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Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 2

Michael Babcock, July 6th, 2012

Kasma Loha-unchit’s small-group trips to Thailand offer many special and unique experiences. Here are some more of my favorite moments from her 19-day trip of Bangkok, central and northern Thailand. It is a continuation of my recent blog, Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 1

(Click images to see larger version.)

Resort Staff

The resort staff

Mae Hong Son Resort: Kasma’s trips to the north (including her 28-day Trip A and 19-day Trip B) spend several days in Mae Hong Son, both in the city and around the province. It’s a somewhat isolated city, up in the northwest corner of Thailand near Burma, and the Burmese influence is obvious (particularly in many of the temples). Mae Hong Son is notable, in part, for its large hill tribe population, mainly Lisu and Karen (pronounced “Gu-rian”). I love the resort where we stay. It’s nestled in amongst rice fields and is a peaceful, lovely place to spend 4 nights. Most of the staff there are Karen hill tribe women and their friendliness is much of the fun of staying here; we get to benefit from the many years Kasma has been on her tours and formed lasting relationships with people all over Thailand. We use this lovely resort for our command center as we spend the days exploring Mae Hong Son.
Mae Hong Son Resort

View from our room

Resort Sunset

Sunset at the resort

Many of the rooms have lovely views of the rice fields, such as the one above from our room last year. There’s a lovely area called the “Rice Terrace” where you can order a drink and sit and watch lovely sunsets, such as this one above.


Rice Field Walk

‘Rice field’ walk

Rice Field Walk, Mae Hong Son Province: On Kasma’s trips we’re often lucky enough to end up on excursions not planned in the itinerary. While staying in Mae Hong Son, we always take one day to go up the (extremely) windy roads to the little town of Ban Rak Thai (see below). This past year some activity in the fields directly off the road caught our eye. Kasma stopped the vans and off we went on a ‘rice field’ walk – though at that time of the year I believe it was soy beans. It was great fun, wandering through the fields on raised mounds in-between the crops, crossing over a rickety bridge, really just a few sticks of bamboo, over a stream, and meeting farmers and a woman resting in her home, right amongst the fields.
Crossing a Bridge

Crossing a bridge

Thai Farmer

Spreading straw


To the left we see the bridge we needed to cross on our impromptu excursion. The farmer on the right is spreading straw in-between the rows of crops.


Tea Tasting

Tea tasting

Ban Rak Thai – บ้านรักไทย: Ban Rak Thai literally means “Village Love Thailand.” It’s a little village nestled up at the top of Mae Hong Son Province about a kilometer from the Myanmar border. (Show in Google Maps.) The village was founded by ex-Kuomintang soldiers from Yunnan province who had to leave China when the Communists took over. The Thai government allowed them to settle here where they began growing tea and eventually became Thai citizens: the name “Love Thailand Village” reflects their gratefulness to Thailand for taking them in.

One nice thing about the village is that it will never be heavily-touristed: the road is too steep and winding for the big tour buses. Even in our mini-vans, we stop at one point on the way back down to allow the brakes to cool off.

Chinese Feast

Chinese feast

After reaching the town, we go to Gee Lee, the original and best of the tea-houses and restaurants. We start out by sampling (and buying) several kinds of tea: Oolong teas, green teas and a ginseng-infused tea.

We then have a Yunnan-style feast; and I do mean feast! There are delicious pork dishes, including skin-on, stewed pork leg (succulent and rich) and a tasty pork-belly dish. There’s a whole, fried fish, soup and a fresh tea leaf salad. The dishes in the picture are (clockwise from left), buns (to be eaten with pork leg), stewed pork leg, pork belly and an appetizer platter with sour pork sausage, thousand-year old eggs, egg rolls, pork ribs and cashews. After eight delicious dishes, we were well-gruntled indeed!


Thai View

Thai view

Drive from Mae Hong Son to Pai: Another strength of Kasma’s trips is that we drive pretty much everywhere. Not only do you get to see some beautiful scenery, you get a better sense of the country. Mae Hong Son province, in particular, is quite lovely and people who fly into Mae Hong Son city miss the scenic beauty. On one of the routes from Chiang Mai (via Mae Sariang) there are 1864 curves: a fact trumpeted on t-shirts you can buy in the markets. On our return from Mae Hong Son we travel via Pai and see some of the prettiest scenery in Thailand. We stop at a vista point where we saw the lovely view to our left. Along the way we stop at another place selling green tea and, if we’re lucky, also find delicious, fresh-grilled sour-sausage at the same stop.

Lisu Girls

Lisu girls

At one stop with fabulous views, we came across these Lisu girls, dressed in traditional garb, available to be photographed, for a fee. On this last trip, they approached Kasma and asked for a few baht and she told them: “I’ve already been to a village where I’ve taken plenty of pictures.” When they didn’t believe her, she showed them the images on the back of her digital camera. She asked if they’d like to have her bring them their photographs next year. The next thing we knew, they were enthusiastically throwing themselves in the air for us to photograph. And they will get their pictures this coming year when we pass that way again.


Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai: Thailand is a Buddhist country and we visit many temples on our trip. One of my favorites is Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. It is said that if you don’t visit Doi Suthep, you haven’t really been to Chiang Mai. We spend a morning at the temple, seeing all the Buddha statues, the bustling activity and the Thai people offering incense and walking clockwise around the main chedi (the Thai word for stupa).
Doi Suthep

Buddha statues

Drink Vendor

Passionfruit juice vendor

To the left we see some of the Buddha statues that circle the main chedi. The vendor to the right is actually found at the very base of the temple before you enter the compound. She’s selling unsweetened passion fruit juice with the seed included. It’s a sour drink, quite refreshing.


Thai Dips

Two Thai dips

Kaeng Ron Baan Suan Restaurant in Chiang Mai: It’s not really possible to have a list of favorite moments from Kasma’s trip without including one of the many Thai feasts we enjoy. There are so many memorable ones; which one to choose? My favorite Restaurant in Chiang Mai is Kaeng Ron Baan Suan Restaurant – ร้านอาหารแกงร้อนบ้านสวน – literally “Hot Curry Garden.” It’s in a lovely garden setting; we usually go for lunch when it’s a bit less crowded. It has a number of northern specialties that we don’t find anywhere else.

The picture to the left shows a platter with various vegetables, sausages and fried pork skin with two dipping sauces. The green one to the left is Naam Prik Num – Northern Thai Roasted Young Green Chilli Dip; it is made with roasted green chillies and is very, very hot indeed. The reddish one to the right is Naam Prik Ong, a pork-based sauce.

Catfish Dish

Catfish dish

Another dish that is done very well here is Charcoal-Grilled Catfish, “Sweet Fish Sauce” and Neem Leaves (Sadao Nam Plah Wan Pla Duk Yang). It’s a dish you will also find as street food. It starts out with succulent grilled catfish, still tender and moist in the middle. It’s eaten with lightly boiled neem leaves, which, eaten by themselves, are very, very bitter. The sauce is a sweet and also sour and spicy mixture of shallots fried crispy in oil, tamarind, dried chillies and palm sugar. Eaten individually, each of these three components are fairly mundane. Put them together and you’ve got a wonderful explosion of flavors in your mouth – spicy-hot, savory, sweet, sour and bitter all at once, with varying textures from the neem, fish and sauce. It is Thai food at its very, very best. (There’s a good Bangkok Past article that includes information on this dish: On your marks get set go slow, by Suthon Sukphisit.)


Carved Dragon

Craved dragon

Lanna Wood Carving Museum in Chiang Mai: I’ll conclude with a bonus picture from a wood carving museum – Ban Roi An Phan Yang Museum – located at Chiang Mai-Sanpatong Road between kilometers 19 and 20. This museum is the labor of love of a Thai man, Charoui Na Soonton, who has collected numerous wood carvings to be displayed in his Lanna-style house. Walking through the museum, you walk through a warren of rooms filled with intricate carvings that leave you gasping in amazement. There are many bas-relief carvings from the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Ramayana), Buddha statues, elephants, goddesses, demons and more. It’s another one of those sites where Kasma goes that would be difficult to discover on your own; luckily, she’s found them all for us.

See How to Get There.


See also:


Follow these links for more about the 19-day Trip B:


Written by Michael Babcock, July 2012

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2 Responses to “Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 2”

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] This blog continues in Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 2. […]

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