Daily Archives: January 24, 2006

Visiting a Thai Restaurant 06

We had a visitor from America today so it was a good excuse to go out for a meal at our local restaurant. This one is called Paknam Seafood and it is on Sukhumwit Road. It is not far from the fire station and just before Soi 31 where I live. As usual I took my camera so I could make you all very hungry. I have plans to do video soon of the cooking so look out for that in the not too distant future.

เนื้อผัดน้ำมันหอย – neua pat naam man hoi
stir-fried beef with oyster sauce (120 baht)

This is an old favourite of mine that I haven’t had for a while. It is worth having though some restaurants go over the top with ginger which I don’t like. You can see the white strands of ginger in this picture. This is about the right amount for me without being overpowering. It is quite easy to cook. First marinate the beef in a mixture of flour and light soy sauce for about 15 minutes. Fry the garlic until golden brown. Add the mushrooms, carrots, ginger and beef. Stir-fry until done. Season with oyster sauce, sugar and pepper. Add the sliced spring onion and red chili if you so wish. Give a good stir and it is done. I think this dish is a bit on the expensive side. Food shops would do this for only 40 baht at the most.

นกกระจอกเทศผัดพริกไทยดำ – nok gra-jok-tet pat prik tai dam
Ostrich fried with black pepper (200 baht)

Maybe not your typical Thai meal but there are a few ostrich farms around in Thailand. Funny how they label black pepper as “Thai chili”. The ostrich was surprisingly tender and tasted good. Much better than the crocodile which I bought at the local supermarket. However, at 200 baht a dish, I probably won’t order this one again.

ไก่อบสับปะรด – gai op sap-bpa-rot
Baked chicken in a pineapple (150 baht)

This one looked like a good idea when I read it on the menu. The sweet and sour sauce part was a bit of a surprise but it did taste surprisingly good. It wasn’t too sweet which some Thai food can be. Nice mixture of baked chicken with pineapple in the sauce with cashew nuts on top. I will probably have this one again though not too often.

ปูนิ่มผัดผงกะหรี่ – bpoo nim pat pong ga ree
stir-fried soft-shelled crab in curry powder (200 baht)

Now this is one I like eating at the moment. I wasn’t going to order it but my guests had never tried it before. The normal crab version is very expensive and you don’t get much meat. But this crab has a soft shell so you can eat everything. Yummy! I recently ate a shrimp version and a few months back I had a chicken version. All very good. I had this one not long ago for 180 baht. The shrimp version was 120 baht. The chicken version was 30 baht at my local food shop!

แกงเขียวหวานผัดแห้ง – gaeng kieow waan pat haeng
green dry curry with fish balls (80 baht)

Actually, the title of this one is a bit misleading. It didn’t say anything about fishballs. Which is OK, but I would have preferred if it was chicken. Green curry is very popular with foreigners. This is a different version that is more “dry” as it doesn’t have a soup.

กุ้งทอดตะกร้าเผือก – goong tot dta-graa peuak 
Fried shrimp in an edible basket  (150 baht)

We quite often have fried shrimp in a batter. But, this was the first time I had tried this version that was dipped in a kind of “sweet and sour” sauce. It was certainly interesting though I prefer the ones we had before with the “nam jim” dip.

Well, that was it. Rather a large meal for four people but we managed to eat it all with no problems. We had quite a few beers between us so the final bill came to just under 1,500 baht. That is about 360 baht each or nearly $10. Probably the most expensive meal I have had for a while. But, it was worth it.

Camping on the highest mountain in Thailand

Sign at the Summit of Doi Inthanon

The layout of Doi Inthanon National Park

When it gets hot here in Chiangmai during the months of April through May we load the pick-up truck and head to the highest mountain in Thailand at Doi Inthanon National Park.

Soon after entering the park gate, the road climbs steeply through a cutting before leveling out, passing the Doi Inthanon National Park Information Center, overlooking the Mae Klang river on the left. The road passes through open dry forest and after crossing over to the left bank, follows the course of the river, overlooking it. In the dry season, the leaves of the trees become yellow and red, before being shed.

As the road climbs gradually, an evergreen gallery forest begins develop along the banks of the river, supporting many tall and stately trees. Soaring birds of prey can sometimes be seen over the steep ridge on the north side of the road. The more level areas in the vicinity of the river are now cultivated and support small areas of orchard or vegetable gardens.

Above the waterfall, the road once again crosses over the Mae Klang River and continues to ascend the mountain, following the north bank. The surroundings change very abruptly in character, and pines predominate in many areas.

The next area supports Hmong and Karen villages, there are many government offices and residential buildings, including the headquarters of the National Park and various highway and construction works. Here is where the campsites are but you first must check in at the Park Headquarters. There are also cabins for rent however most are rented well in advance.

Here we are above 1500 meters and the temperature is like a beautiful spring day. Time to find a camping spot. Its lunchtime, so we travel up the road about 100 meters from the Park Headquarters to the Doi Inthanon Birding Center. There are several restaurants near the park headquarters but the food is not very good. Mr. Dang and his wife at the birding center are excellent cooks and fun to be around. Here is where all the bird watchers gather to talk about sightings. We will talk about bird watching later.

From here the road winds uphill sharply and past a park checkpoint. Just a little further is a mountain ridge with excellent vistas on both sides of the road. If the weather is clear, at one spot you can see the city of Chiangmai on your right. Just a little further on your left is the twin Chedi dedicated to the King and Queen. These beautiful Thai structures are a must visit. You will need to walk up several flights of steps to reach them but well worth it.

Next stop is the summit. Here we get out of our vehicle and walk up the steps to the shrine dedicated to the Lanna Thai King who first designated this area as a national park. Walk behind the shrine to a concrete pillar and stand on it. You are now on the highest point in Thailand.

How we got there, what we did.

We departed Chiangmai at 9 am it was already 35 degrees C. and started the short 1 1/2 hour drive to the park. We left Chiangmai by highway 108 through Hang Dong and Sanpatong and then about one kilometer before Chom Tong turned right on highway 1009. There is a big sign in English stating “Doi Inthanon” where you turn so it’s easy to find. Continue 8 kilometers to where the road forks and then keep to the right where you will see the park entrance. The entrance fee is 200 baht and they have free maps and information for you that you will need. A copy of the park map can be seen online and might be a useful reference as you read this article.

Your first stop should be the Visitor’s Center a kilometer or so past the park entrance on the left side. There they have more information and many exhibits and a slide show about the park in English. You need to know the park rules that levy stiff fines if broken (such as for picking flowers); these rules are written on the back of all the maps and brochures. After getting all the information we needed we headed straight to the Park Headquarters at Kilometer marker 31. As we approached the booth for accommodations reservations both we noticed a thermometer and found it was a perfect 26 degrees C. We decided to spend our first night in a tent and second night in a bungalow. We made our reservations for the bungalow. Since we were going to ride around the park the park ranger kept our bags for us and we proceeded to the campgrounds to pitch our tent. Tents can be rented for 60 baht and blankets at 15 baht each.

After putting up the tent we were getting hungry and headed back to see our friend Mr.Dang at the Doi Inthanon Birding Center. Mr. Dang?s restaurant is open from 7 am to 8 pm serving delicious Thai food at great prices. While having lunch we were told that a 7- man soccer match was being played this afternoon on the soccer field next to the restaurant on the Park Headquarters grounds. The match was between a Karen hill tribe village and a Hmong hill tribe village located in the park so we stayed and watched the action under the shade trees drinking ice-cold beer. We made plans to do some hiking on the Gew Mae Pan Trail near the Doi Inthanon summit (above 2000 meters tomorrow) so today was for relaxing, which I myself am very good at doing.

Just before dark we ate our dinner, again at Mr. Dang?s, got our things from the park ranger and went to our campgrounds. In May there aren’t many people in the park so a secluded place to put our tent was easy to find. We built a nice campfire and I spent the evening reading while my wife did her crochet. The only sound was that of the crickets and with the smell of pine and clean fresh air drifting off to sleep was a total pleasure I haven’t experienced in many months while living in the crowded city. The next morning we awoke early and packed up the tent and returned to the park ranger and again he kept our bags for us. I checked the thermometer and it was a cool 18 degrees C.

We had our breakfast at the birding center headed toward the summit passing fruit and flower stands owned by Hmong Hilltribe people. Here we stopped to have a look and across the street were green houses filled with beautiful flowers. The growing of flowers is a Royal Project so the hill tribe people can live in harmony with the park’s conservation plans instead of doing their traditional slash and burn farming.

Hiking in real rain forest

The 2.5-kilometer Gew Mae Pan Trail begins about half a kilometer past the twin Chedis at kilometer marker 42. We decided to leave our vehicle at the Chedi and walk the horseshoe shaped trail to the end and return the same way. This turned out to be a good idea as the mountains were covered with mist and clouds and the view although beautiful was limited on our way out. On the way back the clouds had lifted and the view was spectacular.

The trail begins through dense forest with lush ferns and moss covering the tree trunks. Wild orchids and colorful birds are plentiful. It’s uphill most of the way, crossing streams and climbing over and ducking under logs. The temperature is perfect for hiking and the sounds of the many birds and creeks are very enjoyable. After about an hour you come upon a clearing looking toward the west. When we arrived clouds were rushing up from the valley floor to meet us.

The next portion of the trail is through dense forest again crossing several streams. The park has provided small bridges to make crossing the streams easy. The last part of the trail is through a lovely evergreen forest with pine trees much different and larger than those found at our campsite.

We returned the way we came following the trail to the clearing and this time the clouds had lifted leaving a spectacular view of the valley floor and surrounding mountains. Two hawks were circling above, diving to the valley floor then lifting again on the air currents along the cliff edge, their screeching echoing through the canyon below.

We spent a total of six hours on the trail and saw only two other people. They were Thai photographers doing a story for a nature magazine. We could have stayed longer but hunger was setting in so we returned to the restaurant at the Birding Center.

This evening was spent in our comfortable bungalow. We made reservations the day before. The bungalow has electricity and is equipped with a king size bed in the bedroom and a single bed with table and chairs in the living room. It has a big but simple bathroom with shower and Thai style toilet. Simple accommodations for only 300 baht per night and the bed was very comfortable and the night quiet.

The next day we spent visiting the many waterfalls in the park. The first one was very close to our bungalow and actually two waterfalls named after the King and Queen and called Siriphum waterfalls. The next two waterfalls were also close together and the road getting there was a little difficult but worth the effort. We went just past the second check point at kilometer marker 38 and turned left toward Mae Chaem and traveled about 8 kilometers. Here there is a sign where you turn right and travel the dirt road for 2 kilometers to the ranger station. From there it’s a 500-meter walk to Mae Pan waterfall and 200 meters to Huai Luaeng waterfall.

Our last stop was on the way out of the park at Mae Ya waterfall. To get there you need to go back to Cham Tong and just before you get to highway 108 you will see the sign Mae Ya waterfall. Follow the signs for about 14 kilometers from here. There will be a checkpoint where they collect a 200 baht fee to enter. Just tell them you have been staying in the park and show them the receipt and they will let you in for free. This waterfall is great for photographs and over 250 meters tall. Try to go on a weekday, as the weekends are very crowded with Thais picnicking and swimming.

We had a great time although we didn’t see everything such as Brichinda cave. We would also like to spend some time bird watching. The Park staff was a great help and very friendly and I would recommend this trip to anyone. So next time it gets too hot in Chiangmai head to Doi Inthanon National Park.

Wat Sri Rong Muang, Lampang

Sri Rong Muang is a Burmese-style wat in Lampang. I don’t spend as much time as I would like to in wats, although I have visited this one two or three times. Its abbot is an old Burmese man, and I liked the way he grabbed my arm and walked me around.

Here is a photo of an “ancient toilet”, and a Christian church, both on the grounds. And one of the viharn’s amazing roof.

I thought I would start off with Lampang, as that is my Thai “hometown”. That is, it was the first place in Thailand that I stayed for any length of time (3 months, in fact). During this time, I walked around town a lot and took photos of buildings. The idea was to build a website about the wooden houses in Lampang.

I left Lampang suddenly and have not been back since. But I want to go back soon. There are some wonderful Burmese-style wats, beautiful old teak buildings, and fantastic food. And for some reason I never even made it to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, which is something I definitely need to address.