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Ko Joi Restaurant – Kanom Jeen Noodles in Krabi

Michael Babcock, Monday, September 1st, 2014

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 Namya

Kanom Jeen Namya

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 (formerly 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.)

Kanom Jeen Namya

Kanom Jeen Namya

Kanom Jeen Namya

Kanom Jeen Namya

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 teaches in the Evening Series Advanced Set E-2 and in the Weeklong Advanced Class Set 2C, day 4, 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.

Vegetable Platter

Vegetables & Pickles

Greens

Accompanying greens

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.

Marinating chicken

Marinating Chicken

Frying Chicken

Frying the chicken

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.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

The Meal

A meal at Ko Joi

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.

Inside Ko Joi

Inside Ko Joi

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.

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The kanom jeen noodle dough

Kneading the dough

Forming the dough into spheres

Loose dough and one formed sphere

Several dough balls in back, "resting"

Loose kanom jeen noodle dough in a mixer

Kanom jeen noodle dough after mixing

Removing the dough from the mixer

Forming two dough balls

Forming a dough ball

Kanom jeen noodle dough formed into spheres and "resting"

It's hot work to make these noodles!

A dough ball, formed into a cylinder, ready for extruding

"Expressing" the noodles into a wok with boiling water

Close-up of the noodles being expressed into the wok

Beginning to remove the cooked noodles

A basket, held at arm's length, for removing the cooked noodles

Pulling the basket with noodles out of the wok

She is pulling the noodles out of a bowl with cool water

The noodles are formed into skeins

Placing the skeined kanom jeen noodles into a bowl

Several bowls of kanom jeen noodles, ready for serving

This is the namya curry sauce

Here she's packaging a serving of Kanom Jeen Namya "to go"

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Getting There

Ko Joi Sign

Ko Joi sign

Sign Close-up

Sign close-up

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
There’s also a Map to Ko Joi further down on this page. Here’s the original page (in Thai).

Check out the pictures of Ko Joi at Google Images.

Here are some reviews of the restaurant and more photos, and here’s the original page in Thai.


I understand that there is a branch of Ko Joi in Krabi town. We’ve never eaten there, only at the Ko Joi in Nuea Khlong.


See also:

Here’s Information about Kasma’s small-group trips to Thailand.


Written by Michael Babcock, September 2014

Yum Saap Restaurant – A Thai Chain

Michael Babcock, Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Yum Saap – ยำแซ่บ แซ่บครบรส – is a restaurant chain specializing in Northeastern (Isan) food; there are around 50 branches, most located in and around Bangkok but also found as far afield as Chiang Rai and Phuket. On our last visit to Thailand we had a meal at the branch at the Imperial World Shopping Cener in Samut Prakan. Here are my impressions. (note: แซ่บครบรส is translated as “full flavor.”)

(Click images to see larger version.)

Yum Saap Restaurant

Yum Saap Restaurant

I enjoy eating at Thai restaurants of all varieties. It’s fun every once in awhile to try out the food at one of the Thai chain restaurants. Imperial World is a shopping center that is about a 10 minute klong (canal) ride and walk from our townhouse in the neighborhood of Nakhon Thong in the Samrong district of Samut Prakan (found on the edge of Bangkok). The basement of Imperial World houses a food center, which is a popular lunch destination for us, and also many restaurants, including Yum Saap. We decided to give it a try at the end of December last year (2013).

Restaurant Logo

Yum Saap Logo

Coconut Drink

Blended coconut drink

Yum Saap has a whimsical and very noticeable logo, as you can see to the left. It’s a clean restaurant, furnished not unlike chain restaurants in the U.S. (such as Denny’s or IHOP).

One item we ordered was a “Coconut Frostie” – นำ้มะพร้าวปั่น (Nam Maprao Pan), which arrived before the food. It’s a refreshing drink, not overly sweet (as some are).

Eggplant Salad

Country-style Eggplant Salad

Grilled Chicken

Grilled Chicken

As might be expected, their menu had a fair number of ยำ (yum) type salads. The menu had pictures of every item and my eye was immediately caught by Eggplant Salad (Country Style) – พล่าหมูมะเขืออ่อน – (Phla Moo Makeau Awn). I had never seen an eggplant salad made with the Thai eggplants. I wanted to try it. It did not disappoint. It included pork and was spicy and sour, with a bit of sweet. I’m hoping Kasma will duplicate this recipe for a future class! When Kasma likes a dish at a restaurant she’ll write down the ingredients and flavor profile so that when we return home, she can de-construct it and come up with her own version. Quite often, I find her versions better than the originals. Many of these show up in her Advanced Thai Cooking Classes.

Another delicious dish was the Grilled Chicken – ไก่ย่าง (Gai Yang), served with two types of dipping sauces – น้ำจิ้ม (Nam Jim); one sauce was sweet and the other was spicy and a bit sour (made with roasted chillies).

Stir-fried Morning Glory

Stir-fried Morning Glory

Vegetable Stir-fry

Vegetable Stir-fry

We ordered two other dishes. The Stir-fried Morning Glory – ผัดผักบุ้งไฟแดง (Pad Pak Boong Fai Daeng) above left. The 4th dish was Vegetables Stir-fried with Oyster Sauce and Squid. (I’m unable to find this dish listed on their online menu so can’t give you the exact name.)

All in all, the food was quite acceptable. Two of the dishes were very good and others were also good. What impressed me was that the food was authentic Thai food – it did not seem as if any shortcuts were taken. It was spicy and flavorful. I only wish I could get food that tasted as good at the chain restaurants here in the U.S.!


Location

Imperial World Samrong
999 Sukhumvit Road. Samrong Nua,
Muang, Samutprakarn 10270
General Phone : 0-2756-8217-9
Email : olarn_kit@imperialplaza.co.th
Imperial World Website
Imperial World Facebook page
Map of location of Imperial World, Samut Prakan
Bus routes to Imperial World
Google Map: for Imperial World, locate Big C Supercenter in the upper left corner.

Yum Saap Restaurant – ยำแซ่บ แซ่บครบรส
Imperial Samrong Branch – สาขา อิมพีเรียล สำโรง
For address & map – see Imperial World above. Restaurant is found on the basement floor.
Phone: 02-756-9991
Yum Saap Website (be warned, it’s one of those irritating Flash-based sites); the English option does not appear to work so it’s mostly in Thai, though the menu includes English names.
Yum Saap Facebook page
Information Page with list of branches – (Original Thai version
Review of Yum Saap, MBK (A different branch)


Written by Michael Babcock, June 2014

Bo Klua – Visiting the Salt Ponds

Michael Babcock, Sunday, June 1st, 2014

We recently traveled to Bo Klua (also spelled Bo Kleua or Boklua) – บ่อเกลือ – a district in Eastern Nan province in Northern Thailand right on the border of Laos. A translation of the name would be “Salt Ponds”  (เกลือ (klua) means salt). This blog explores some of the sights we visited. Bo Klua is well worth a visit.

The town of บ่อเกลือใต้ – Bo Klua Tai  (ใต้,  tai, meaning south) is some 90 km from Nan, about a two-hour drive up twisty, windy mountain roads, to an elevation of around 1,100 meters. (Here’s the Google map of the route from Nan to Bo Klua Tai.) Along the way we stopped to enjoy numerous mountain views.

View #1

View on the way to Bo Klua

View #2

View on the way to Bo Klua

(Click images to see larger version.)

Doi Phu Kha National Park

Doi Phu Kha National Park – อุทยานแห่งชาติดอยภูคา – in the Luan Prabang Range in Nan province, is the largest National park in Northern Thailand. It is directly adjacent to the district of Bo Klua and a good place to visit on the way. Its most noticeable feature is Doi Phu Kha – Phu Kha Mountain – which is 1,980 meters high. There are numerous trails for hiking; accommodations (cabins) and camping are available.

Park Sign

Michael & Sun at the park

Park View #1

One of the views at the park

Above left are Michael (that’s me) and our driver, Sun, standing in front of a park sign on the way into Doi Phu Kha National Park, with Phu Kha mountain the background. The park is full of beautiful views, such as the one above right.

"Cherry" Blossoms

Flower blossoms at the park

Park View #2

Another beautiful view

The National Park is home to Chumpoo Phu Kha (Thai: ชมพูภูคา – Bretschneidera sinensis), a tree with attractive pink flower bunches. Although they were not in bloom when we visited in January (they bloom later, in the spring), there were other trees with beautiful pink blossoms. The trees we saw (see above left) are often mis-called “sakura,” after the Japanese cherry tree; they are actually a completely different tree (not a cherry) indigenous to Thailand.

I’ve put in another of the stunning views at the park above right.

For further exploration:

The Rock Salt Pits

The name of the district – บ่อเกลือ (Bo Klua) – “salt ponds” – tells you about the main attraction here. For centuries salt has been extracted from these ponds and the salt has provided prosperity and power for the region. People still come here to see how the salt is extracted and to purchase it for their own use.

Salt Pit #2

Getting salt water from a well

Salt Pit #2

Another way to draw salt water

Salt is still manufactured much as it has been for centuries here. The first step is to extract the salt water from the wells. On the left it is being extracted in the traditional fashion: by lowering a bucket down into the well, hauling it up and putting it in a clay pot. The second operation we saw (picture on the right) used more modern methods: pumps were used to draw up the water rather than relying on manual labor.

Salt Oven #2

The two ovens

Salt Oven #1

Boiling away the water

The next step in the extraction process is to boil the salt water until much of the water has evaporated. The resulting salt is then put in baskets and suspended over the ovens to further dry it out.

Then the salt is packaged and sold. These days, iodine is often added to the salt to prevent goiter due to iodine deficiency. We saw it for sale in both forms: iodized and non-iodized.

The following blog has some good information on how the salt is produced:

Town Walk

Strawberry Patch

Pick your own strawberries!

Temple Sign

Sign for Wat Bo Luang

The best way to see everything is to walk through the town, from the one salt operation to the other. On our walk, we passed a temple with a sign also in Northern script (above right) and continued to the edge of the buildings to a field where you could pick your own strawberries; you could also buy strawberry plants. On our way back, we stopped in at the temple.

Wat Bo Luang – วัดป่อหลวง

Temple

A temple building

Temple View

Temple view

The temple is a good example of a local northern Temple. There were two simple buildings open with different Buddha statues. As with many northern temples, there were murals on the walls, both behind the main altar and along the sides leading to the altar. When we were there towards the end of our day this January, the sky and clouds provided a lovely backdrop for one of the buildings and the naga protecting it.

Buddha #1

Buddha & Murals

Mural Close-up

Mural close-up

Here is the main Buddha statue and a close up of the wonderful mural behind it. (Click on the pictures for a larger image.)

Mural #1

Buddha’s moment of enlightenment

Mural #2

Buddha’s “Parinirvana”

These two images are murals that were found on the side walls of the same building. The mural to the left depicts the Buddha at his moment of Enlightenment. Mara (represented by the green demon and the black elephant to the left) is mocking Buddha and asking how can he say he is enlightened. Mara asks: “Who will vouch that you are enlightened?” Then the Earth Mother Goddess (in the center) arises and says: “I will vouch for his enlightenment.” She then wrings out her hair and the resulting flood washes Mara away.

On the right is a representation of the Parinirvana of Buddha, where he gives his final sermon, lying on his right side, prior to leaving his body for nirvana.

Buddha #2

Another Buddha statue at the temple

Mural Close-up #2

Another mural close-up

One of the other buildings was also quite interesting: it had two Buddha statues under a mural with yet another Buddha image. The mural behind these statues had two fantastical creatures, one of which is shown as a close-up on the right.

(Click pictures to see a larger image.)

A Bo Klua Breakfast

When we stayed in Bo Klua this last January, we went looking for a quick and easy breakfast place. We found a place typical of so many restaurants in Thailand, with very basic decor and basic food that was delicious.

This roadside place had a menu that was in Thai and English, indicating that Bo Klua gets a fair number of foreign tourists. The menu was called เมนูอาหาร – menu ahaan (ahaan means “food”) – and the English on the menu says “Fast Foods Menu.”

Restaurant

Roadside restaurant

Thai Omelette

Thai Omelette over Rice

You can see that there’s nothing fancy about it: a roadside restaurant that opens onto the street. Our driver ordered an omelet – ไข่เจียว (Khai Jiow) – over rice. The menu had a “Minced pork omelet” – ไข่เจียวหมูสับ (Khai Jiow Moo Sap)  – but our driver doesn’t eat pork so he ordered it without pork instead.

Noodle Dish

Rice Noodle Dish

Pork Dish

Stir-fried Pork dish

Kasma ordered a noodle dish (above left), which the menu called “Wide rice noodles with vegetables and meat” – ก๋วยเตี๋ยวแห้ง (Kway Tiow Haeng). The dish on the right, which I ordered, is called “Rice topped with stir-fried pork and Sacred basil + Fried egg” – ผัดกะเพรา + ไข่ดาว  (Pad Kaprao + Khai Dao). A dish made pad kaprao (stir-fried with holy basil) – prepared with any kind of meat or seafood you can imagine – is one of Thailand’s favorite dishes. (See my blog on Basil Pork – Moo Pad Kaprao.) Here the dish came with a typical Thai-style fried egg – ไข่ดาว (Khai Dao) – literally a “star egg” – with its crisp-fried edges.

Where to Stay or Eat Lunch or Dinner

My previous blog was on Pongza Restaurant and the Boklua View (Resort).

Further Exploration


Written by Michael Babcock, June 2014

Pongza Restaurant in Bo Klua

Michael Babcock, Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Pongza Restaurant – ร้านอาหารปองซา (Raan Ahaan Pongza) – is found in the town of Bo Klua Tai – บ่อเกลือใต้ – in eastern Nan province in Northern Thailand, about 85 kilometers from Nan city. Here are my impressions from eating at this popular restaurant in a beautiful setting in January 2014. I’ll also talk briefly about the Bo Klua View (Resort) where the restaurant is located. My next blog will be on Bo Klua itself

Pongza Restaurant is located at the Boklua View (Resort) (see below) in the foothills of Doi Phu Kha, nearly 700 meters above sea level. Both restaurant and resort are owned by Toun Upajak, an English speaking Thai who is a trained chef. The restaurant serves a combination of Western and Thai dishes, including local (jungle) specialties. They make their own bread and desserts (western-style) and use produce from their own organic gardens whenever possible. Although the menu is not extensive because of the difficulty in getting ingredients at their remote location, there are still plenty of interesting dishes to choose from.

I’ll start with a couple of the dishes for, after all, the main reason to go to any restaurant is the food.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken with Mak Wan

If the restaurant has a “signature dish” it is ไก่ทอดมะแข่วน – Kai Tod Mak Wan – Fried Chicken with Ma-kwaen Herb. มะแข่วน (ma-kwaen or ma kwan) is usually identified as Zanthoxylum Limonella Alston and it is apparently fairly common in Northern Thailand (including Mae Hong Son & Chiang Mai). The genus Zanthoxylum (in English commonly known as prickly ash) includes the more commonly known Sichuan (or Szechuan) pepper. It has an exotic flavor and, like Sichuan peppers, a somewhat numbing effect on the mouth. It adds a very interesting, almost floral, taste to the chicken. It is used medicinally in Thailand to treat toothache, gum disease, nausea, dizziness and certain menstrual problems. Its oil can also be used as a mosquito repellant and has been investigated with some promising results as a possible bactericide for multi-drug resistent bacteria.

If you want more information about this interesting spice, do an Internet search using the Thai name (copy & paste) – มะแขว่น. Nearly all of the articles will be in Thai so you’ll need to hit the “Translate this page” link. There’s a company in Canada – spicetrekkers.com – that sells it under the name of Mah Kwan Wild Pepper;  all-in-all they have over 25 different kinds of pepper.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Fern Salad

Fern Salad

Fried Fern Salad

Fried Fern Salad

The restaurant has a number of dishes with a type of fern growing in the local jungles, called ผักกูด – pak kood. The dish on the left above is Yum Pak Kood Ruam – ยำผักกูดร่วม – a “yum” salad with the fern, ground pork and squid. We had this on our visit this January (2014).

Above right is a Fried Fern Salad – Yum Pak Kood Tod – ยำผักกูดทอด – Kasma had this dish on a visit during December 2012. This particular dish wasn’t on the menu when we visited in 2014.

Green Curry

Green Curry with Crispy Catfish

Limeade

Two blended fruit drinks

On our visit we ordered one other dish, the Green Curry with Crispy Catfish – เขียวหวานปลาดุกกรอบ (Kiow Wan Pla Dook Krob) – shown to the left. It had a lovely presentation, as you can see; however I found the curry itself a bit disappointing. It was ok, just not terrific (which somehow I come to expect in Thailand).

Incidentally, the food here is served with a lovely purple rice (that’s what it’s called, in English, on the menu); it’s a whole grain rice with a couple different varieties cooked together.

The restaurant can be excellent when it comes to presentation, as you saw with the green curry and can see with the two glasses of blended fruit drinks above right, taken by Kasma in December 2012. (When we visited in 2014 the drinks were a bit plainer, probably because the restaurant was absolutely packed.)

Caramel Cream

Caramel Cream

Banana Banoffee

Banana Banoffee

If you are so inclined, Pongza does have some very tasty desserts. Above left is what the menu calls “Caramel Cream” – it looks very much like a delicious Crème Brûlée.

The dessert on the right is called “Banana Banoffee” and looks mildly decadent. Kasma (who took these pictures on the December 2012 trip) said that they were quite tasty.

View #1

A view from the restaurant

View #2

Table with a view

The restaurant is in a lovely physical setting; it is quite pleasant to have a meal next to the mountain views from the dining room. You see a couple of examples above: some of the tables are right at the edge of the deck, giving a memorable dining experience.

If you’re ever in Bo Klua, I recommend eating at Pongza Restaurant. The food is very good  – some dishes excellent, others good –  the presentation is lovely and the views are quite nice indeed. Give it a try.

Check out:

Boklua View (Resort) – บ่อเกลือ วิว

I can’t end the blog without at least mentioning the Boklua View (Resort) where Pongza restaurant is located.

Boklua View

Front of Boklua View (Resort)

Resort View

View from a room

It’s a wonderful, peaceful place to stay. Many of the rooms overlook beautiful views, such as the one above right.

Bedroom

Bedroom at Boklua View

Wash basin

Wash basin

The resort is very nicely appointed, as you can see from this shot of the bedroom above right. There are numerous beautiful and tastefully done details, such as the wash basin above right, and the flowers floating in water (further down the page)  It’s a great place to stay while in Bo Klua.

Boklua View (Resort)
209 Moo 1 Baan Bo Loung
Bua Kluea Tai
Bo Kluea 55220, Thailand
Phone: 081 809 6392 or 054 778 140
Email: admin@bokluaview.com

Also see:

Floating Flowers

Flowers floating in water – another nice touch at Bo Klua View (Resort)


Written by Michael Babcock, May 2014

Mae Salong – Tea & Beautiful Views

Michael Babcock, Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Mae Salong – แม่สลอง – (or Doi Mae Salong – ดอยแม่สลอง – doi meaning “mountain”) is an area in northern Thailand in Chiang Rai province where one of the main activities is growing tea, primarily high mountain oolong tea. The village there is called Santikhiri – สันติคีรี.

Mae Salong reminded me of the village Baan Rak Thai in Mae Hong Son province, mentioned in Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 2 (scroll down in that blog). Both places are found up in the hills and are home to ex-Kuomintang soldiers, many from Yunnan province in China, who eventually began cultivating tea. The soldiers in Mae Salong were from the Kuomintang’s 93rd division and they continued fighting the Chinese through the 1950s, growing opium to fund their continuing military operations. They were granted asylum in Thailand in 1961 and, later, Thailand enlisted them to fight a communist insurgency in Thailand until 1982 when they laid down their arms and were granted Thai citizenship. There’s a fascinating article on China’s Forgotten Army.

View

View driving to Mae Salong

The drive to Mae Salong, found about 80 kilometers from Chiang Rai, wends its way up to Santikhiri, which is at an elevation of around 1,300 meters. It is quite close to the Burmese border. When we went in January, the climate was decidedly cool. Along the way we stopped several times to admire views, such as this one to the left. In addition to the ethnic Chinese living there, you also find Akha, Yao, Karen and Hmong hill tribes, many of who originally came from southern China or Myanmar.

In addition to the tea, Mae Salong is a popular destination for trekkers.

Tea on a Hill

Tea plants on a hill

Tea Plants

Close up of some tea plants

(Click images to see larger version.)

As you approach the town, everywhere you look there are rows and rows of tea plants hugging the contours of the hills. In the background, you see the hills and mountains: it’s truly a lovely area.

Tea & Blossoms

Tea plants with “sakura” blossoms

Blossoms

Close-up of “sakura” blossoms

When we were there in mid-January this year (2014), we were lucky enough to see some trees with pink blossoms in bloom – they gave a lovely backdrop and accent to the rolling hills with the tea plants. These trees are often called sakura trees, the Japanese cherry tree. Although reminiscent of sakura trees, they are actually a tree native to Thailand and not a cherry tree at all; this variety is taller than the sakura trees and the blossoms are smaller. It is advertised as such because of the fame of cherry blossom time in Japan and is therefore more familiar to people.


Pu-erh Tea

Mae Salong Villa

Mae Salong Villa

Tea Info

Pu-erh Tea Package

A real treat for me was finding a high quality pu-erh tea. Pu-erh (or pu-‘er or pu’ erh) tea is a type of tea, the most famous variety coming from Yunnan province. Pu-erh teas are first oxidized in the sun, then fermented and then rolled and pressed into differing forms. Because it is compressed and takes up less space, it is much easier (than loose tea) to transport over land. Because of the unique processing, pu-erh teas get better with age, unlike un-fermented teas. There are a wide variety of forms and tastes. (Check out the Wikipedia Entry on Pu-erh Tea.)

Tea Package

Pu-erh tea package

Pu-erh Tea

Thai Pu-erh Green tea

We tasted the pu-erh tea at the Mae Salong Villa, where the Choke Chamroen Tea Company provides tastings. It is a high quality pu-erh green tea, aged 8 years. We went through roughly 12 different infusions of the leaves during the tasting; it was marvelous to note how the flavor changed throughout the process. The tea left a lovely aftertaste that spread throughout the entire mouth.

I bought disk in lovely packaging to bring home. The cost was 2,000 baht (about $63, at the time) for 357 grams, about 12-1/2 ounces. It may seem expensive but when you realize how many infusions you get out of each set of leaves, the cost isn’t that outrageous. I will enjoy it here in the states for many weeks to come.


Tea Tastings

Tea Tasting

Tea tasting

Hills and Sign

101 Tea Plantation sign

In the area there are numerous places where you can taste the local teas. There will be a set-up such as the one above left where different teas will be prepared for you to taste. We found an oolong tea that we liked very much at 101 Tea Plantation. We saw the sign above right on the road, right in front of rows of tea overshadowed by the blossoming “sakura” trees.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea leaves

Blossoms

Blossoms for the tea

At the tasting counter the tea leaves were displayed in cups so that you could see what they looked like before brewing. At this place they also add blossoms to some of their teas for added flavor, such as the ones above right. I don’t know what the name of this blossom is.

Tasting Cups

Cups used for the tasting

Tea Packages

The oolong tea we bought

To the left you see the set-up used to taste tea: there’s a whole ritual to it. Tea is steeped and poured into the tall cup. Then the smaller cup is placed on top, you flip the cups over and pour the tea into the small cup. You then smell the aroma of the tea from the tall (now empty) cup and taste from the small cup. We liked a particular oolong tea with blossoms very much  and bought a couple bags (packages on the right) to take home for gifts.


Yunnan Food

View

View from Mae Salong Nilla

Steamed Fish

Fish dish

If you go to Mae Salong, be sure to stop and have some Yunnan Chinese food. We had dinner at the Mae Salong Villa, which is where we purchased the pu-erh tea. Above left is one of the views from the front of the Villa.

Above right is a fish dish we had, smothered in a lovely sauce, that included mushrooms. It was quite tasty.

Pork Leg

Pork leg with buns

Mushrooms

Mushroom dish

We also ordered Stewed Pork Leg with buns, Yunnan-style, a truly delicious dish. And since the area grows mushrooms, we ordered a stir-fried mushroom dish that was very good.


Morning Market

Akha Vendor

Akha vendor

Main Street

Market street with lanterns

There is an interesting morning market at Santikhiri. It is definitely a local market and most of the vendors are from ethnic hill tribes, mostly Ahka. This is not a tourist market – it’s meant for locals. It’s best to go early; it starts at 6:00 a.m. or even earlier. By 8:30 a.m. or so many of the vendors have already packed up and left.

The area does get a lot of tourists and the Akha vendors are savvy to this: they do not want their picture taken unless you buy something from them or pay them for the privilege.


Written by Michael Babcock, May 2014

Wat Nantaram in Chiang Kham

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Wat Nantaram – วัดนันตาราม – is a quite beautiful Tai Yai (Shan-style) temple in Chiang Kham, which is in Phayao province, Thailand. Thailand has so many temples that at times you can get “temple fatigue;” then you come across one such as Wat Nantaram and all fatigue is forgotten.

Windy Road

The road to Chiang Kham

View

A view along the road

We drove to Chiang Kham from Nan up twisty, windy roads (such as the one to the left) through the hills and mountains. Although it is only 400 or so meters above sea level, it seemed higher. We stopped many times to enjoy beautiful views such as the one above right.

Note: There is a slideshow of all of the images at the bottom of the blog.

Entryway

Entryway to Wat Nantaram

Deva

Celestial being on a pillar

(Click images to see larger version.)

We arrived about mid-day and, after having lunch right next door, we approached the temple compound on foot. Through the gate was a long driveway lined with pillars topped by statues of celestial beings. We lingered a while to take some pictures of these statues.

To the left of the driveway there were a number of Sai trees, popularly known in the U.S. an the cannonball tree, with their lovely blossoms. These trees are often found on temple grounds, for the Buddha was born under a Sai tree, which lowered one of its branches to help support his mother.

The Exterior of the Viharn

Temple Front

Wat Nantaram viharn

Temple Door

The entryway to the viharn

When I first saw the main building, the viharn (sermon hall), it literally took my breath away. It’s a golden teak wood temple in Burmese (Shan) style, with the distinctive roof architecture. It was built in 1925.

In the picture upper left you can see that two singh (mythical lions) flank the entryway as protectors while two (presumably celestial) beings wai (clasp hands in the front) in greeting.

Celestial Greeter

Celestial greeter

Roofs

Some roofs of the temple

It took us awhile to even enter the viharn. First, the two lovely greeters called out for our attention. Then there were the interlocking roofs to admire along with the lovely juxtaposition of the carved wooden scrollwork on the various roofs with the decorated wooden shutters on the windows.

Temple Front

Close-up of the front

Entry Detail

Further detail at the front

We took some time to admire the lovely details of the front, some of which are shown above.

Inside the Viharn

Temple Interior #1

Inside the viharn

Temple Interior #2

Another view of the interior

I found the interior of the viharn to be immensely calm – a sacred space. Dark and somewhat mysterious, there is a feeling of quiet devotion here, of goodness, of peace. There are golden pillars, decorated ceilings and varnished, dark wood floors. The room compels silence and reflection.

Buddha Statue

The main Buddha image

Buddha Statue

Close-up of the Buddha statue

The main Buddha image is very appealing. It portrays a younger Buddha with a luminous smile. (Do click on the image to the right to see a larger version.)

Buddha Statue #2

Another of the Buddha images

Statue Close-up

A close-up of the second Buddha

On the left side of the main Buddha image are two Burmese-style Buddha statues. For some reason the Burmese-style Buddhas are often (always?) white. The statue is resting on a lotus blossom and, like the middle image, has a radiant smile.

2 Buddhas

The statues from the side

Buddha Statue #3

Another Buddha statue

In temples I like to walk around the entire area and look at the statues from all angles.

The picture on the left shows the two Buddha statues mentioned above as photographed from the side.

On the right is another one of the Buddha statues, this one found to the right of the central Buddha statue (as you face the altar).

Temple Ceiling #1

Part of the ceiling

Temple Ceiling #2

Detail of the ceiling

At any temple in Thailand it pays to look everywhere, even at the ceiling. The ceiling at Wat Nantaram is quite elaborate, as these two pictures of separate details show.

Other Buildings at Wat Nantaram

Other Buildings

Other building on the temple grounds

Building Interior

Inside one of the other buildings

We spent quite a bit of time inside the main building (viharn) before exploring the rest of the temple grounds. Above left are two of the other buildings. The picture to the right shows the interior of one of the more interesting remaining buildings.

The altar here has a distinctly Chinese character. It shows three representations of Quanyin, the Goddess of Compassion. In the middle (see picture above right) is a statue of Quanyin in her guise as Avalokiteshvara, a many-armed Bodhisattva personifying perfect compassion and who refrains from entering the bliss of Buddhahood in order to help all beings attain enlightenment. The two flanking statues in back, looking very Chinese, are also representations of Quanyin showing her holding a vase with the dew of compassion.

Many-armed Statue

Close-up of the center statue

Wood Carven

Close-up of a wooden carving

On the left is a close-up of the center statue, Quanyin as Avalokiteshvara with her many arms.

To the right is a close-up of the wooden carvings that surround the room.

This temple is definitely worth a special trip from Nan when you are in the region.


Slideshow of Wat Nantaram

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

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

Windy Road
View
Entryway
Deva
Flower
Temple Front
Temple Door
Celestial Greeter
Roofs
Temple Front
Entry Detail
Temple Interior #1
Temple Interior #2
Buddha Statue
Buddha Statue
Buddha Statue #2
Statue Close-up
2 Buddhas
Buddha Statue #3
Temple Ceiling #1
Temple Ceiling #2
Other Buildings
Building Interior
Many-armed Statue
Quanyin
Wood Carven

The road to Chiang Kham from Nan is quite windy!

One of many beautiful views on the road from Nan to Chiang Kham

The gate and entry to Wat Nantaram

The entryway is lined with celestial beings on posts

Blossom of a Sai tree, which the Buddha was born under

The viharn at Wat Nantaram

Close-up of the entry door to the viharn at Wat Nantaram

A pair of celestial beings greet you as you enter

The Shan-style roofs of the temple

A close-up of the entryway to Wat Nantaram

Further detail of the front of Wat Nantaram

Inside the viharn at Wat Nantaram

Another view of Inside the viharn at Wat Nantaram

The main Buddha image and altar at the viharn of Wat Nantaram

A close-up of the main Buddha image at the viharn

A Buddha statue to the left of the altar

Close up of the second Buddha image

The two Buddha statues from the side

This Buddha statue was to the right of the altar

The ceiling of the temple is elaborately decorated

This is a detail of part of the ceiling

Two other buildings on the temple grounds

Inside one of the other temple buildings at Wat Nantaram

This many-armed statue is Quanyin in her guise of Avalokiteshvara

One of the flanking statues of Quanyin

A close up of one of the wood carvings that surrounds the room

Windy Road thumbnail
View thumbnail
Entryway thumbnail
Deva thumbnail
Flower thumbnail
Temple Front thumbnail
Temple Door thumbnail
Celestial Greeter thumbnail
Roofs thumbnail
Temple Front thumbnail
Entry Detail thumbnail
Temple Interior #1 thumbnail
Temple Interior #2 thumbnail
Buddha Statue #1 thumbnail
Buddha Statue thumbnail
Buddha Statue #2 thumbnail
Statue Close-up thumbnail
2 Buddhas thumbnail
Buddha Statue #3 thumbnail
Temple Ceiling #1 thumbnail
Temple Ceiling #2 thumbnail
Other Buildings thumbnail
Building Interior thumbnail
Many-armed Statue thumbnail
Quanyin thumbnail
Wood Carving thumbnail

For further exploration:


Written by Michael Babcock, May 2014