving forest of green, a tribute to the transformation she inspired.

(See Education Attractions – Doi Tung Royal Villa.)

The Mae Fah Luang Garden

Mae Fah Luang Garden 1

A view at Mae Fah Luang Garden

The second main attraction at Doi Tung is the Mae Fah Luang Garden. The Princess Mother was an avid gardener and this lovely garden is a tribute to her love of plants.

Because of the elevation of Doi Tung (1,389 meters), many of the plants here reflect the Princess Mother’s desire to give the Thai people a chance to enjoy a temperate flower garden without having to travel out of Thailand. It also includes the lovely Lady’s Slipper Garden, containing a large variety of orchids of the genus Paphiopedilum (Lady Slipper). These orchids are also propagated commercially here – another of the projects providing self-sufficiency for the area. (See Doi Tung Development Project – Plants & Orchid.)

Located on 10 acres of land, it was originally an Akha village given to opium cultivation. The villagers were resettled and now local villagers earn a living nurturing and propagating the plants.

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One of the Lady Slipper orchids

There is a fairly steep walk down through a lovely forest setting. On the way you pass by some colorful, whimsical stuffed animal figures that bring a smile to your face.

There are many paths for your wandering enjoyment. Other features include a lake with water birds, some example hill-tribe structures and a grassy area with the statue called “Continuity.”

For garden lovers, it’s worth a couple of hours just for wandering and enjoyment.

Note: This Mae Fah Luang Garden is different from the Mae Fah Luang Arboretum, which is situated in the Chang Moob Area. The arboretum is worth a visit of it its own with its combination of native flora, native orchids and rhododendrons from many countries set in the middle of a pine tree forest

For more information on the garden see Education Attractions – The Mae Fah Luang Garden.

The Hall of Inspiration

Hall of Inspiration

Hall of Inspiration

Is this the most compelling of the things to see at Doi Tung?

As a westerner, I found this exhibit moving and inspiring. I already knew of the dedication and service of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), how his foundations had initiated thousands of projects for the betterment of the Thai people. I loved this exhibit because it placed his service and philosophy in context.

The Hall of Inspiration is a record of the life and works of King Rama IX’s royal family, starting with his father, Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, the husband of the Princess Mother.

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The Royal Family in Switzerland

With historical photographs, videos and quotes I got such a lovely sense of how the family grew and evolved. Prince Mahidol himself inspired the selfless service that became the hallmark characteristic of the Princess Mother as well as King Bhumibol. Prince Mahidol is considered the father of modern medicine in Thailand for the efforts he made from 1920 (when he returned from his studies abroad) until his early death in September 1929.

The Hall documents how his wife, Princess Srinagarindra, carried on his legacy – she was offering scholarships to students as soon as they were back in the country in 1920. After her husband’s death, for the next two decades she raised three children as a single parent and instilled in them the parents’ ideals of selfless services.

Rippling water

Drops rippling in water

Then when her sons became Kings, she worked to improve the lives of both ethnic Thais and hilltribe people, through education, improved medical care and by training (including crafts) to develop economic independence and sufficiency. Even at the age of 87, a time when most people are slowing down to enjoy the fruits of their life, she initiated the Doi Tung Development Project and oversaw it until her death at the age of 91.

The Hall also highlights the history of Doi Tung, including photos and words from the villagers talking about how the project affected and transformed their lives. Quotes from the Royal Family show the compassion and philosophy that drove their service.

Doi Tung itself is the living example of their philosophy:

Great things come from small beginnings
A gentle ripple starts from but a single drop;
That wave ever expanding, with no end in sight
Begins from one small point, our own self . . .

(See Hall of Inspiration.)


Doi Tung Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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


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Princess Mother 2
Doi Tung Signs
Café Doi Tung Sign
Café Doi Tung Treats
Café Doi Tung Sitting Area
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Royal Villa 5
Wood carving
Doi Tung View
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Temperate climate foliage
Temperate plant
Rhododendron]
Temperate climate flower
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Dahlia bed
A dahlia
Glimmering foliage
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Temperate foliage
Pond with ducks
Drying corn
Leaves and straw
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Princess Srinagarindra

Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra

Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra exiting a helicopter at Doi Tung

Signs to the attractions at Doi Tung

The sign for Café Doi Tung

Some of the goodies available at Café Doi Tung

The sitting area at Café Doi Tung

A view of the Royal Villa, home of the Princess Mother

The Royal Villa viewed through one of its garden beds

The Royal Villa seen behind one of its gardens

The Royal Villa at Doi Tung

A view of the Royal Villa

An example of the lovely wood carving found at the Royal Villa

Doi Tung is nestled into the lovely mountains of northern Thailand

One of the orchids found in the gardens surrounding the Royal Villa

Whimsical creatures such as this decorate the trees at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Another whimsical creature at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Foliage at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Temperate climate plants at the Mae Fah Lung Garden

Temperate climate flowers at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

An azalea at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Another temperate climate plant at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

A view of part of the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Another view of the lovely Mae Fah Luang Garden

Mae Fah Luang Garden view

Flower beds at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

More flower beds at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Dahlias at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Close-up of a dahlia at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Sun-lit foliage at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Lovely Paphiopedilums (Lady Slippers) at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

More Lady Slippers (Paphiopedilums) at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Close up of one of the lovely Lady Slipper orchids at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Another close up of one of a lovely Lady Slipper orchids at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

A garden bed with temperate climate foliage and a statue

A pond with many ducks found in the Mae Fah Luang Garden

The Mae Fah Luang Garden has sample hilltribe buildings

A lovely still life found on one of the buildings

This sign greets you as you enter the Hall of Inspiration

Viewing the exhibits at the Hall of Inspiration

A sign at the Hall of Inspiration about Prince Mahidol

Photo of Prince Mahidol and Princess Srinagarindra

Sign with the words of Princess Srinagarindra

A photograph of the Royal Family in Switzerland

More words by Princess Srinagarindra on how she raised 2 kings

How change occurs from small beginnings

A pond at the Hall of Inspiration with ever-changing patterns

Drops of water expanding

The Hall of Inspiration covers the history of the Doi Tung Development

The guiding principle of Doi Tung

Some words of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Great things come from small beginnings

Princess Srinagarindra

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Websites for Further Study

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. 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 “29,000 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

 

Coffee in Thailand, Part 4

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

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

2 Coffees

Coffee at The Missing Piece

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.

Passion Fruit Tartlet

Passion fruit tartlet

Storefront

Front of The Missing Piece

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 Doi Inthanon) 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 Doi Inthanon 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. 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.

Coffee & Cake

Cake and coffee

Fancy Cake

Fancy cake

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.

Ease Café

Ease Café

Chairs

Sitting area

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.


Ending Thoughts

Coffee Sign

Fresh coffee sign

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 (Doi Inthanon, 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.

Previous Blogs on Coffee in Thailand


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2015

Thong Lo Duck Noodles – Lee’s Noodles

Michael Babcock, Saturday, December 20th, 2014

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.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Assembling Noodles

Assembling noodles

Noodle Set-up

Noodle set-up

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 indicates what kind of noodles are sold here: บะหมี่ – ba mee – which are 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.

Duck Noodles

Duck and Wonton 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.

Duck and Wonton Noodles 2

Duck and Wonton Noodles, with dried chillies

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.

Shop Front

Front of the shop

Shop Front Detail

Close-up of shop front

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.


Assembling Noodles

Assembling noodles

Location

บะหมี่คนแซ่ลี
Ba Mee Khon Sae Lee (Thonglor Branch)
1081 In front of soi Thonglor, Sukhumvit 55-57
Sukhumvit Road
Klongton Nua, Wattana,
Bangkok, 10110
Phone: 02-381-8180
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (unconfirmed)
Facebook Page
Google Map of Lee’s Noodles Thong Lor


Written by Michael Babcock, December 2014

Auntie Nim’s Dessert Shop – ร้านของหวานป้านิ่ม – in Nan

Michael Babcock, Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Visiting in Nan earlier this year, we made several trips to Auntie Nim’s Dessert Shop – ร้านของหวานป้านิ่ม (Raan Kong Wan Pa Nim) – in order to satisfy the sweet tooth. Located across from Wat Sri Pan Ton near the intersection of Chao Fa Road & Suriyapong Road, it serves Thai kanom wan – sweet kanom and ice cream. It’s a great place to satisfy a craving after a good dinner.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Shop, Sign

Sign for Auntie Nim’s

Shop at Night

Here’s Auntie Nim’s at night

I’m including a couple pictures out 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.

Server

Serving kanom

Serving Snacks

Serving the kanom

The main attractions here are the traditional Thai kanom served in a sweet coconut sauce. As you walk up to the counter, you see a number of large bowls with various sweet things in them. Many of them are served by putting them into a bowl and adding sweet coconut cream to them.

Kanom Bua Loi

Kanom Bua Loi

Kanom Pa Kim Khai Tao

Kanom Pa Kim Khai Tao

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.

Thai Dessert

Job’s tears with coconut sauce

Chocolate Ice Cream

Chocolate Ice Cream

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.


Location & Map

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
085-036-6108
11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., closed Wednesdays
Google map of location


See Also:


Written by Michael Babcock, November 2014

Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park in Chiang Rai

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

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.

This is a rather long blog with 6 sections:

(Click images to see larger version.)

Haw Kham – The Golden Pavilion

Outside the Cultural Park

Approaching the Cultural Park

Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion

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.

Covered Walkway

Covered walkway

Pavilion detail

Detail of the Golden Pavilion

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).

Elephant Carvings

Elephant carvings on the staircase

Doorway Detail

Detail above the doorway

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.

Pavilion interior

Inside the Golden Pavilion

Central Pillar

Central pillar

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.

Candelabra #1

One candelabra

Candelabra #2

Another candelabra

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

Princess Mother

The Princess Mother

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.

Water Basin

Lanna water container

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.

The Garden

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.

Air Plants

Giant air plants

Tropical Leaf

Tropical leaf

The garden has some beautiful specimens, such as these giant air plants (above left). Many plants have interesting leaf structures.

Pond

Pond and urns

3 statues

3 garden statues

There are graceful details throughout, such as these urns at the edge of a pond. Statues are nestled in amongst the plants.

Stones #1

Stone garden

Stones #2

Stone garden

There’s a lovely use of rocks and stones to add accents and interest, such as the two photos above.

Carving #1

Garden carving

Spirit House

Spirit house close-up

Carving #2

Carved pillar

These three photos show some of the other features in the garden.

Wall

Wall with carvings

Carving Detail

Carving detail

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.”

Painting

Portrait of the Princess Mother

Museum Entry

Museum entry

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).)

Painting

By Dr. Kamol Tassanaanchalee

Bas Relief

Creation by Jarron Chaijajit

Banner

Modern banner

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.”

Modern Sculpture

Modern sculpture

Sculpture Close-up

Close-up of the sculpture

Sculpture Detail

Sculpture detail

I loved this wooden sculpture with all of it’s textures and folds.

Naga Carvings

Lanna temple naga carvings

Enshrined Buddha #1

Enshrined Buddha

Wooden carving

Wooden carving

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.

Manuscript Chest

Manuscript chest

Enshrined Buddha #2

Another enshrined Buddha

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.


Location

อุทยานศิลปะวัฒนธรรมแม่ฟ้าหลวง
313 หมู่ 7 บ้านป่างิ้ว ต.รอบเวียง อ.เมือง จ.เชียงราย 57000
โทร. 053 716 605-7, 053 601 013 โทรสาร 053 712 429
อีเมล : rmfl@doitung.org

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
Fax: 053-712-429
Email: rmfl@doitung.org

Hours 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed Monday
Entrance fee: 100 to 200 baht.
Bangkok Post Map of Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park
Mae Fah Luang Map of Chiang Rai (with center)
Website (in Thai only)

Explore Further

Information from this blog comes, in part, from the following websites:

See Also


Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Outside the Cultural Park
Golden Pavilion
Pavilion detail
Covered Walkway
Elephant Carvings
Doorway Detail
Pavilion interior
Central Pillar
Candelabra #1
Candelabra #2
Air Plants
Tropical Leaf
Pond
3 statues
Carving #1
Carving #2
Stones #1
Stones #2
Spirit Houses
Spirit House
Wall
Carving Detail
Princess Mother
Water Basin
Painting
Museum Entry
Paintingn
Bas Relief
Banner
Modern Sculpture
Sculpture Close-up
Sculpture Detail
Naga Carvings
Enshrined Buddha #1
Wooden carving
Wooden Carving #2
Manuscript Chest
Enshrined Buddha #2
Headboard
Naga
Enshrined Buddha #3
Buddha Statue

The pond and walkways approaching the Cultural Park

The Golden Pavilion - Haw Kahm - at Mae Fah Luang Cultural Park

Details on the side of the Golden Pavilion (Haw Kahm)

Covered walkway approaching the Golden Pavilion (Haw Kahm)

Elephant carvings on the staircase to the Golden Pavilion

Detail above the doorway to the Golden Pavilion

The white sand floor and the Golden Pavilion from below

Central pillar at the Golden Pavilion (Haw Kahm)

Candelabra at the base of the Golden Pavilion

Another candelabra at the base of the Golden Pavilion

Some air plants in tho Cultural Park's garden

Tropical leaf at the Cultural Park's garden

Pond with urns at the Cultural Park's garden

3 statues at the Cultural Park's garden

Carving found in the Cultural Park's garden

Carved pillar in the Cultural Park's garden

Stone feature in the Cultural Park's garden

Another set of stones in the Cultural Park's garden

Spirit houses in the Cultural Park's garden

Close up of a spirit house in the Cultural Park's garden

Wall with carvings in the Cultural Park's garden

Detail of the carving on the building wall

This relief of the Princess Mother is found outside the museum

A common Lanna feature outside homes - water for washing your hands

Portrait of the Princess Mother in the Museum's entry

In the entry room of the Museum

Modern painting By Dr. Kamol Tassananchalee based on the love song "Lovelorn Song"

A modern wood-carving titled "Creation," by Jarron Chaijajit

Banner by a (modern) Chiang Rai Artist

Modern wood sculpture

A close-up of the modern wood sculpture

Detail of the modern wood sculpture

Naga carvings from Lanna temples

Lanna depiction of an enshrined Buddha

Wooden carving

Decorated panel below one of the ceilings

Manuscript chest for Buddhist scriptures

Sign says "Enshrining an image of the Lord Buddha Shan (Teak)"

Carved demon on the headboard for a bed

Sign says "Naga, temple roof decoration"

Buddha enshrined in a painted, wooden cabinet

Buddha statue. So peaceful.

Outside the Cultural Park thumbnail
Golden Pavilion thumbnail
Pavilion Detail thumbnail
Covered Walkway thumbnail
Elephant Carvings thumbnail
Doorway Detail thumbnail
Pavilion Interior thumbnail
Central Pillar thumbnail
Candelabra #1 thumbnail
Candelabra #2 thumbnail
Air Plants thumbnail
Tropical Leaf thumbnail
Pond thumbnail
3 Statues thumbnail
Carving #1 thumbnail
Carving #2 thumbnail
Stones #1 thumbnail
Stones #2 thumbnail
Spirit Houses thumbnail
Spirit House thumbnail
Wall thumbnail
Carving Detail thumbnail
Princess Mother thumbnail
Water Basin thumbnail
Painting thumbnail
Museum Entry thumbnail
Painting thumbnail
Bas Relief thumbnail
Banner thumbnail
Modern Sculpture thumbnail
Sculpture Close-up thumbnail
Sculpture Detail thumbnail
Naga Carvings thumbnail
Enshrined Buddha #1 thumbnail
Wooden Carving thumbnail
Wooden Carving #2 thumbnail
Manuscript Chest thumbnail
Enshrined Buddha #2 thumbnail
Headboard thumbnail
Naga thumbnail
Enshrined Buddha #3 thumbnail
Buddha Statue thumbnail

Written by Michael Babcock, October 2015