Located in a valley west of Chiang Mai, the only access to this district is via narrow, winding roads lined on both sides by farms. Negotiating this route recently, I paused after passing several cars that had stopped by the side of the road to disgorge day-trippers in colourful attire. Armed with cameras or tablet computers, the passengers dashed into a nearby plantation which had a sign advertising strawberries for sale, emitting cries of joy when they discovered their quarry hiding under a dense layer of leaves. Then everybody started snapping pictures and striking poses as if the little red berries were some magical treasure they had long been seeking. Thanks to a temperate climate and the consistently good prices this succulent fruit fetches at market, strawberry farming has become a growth industry in Samoeng and is now a major source of income for local residents. "All the strawberry plants raised in Samoeng originally came from Bo Kaeo, a village at an elevation above 1,000m. Situated, as it is, high on a mountain, around 20km north of Samoeng, Bo Kaeo is cold enough for the strawberry plants to flower," explains Wimarn Sirpen, an academic based at the Pang Da Royal Agricultural Station in Samoeng. A typical farm in these parts can produce more than 3,000kg of strawberries per rai per year, for which quantity wholesalers will pay around 120,000 baht. This is a high-value yield, compared to the revenue earned by other crops, so it is hardly surprising that farmers in this area have shifted en masse to cultivating these juicy berries. More than 3,000 rai of land is now given over to this crop, sales of which generate between 300 and 400 million baht annually. Initially the fruit was raised in closed systems to protect the plants from predatory insects and disease, but after realising the potential for direct sales, some forward-looking farmers began catering to tourists, erecting signs that invite passing motorists to stop and pick their own strawberries for a modest fee. Family groups and tour parties are welcome to linger a while and enjoy the rural atmosphere _ or even spend the night.
|Rows of flowers carpet a field at the Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang in Chiang Mai's Fang district. PHOTOS BY THARITTAWAT SAMEJAIDEE|
The projects in the far North, known for turning opium fields into lush vegetable patches and temperate fruit orchards, have provided not only food and opportunities, but also examples for others to follow.
Proof of the projects' magnetic pull and their capacity to inspire is exemplified by a recent visit to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai - home to royally initiated developmental programmes - by 56 ambassadors, charge d'affaires and representatives of international organisations and their spouses.
They were taken on a tour of the First Royal Factory and the Agricultural Station in Angkhang, both in Chiang Mai, and then to the Doi Tung Development Project in Chiang Rai from Feb 8-11. The trip was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
|Ambassadors,charge d'affaires, representatives of international organisations and their spousesobserve a wide variety of cash crops cultivated at the Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang|
Over the past 40 years, the projects have introduced the cultivation of cash crops, such as strawberry, apricot, passion fruit and plum to wean hilltribe people off growing opium on the hills.
Local villagers sell their produce to a fruit processor, the First Royal Factory in Fang district of Chiang Mai.
The factory produces dehydrated and canned fruits and vegetables, which are marketed under the Doi Kam brand.
The royal projects also educate highlanders about reforestation and sustainable tourism.
In fact, the Agricultural Station Angkhang in tambon Mae Ngon of Fang district was conceived and set up to educate the hilltribe people about growing cash crops using modern, nature-friendly techniques that increase yields, which, in turn, generate stable income for the growers and raise their standard of living.
Now, more than 2,500 families in the hills of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are involved in fruit production under the royal projects with annual produce yields of 2.5 million tonnes worth more than 25 million baht.
The Doi Tung Development Project, which was established in 1988 by the Princess Mother, has branched out into a non-perishables scheme.
It combines local people's handcraft skills and a market-driven approach to produce woven fabrics with signature motifs and colours.
Handicrafts made by hilltribe and local people at the project training centre also make for popular merchandise.
At the centre, the workers acquire handicraft techniques which enable them to mix together unique products to appeal to a variety of markets.
In weaving textiles, for example, the workers are given designs drawn up by professional designers to use as guidelines to create desirable products.
The workers are paid according to their level of weaving skill. This motivates the workers to constantly improve their skills and acquire new crafts and techniques.
Numerous handcrafted items are on sale at well-known foreign stores, such as the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea.
|Avast expanse of strawberry field sits onahill. Strawberries and other temperate fruits and vegetables are grown and marketed under the DoiKambrand.|
The label helps to increase sales as purchases help to combat drug problems.
All of the projects are directly connected to the people to improve their lives, observed Lutfi Rauf, Indonesia's ambassador to Thailand
"This is also relevant to our situation in Indonesia. For this visit, we have a lot of good things to learn. We want to have this kind of programme that can be adopted in certain places in Indonesia," he said.
According to Mr Rauf, the Doi Tung Project has already extended its reach to Indonesia's Aceh province, empowering people who were shown the way of growing alternative crops in area once carpeted by marijuana plants.
Lao ambassador Ly Bounkham said three aspects of the projects can be applied to his country - crop plantation, sufficiency and product improvement.
Foreign diplomats are brought to inspect a large strawberry farm on a hill slope under the royal project at DoiAngkhanginFang district of ChiangMai.
Cambodian ambassador You Ay praised the success of the royal campaign for farmers, saying the schemes do not only improve people's living conditions, but also education and public health.
"[The projects] are highly appreciated not only by Cambodia but by all countries," she said.
Jocelyn Batoon-Garcia, the Philippine ambassador, said the royal projects are economically viable and contribute to other sources of income for people in the same areas.
"I am looking at the projects very carefully. I am very interested [to know] how the projects have progressed. I am particularly interested in how tropical countries are able to grow non-tropical fruits and reduce land subsidence," she said.
The system shows that crops can be grown on terraced land for export. "That idea is what we have not yet developed. We are trying to learn," said Ms Batoon-Garcia, adding she will contact the offices handling the projects to learn more about their operation.
Dato Kamis Tamin, the Brunei ambassador, said the projects were built on a modern approach in terms of marketing and commercialising the products.
The programmes have been done for the benefit of the population, not individuals, he said.
|Aweaver is busy working the loom at the Development Project in Chiang Rai where cloths with distinctive designsare produced for sale.|
"His Majesty has said we do not have to start big. We can start in a small or medium way ... That becomes an example for people to emulate or follow," he said.
Ngo Duc Thang, the Vietnamese ambassador, said the projects can be applied to his country, particularly for tribes people living in the highlands to eliminate poppy cultivation.
"This surely will be beneficial to my country," Mr Thang said. "We have to learn the best practices so that we can recommend them to our people," he said.
British ambassador Mark Kent said the Doi Tung project system is adaptable to globalisation.
People are using quite a basic technology but then the products are marketed to a specialised niche, Mr Kent said.
The projects carry out interesting marketing strategies in concert with international companies so the products become part of the global supply system, he added.
For more than 50 years tuk-tuks have been burping their way around the cities and villages of Thailand, a legacy of the Japanese World War II occupation of most of the region.
Though Indonesia’s Bajaj and India’s auto rickshaw bare remarkable similarities, the stainless steel “Thailand” plate on the rear, liberal chrome plating and the distinctive blue and yellow livery applied to Thailand’s taxi tuk-tuks have seen them become a unique symbol identified with Thailand the world over. Not to mention a vehicle tourists to the country can’t get enough of.
|No robots on this production line. All welding is done by hand. Here the roof support is welded for the canvas top.|
Though the Thai government will not register any new tuk-tuks for private use, export orders, along with larger variants used by hotels, resorts and shopping malls throughout the country are such that four factories still specialize in their production.
Today's tuk-tuks less noisy, more eco-friendlyOriginally fitted with a single or twin cylinder 350cc two-stroke Daihatsu engine, the cause of the high-pitched burping noise they make as they zip around Thailand’s streets, modern-day tuk-tuks are fitted with 660cc four-stroke Daihatsu or Suzuki engines, making them as quiet as a family sedan.
For a long-time the bane of environmentalists due to their lead-fuel operating engines and smoky two-stroke exhaust, all of Bangkok’s taxi tuk-tuks today run on CNG, the result of a government campaign that funded the cost of conversion.
At Tuk Tuk Thailand in the Bangkok suburb of Bang Khae, Chett Taikratoke has been turning out tuk-tuks for more than eight years, prior to that working for Thailand’s largest tuk-tuk factory, which was a casualty of the Asian economic crisis of the late 90s.
“Every tourist who comes to Thailand wants to ride in a tuk-tuk. I even get emails from people wanting me to pick them up from the airport in a tuk-tuk," Chett says.
While road-regulations prohibit tuk-tuks on the country’s expressways and hence entry to the airport, there’s no shortage of affection for the vehicles from tourists, who leap at the opportunity to sit in the open-sided vehicles in the blistering heat or monsoonal rain, choking on the acrid black exhaust fumes expelled by Bangkok’s buses and cars, in preference to air-conditioned taxis.
Chett said there are about 10,000 taxi tuk-tuks in Bangkok and some 35,000 nationwide, with variations in design depending on the region.
“The Ayutthaya tuk-tuk is very different to the Bangkok tuk-tuk and based on the original Midget MP4 from Daihatsu, while in Udon Thani they are motorbikes attached to carts," Mr. Chett says.
Tuk Tuk Thailand’s team of 10 staff churn out about 200 tuk-tuks a year, with one vehicle taking about five-days to complete, with a large portion of that time spent waiting on chrome plating contractors to return the ornate trim.
With no private tuk-tuks registrable for many years already, one would imagine that the days of Thailand’s tuk-tuks are somewhat numbered, but nothing is further from the truth.
'Tuk-tuks never die'Pointing to a number of rusting and clearly unserviceable vehicles sitting in the back of his factory, Chett says “tuk-tuks never die.”
“If someone wants a taxi tuk-tuk we take these old ones and replace everything except the chassis -- recondition the engines, build new cabins, new seats and paint them and off they go. They still have the same serial number so they’re allowed to be registered," he says.
|Engineering staff at Tuk Tuk Thailand work on a monster-length tuk-tuk for Bangkok’s MBK shopping mall|
While the cost of a taxi-style Bangkok tuk-tuk is fairly reasonable at 150,000 baht (about US$5,000), the cost of a tuk-tuk registration plate pre-moratorium on new registrations is not and at 200,000 baht pushes the cost of a rebuilt Bangkok taxi tuk-tuk with a reconditioned engine to a sizable 350,000 baht.
Chett said the majority of Bangkok’s taxi tuk-tuks are rented by the drivers for 350 baht a day, with drivers earning about 1,000 baht per day. By comparison a taxi driver will pay about 700 baht a day to rent the vehicle and earn about 2,000 baht per shift.
Though the Thailand tuk-tuk might be an undying symbol of Thailand, as Chett claims, the quieter three-cylinder engine might mean the nights of being kept awake by the high-pitched exhaust could one day end.
As for Mr. van Rootselaar, his 25th anniversary gift is bound to attract considerably more attention than a gold watch, with his brother Tim saying they are both eagerly awaiting its arrival.
“We’re about 35 kilometers east of Amsterdam in a town named Nijkerk and we’re both waiting to take it for a spin on the streets here, as well as occasionally up to the capital," he says.
|Tuk-tuk number 5111. The plates are more than 40-years old and worth more than Bt200,000 (about US$6,600).|
Everything you always wanted to know about a tuk-tukLength: 305cm (120 inch)
Height: 180cm (70.75 inch)
Front width: 88cm (34.5 inch)
Read width: 140cm (55 inch)
Length: 250cm (98.5 inch)
Weight: 400kg (881lb)
Engine: Three-cylinder 550 or 660CC Daihatsu or Suzuki. Previously a single or two-cylinder 350cc Daihatsu motorbike engine
Transmission: Four-speed manual with reverse or three-speed automatic
Fuel: CNG or unleaded petrol
Fuel tank: 30L (7.92 U.S. gallon)
Cooling system: Water cooled
Brakes: Hydraulic rear wheel discs
Exhaust: One-inch with catalytic converter and muffler
Engine service life: Nine years
Article and Picture Soure : www.cnn.com
I'm planning a 20-day trip to Southeast Asia and thinking of spending a week in Myanmar, three days in Siem Reap to see Angkor, three days in Luang Prabang, four days in Hanoi and Halong Bay and the last two days in Bangkok. I am not sure when or if I will be able to come to this part of the world again so really want to see as much as possible. Do you think this is too hectic an itinerary? Any suggestions as to what I should skip, so I can add more days at other destinations? Esther
It is a lot to do in 20 days and you will end up rushing from one city to another and from one airport to the next. With a week in Myanmar, you spend less than two days in the major destinations of Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake and you will have to fly between them all! Myanmar has just opened its doors to tourism, and I am sure this tourist season will be really busy in terms of both transport and accommodation. You really need more time for Myanmar. And it's a great time to see the country, as it will change fast. More importantly, you will enjoy the travel experience a lot more than just doing some quick sightseeing at major destinations then going home.
So I would suggest you spend more time in Myanmar, then visit the Angkor Complex in Siem Reap for three days and keep your last two days to chill and shop in Bangkok before flying home.
Article Soure : http://www.nationmultimedia.com/
What are the best things to do at that time of the year? Andrea
December is the best time to be in Krabi and there are plenty of places to visit and things to do. The most popular area to stay is Railey, with its limestone karsts and rock climbing. You need to get there by long-tail boat, either from Krabi town or Ao Nang. There is a range of accommodation in Railey but everything is busy December, when prices also peak. If you can’t find a room in your price range, you can easily take a day trip. Ao Nang is much closer to Railey than Krabi town, but it also gets busy in the high season.
You can rent a boat for a day to visit the four spots - Tup Island, Chicken Island, Poda Island and Phra Nang Cave. I'd suggest you visit Phi Phi island too and perhaps spend a few days there. Make time to kayak out to the hidden lagoon of Hong island, located 25km northwest of Ao Nang.
In Krabi town, I recommend you to go to the Tiger Cave Temple, located only five kilometres from the town centre. You will get a rewarding view after climbing 1,200 steps to a pagoda on the hilltop. The temple is popular for meditation retreat.
Other highlights include the emerald pool at Thanbok Khoranee National Park, hot springs and waterfalls at Khao Pra-Bang Khram Nature Reserve and ancient painting at Ao Luek. You can also visit Koh Lanta and explore this large and largely unspoilt island and perhaps stay there too.
Diving is also great in December and there are plenty of good dive operators to choose from. Hope you enjoy your holiday.
My wife and I will be driving from Bangkok to the North for a couple of weeks. We are thinking about stopping in Tak and visit Umphang’s Ti Lor Su Waterfall on the way up to Chiang Mai. Is it possible to go camping at the waterfall area? Should we pack our tent? Thanks for your reply. Ross
Ti Lor Su Waterfall is located at the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a strictly protected area. A parking lot and campsite is provided and run by the wildlife sanctuary office. Cars are allowed to enter the area only in the dry season from November to April. However, only pick-up trucks and 4WDrive vehicles are allowed as far as the campsite. There is spacious parking and toilet facilities, and it can get very busy during the New Year holidays. Outside the peak holidays, there will be very limited food or any other supplies, so you have to bring your own. Otherwise you will end up eating only instant noodles. From the campsite, there is a 1.5 kilometres trail to walk to the Ti Lor Su Waterfall.
Those without a 4W drive prefer to stay in Umphang town centre, and take a tour from the hotels or travel agencies in town. You can easily opt for a two-day and one-night package, where everything is arranged for you including a boat to the waterfall, food, tent and a guide.
You may already know about the road to Umphang, but let me give you information again. Once you arrive in Tak along highway 1, you have to head to Mae Sot using highway 5. The distance is 86 kilometres. From Mae Sot to Umphang on highway 1090 will be the hardest part of your trip with 1,219 curves over 169 kilometres. Don't dream of a relaxed drive: you will need to be alert for the next sharp bend all the time. There is a rest area on km.84 to stop and stretch your legs and get some refreshments. The trip from Bangkok to Umphang would take you at least five hours.
But once there, I guarantee you will be astonished by this great waterfall.
Article soure : http://www.nationmultimedia.com
For more than two decades, An An Lao, which occupied a two-unit shop-house on Soi Thong Lor, had been a trustworthy venue among Chinese food connoisseurs who looked for real gastronomic indulgence that didn't empty the wallet. Constantly enjoying the patronage of local and expat families, the restaurant was highly treasured for its signature chicken dish, gai betong, and a really budget-friendly Peking duck later became another best seller.
So, at the end of April, it was a shock for many passers-by, including my family and friends, to see through the restaurant's glass facade a deserted space that clearly indicated our steadfast eatery was suddenly gone.
Almost at the same time we learned the sad news, I received a postcard from An An Lao saying that it has moved to a new location on Sukhumvit 26.
And, immediately, I decided to give them a call.
As Thong Lor has in recent years become a new chic destination for gastronomy and lifestyle traffic, land values and property rental rates have risen in accordance with the strip's popularity.
Not being able to cope with the astronomical rise of the rent (over 300,000 per month), the owner of An An Lao considered a relocation. Evidently, it was a superb decision.
The restaurant's new address may not sound as tempting as that of its previous home. It's a new, low-profile and low-rise arcade on Sukhumvit Soi 26 near Rama 4 Road. Yet, since the restaurant opened on May 11, the business was reported to be overwhelmed. Waiting queues have become the norm and reservations are a must.
The location is more noticeable and can be spotted from Rama 4 Road. But its spacious parking area (with capacity for 300 cars) plays a great role in drawing customers (back) to this time-honoured Chinese eatery.
Now the restaurant, enveloped with glass walls, boasts 200 seats with tables set comfortably far apart in a 500m2 space with three private rooms. There are wheelchair ramps and restrooms. This is of great help to elderly customers who who happen to be some of the restaurant's most loyal.
From a larger, more systematic kitchen, An An Lao's cuisine remains uncomplicated but distinctive.
It continues to offer home-cooked Chinese fare prepared according to the family recipes with main ingredients coming straight from Betong, an agriculturally abundant and lush green Chinese-inhabited district in Yala.
The menu has been expanded to include a number of classic Thai dishes and fresh seafood.
Just as it is presented at most fine Chinese restaurants, food is available in S, M and L portions. Whether you're a first-timer or regular, not to be missed are the two top-selling poultry dishes.
Betong-style steamed chicken (260 baht for a medium portion) is a well-cooked, neatly sliced meat of a free-range Betong chicken that yielded a chewy, rather than mushy tender, texture that fused perfectly with the signature sesame oil-soy sauce.
An An Lao still stays small on the price of its Peking duck (350 baht). It's a bargain considering that you get two substantial and sophisticatedly-prepared dishes, so affordable compared to 800-1,200 baht at other Chinese spots.
Freshly carved at your table, the paper-thin, fat-free and reddish-brown skin of the whole roasted duck came first with the works: steamed flour sheets, fresh vegetable sticks and hoisin sauce.
With all the ingredients rolled together and eaten, it's a mouthful of great textures and tastes.
For the left-over duck meat, diners can pick from four options to have the meat prepared: stir-fried with salted soy beans, stir-fried with beansprouts, deep-fried with garlic and pepper, or, the most popular, is to enjoy it as miang (fried seasoned minced duck meat with fresh green lettuce).
Another of the all-time classics, steamed pork with taro (200 baht for a small portion), presented pork belly, from a prime-grade hygienically raised pig, braised with salted soy bean in salty sweet gravy. The super tender, somewhat fatty pork was enjoyed with piping hot mun thow (Chinese-style steamed buns).
For the new items, my personal recommendation is grilled freshwater prawn (150 baht per 100g). Arriving our table was an extra large, 400g, river-farmed prawn (600 baht) that beautifully exhibited supple meat together with its creamy, cheese-like fat that has absorbed the smoky fragrance from the char-grill.
Enjoyed with sour and spicy seafood dip, the dish is great proof that seafood joints are not the only place where you can find super grilled prawn.
The prawn can also be baked in a hot pot with herbs and glass noodles, steamed with garlic or deep-fried with garlic and pepper.
Another aquatic delicacy really worth ordering is fried curry crab (160 baht per 100g). When it comes to flavour, I've never had faith in extra-large crab. The bigger version usually provides meaty texture, but with a bland taste.
But the crab here _ from Madagascar and weighing more than a kilogramme, with each of its claws almost as big as my seven-year-old's hand _ offered firm and naturally flavoursome meat. The characteristic yellow "sauce", a creamy mixture of egg, onions, capsicums, celery and curry powder, was very tasty with only a whiff of sugar.
I couldn't possibly eat at An An Lao without enjoying my all-time favourite stir-fried watercress in oyster sauce (120 baht). Imported from Betong, the bright green vegetable with a pleasant bitterness was masterly cooked to absorb the wok-burn aroma while maintaining its waterlogged crunch.
The dessert selection was decent, with quite a few options including crispy Chinese pancake with Chinese jujube filling, warm sticky rice with sweet taro and ginkgo nuts and chilled sago with cantaloupe.
Service by the same team of staff plus additional hands proved as efficient as before. Since the restaurant is completely packed over the weekend, expect to wait up to an hour for a table if you happen to walk in. Reservations are highly recommended for any day of the week.
Like the final, once-missing piece of the jigsaw that will complete Siam Paragon's ambition in becoming both the pride of Thailand and a world-class shopping destination, the Louis Vuitton store is an embodiment of house heritage and modern lux, and designed to offer not just retail, but also inspirational experience in discovering the world of this French luxury house.
Surrounded by the 30m-long exterior facade of glass, the store is divided into indulgent lifestyle zones. From the luggage and leathergoods that highlight the Maison's pioneering spirit of modern travel culture, the men's and women's universes of leathergoods, accessories and shoes, to the timepiece zone for the horology enthusiasts, each zone is conceived as a cozy room. The shoe salons are equipped with comfortable seating areas.
A wall is dedicated to the most exceptional leathergoods creations that reflect the house's proud savoir faire. In addition, the new store also features an after sales centre that demonstrates Louis Vuitton's commitment to offering customers superior service.
To celebrate the launch of the latest store, Louis Vuitton is offering fashionistas a special treat in the form of preview of the two special collections slated to hit the shelves this year. Fans will get to see the new line of Monogram Empreinte Speedy Bandouliere 25 which is offered here before its official launch in September. Made in refined Monogram Empreinte leather with the signature embossed Louis Vuitton flower motifs, the new model, which comes in the famous Speedy shape, is available in five colours: orient, chocolat, infini, framboise and aube.
Apart from the Empreinte Speedy, the store will be the only one in Thailand to offer the much-coveted collaboration between creative director Marc Jacobs and iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The Louis Vuitton-Yayoi Kusama collection interprets the artist's most emblematic polka dots onto ready-to-wear and accessories like textiles, sunglasses, leathergoods and footwear, and will hit the shelves on July 13.
A recent visit to Chiang Mai's newest district, named in memory of the late Princess Galyani Vadhana, proved very worthwhile. Galyani Vadhana district is the 25th to be established in Chiang Mai province, and the 878th in the country. It was named after His Majesty the King's sister.
Chiang Mai's newest district has a great deal to offer visitors and residents, especially those who want to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of nature.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand's Chiang Mai office director Chalermsak Suranan explains that the agency has organised excursions to the newest district to promote it as a tourist destination. Galyani Vadhana district has a pleasant climate, interesting landscape, abundant wildlife and, being only 164km from Muang Chiang Mai through Mae Hong Son's Pai district, it is an ideal destination for those visiting Pai, just 64km away.
Not far from Galyani Vadhana district, Suan Doi Kaew farm is a chemical-free strawberry farm approved by the Royal Foundation Project, in Bo Kaew sub-district, Samoeng district. This strawberry farm, owned and operated by Wittaya Narata, the president of Bo Kaew Agriculturists' Association, with support from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, occupies 2,500 rai (400 hectares) of land, and is one of the country's largest strawberry producers. Visitors can take a tour around the fields and eat freshly picked strawberries (in season). It is also being developed as an agro-tourism destination. Resort chalets are being built and campsites are already available, welcoming Thais and foreigners who'd like to spend their days in a cool climate and beautifully clean environment.
In Galyani Vadhana district, Pornchai Pianpla, social development officer of Wat Chan Royal Project Foundation and Development Centre, explained that the centre helps locals increase their agricultural knowledge and other occupational skills. The centre was started by the King in 1979 to help improve the living conditions of hilltribe people in Wat Chan and nearby villages.
The centre has arable and livestock farms, an exhibition of hilltribe culture, souvenirs for sale, a cafeteria, and rooms and tents for visitors to spend the night in the forest.
Other attractions and activities include the pine forests with wild orchids; bird watching; cool weather fog watching at the border between Chiang Mai province and Mae Hong Son, the Huay Horm waterfall, from which the Mae Chaem and Pai rivers flow; Huay Reservoir, and Wat Chan, which dates back to the Lawa era, one of Chiang Mai valley's earliest periods.
Spending a cool night at the peaceful Musikee Eco Lodge, set in the middle of a forest and with food for visitors from its own farms, followed a warm welcome by the staff and members of the Pakayor, a hilltribe native to the district. Musikee is the name of the Mae Chaem River in the Pakayor language, and it reflects the way of life of this hilltribe. Hiking to the junction of the Chaem Noi and Chaem Luang rivers is a popular activity for visitors. The nearby forest offers a large variety of plant life and the local hilltribe villages offer a glimpse into their native culture and arts. You can often hear locals playing the tae na, a Pakayor instrument similar to the harp, and singing traditional songs. There is often a show with the traditional welcoming sword dance.
Finally there is the Ban Wat Chan Royal Project, which with the Forest Industry Organisation of Thailand, is in charge of preserving and restoring the forests in the area and promoting farming among the locals. It's set in the country's largest pine and dry dipterocarp forest, 960m above sea level, and is being developed as an eco-tourism destination for people who love adventure and cool weather. Camping, hiking and bike riding are among the many activities on offer at this verdant destination, which can accommodate up to 500 people.
A new district office is being built to replace the temporary office, and the completion of a new road to the district _ which will make travelling here much easier _ is expected within two years.
Article and picture source : www.bangkokpost.com
Sixty-five years ago, just two days after the end of the World War II, Jim Thompson, an architect from New York, arrived in Thailand as a part of his volunteer service to the US Army's Office of Strategic Service with nothing to suggest that his name would later become one of the world's most famous icons for Thai artistry.
With 10 restaurants in four international cities, Jim Thompson is also honouring the integrity of Siamese culinary art while celebrating the unique beauty of Thai weaving craft. PHOTO: ANUSORN SAKSEREE
Just like many westerners _ then and now _ who have been charmed by the beauty and friendliness of the Thai country, the Delaware-born Thompson decided to settle down and call Bangkok his home.
With his imaginative eyes and considerate mind, Thompson immediately became very interested in handwoven Thai silk.
He assembled a small collection of the fabric, and, with confidence that the quality of the Thai silk would have appeal outside Thailand, subsequently took it to show friends and potential buyers in New York. And that's when the Thai-silk road to the world fame began.
Jim Thompson's Thai Silk Company was registered in 1951 with the original purpose of reviving Thailand's craft weaving industry, which at that time was quickly fading due to competition from cheaper, machine-made fabrics. Nine years later, the Thai government awarded Thompson the Order of the White Elephant in recognition of his contribution to the country.
Today the company, with its 100 percent vertical operation _meaning all the products are manufactured here in Thailand under the care of the Thai Silk Co _ is the world's largest manufacturer of hand-woven fabrics, with more than 3,500 employees. That does not include some 1,000 silk artisans in northeastern villages whom the firm also works with.
Jim Thompson’s traditional Thai house in the middle of Bangkok is registered as a national museum.
The company's properties include Thompson's world-famous traditional Thai house in Bangkok's Pathumwan district, which has been registered as a national museum, two silk farms that cover more than 3,000 rai of land in Nakhon Ratchasima province, 38 retail shops in Asia, America and Europe, and 10 restaurants in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.
''The restaurant business is a natural extension of Jim Thompson's passion in bringing the best of Thai culture to the world,'' said Eric Booth, the company's marketing director.
''Mr Thompson was famous not only for silk but also for his gracious hospitality. In the 50s and 60s, his Bangkok mansion often hosted dinner parties with musicians, writers, statesmen and Hollywood celebrities. Somerset Maugham, Anne Baxter and Robert Kennedy were also among his guests.''
The first Jim Thompson dining outlet, however, opened in 1996 on the second floor of its main retail shop on Surawong Road simply to offer a space where customers _ typically tourists _ could sit down, relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea together with a small variety of snacks and bakery items, which was made from the company's kitchen, before or after shopping or while waiting for the Bangkok traffic to ease.
The coffee and bakery corner had enjoyed a good feedback, so, later on, a number of Thai and western dishes were added to the menu.
Eric Booth, marketing director of Thai Silk Company.
"The menu was a good mix between authentic Thai food and classic western cuisine. We offered the two cuisines separately and never try to follow the fusion fashion," Booth noted.
The in-house cafe proved very popular, not only among tourist shoppers but also among people in the area who found the food and the design of the space enjoyable. With this success, the company decided to go for a standalone restaurant with the purpose of catering to local residents.
The Saladaeng Cafe restaurant, occupying an old house in Soi Sala Daeng, opened in 2000. This was followed by Thompson Bar & Restaurant in 2004 and Jim Thompson Cafe at Isetan department store in 2008.
After years of honing their skills at home, Jim Thompson's culinary and hospitality team was ready for the international challenge. In 2005, the company's first foreign restaurant, Mythai, opened in Kuala Lumpur.
"At that time, we had quite a lot of opportunities in several countries, but we decided to settle on a place near home," Booth explained.
"Running the restaurant business, you need to be close to what's happening. We felt more comfortable for our first overseas restaurant to be close by, so that we could travel easily and help them with the design, marketing, cooking and service."
Clusters of age-old northeastern-style and tribal-style houses, which can disappear overnight, are nicely displayed at the Jim Thompson Farm in Pak Thong Chai, Nakhon Ratchasima.
Three more dining outlets were opened in in Tokyo, and another in Singapore (see review on page 6).
"The Singapore branch, called Jim Thompson: A Thai Restaurant, is our flagship restaurant. We've spent so much time working with design and service. We've barely done any marketing or promotion but received great feedback from the locals. The business was built totally from word of mouth," the marketing director noted.
"Our company always looks for new, dynamic ways to promote Thai culture to the world. We've realised the worldwide sensation for Thai food. In the past, Thai food may have been regarded in the West as a budget meal on which people wouldn't spend more than 10 euros or $10 on.
"But now people would pay the same price as they do at a good French or Japanese restaurant to enjoy Thai food, perhaps with wine and champagne, on a special occasion. Thai restaurants are no longer seen as a place for cheap and good fast food but as gourmet dining destinations that offer a memorable experience."
The well-respected Jim Thompson style of Thai cuisine is in the devoted hands of - love it or hate it - an American chef-cum-Thai culinary enthusiast, Patrick Booth. Also the company's director of food and beverage department, Patrick Booth once trained under chef David Thompson of the Michelin-starred Nahm restaurant in London.
Some of Jim Thompson’s preserved farm products.
According to him, the cuisine offered at every Jim Thompson outlet is "absolute Thai, Thompson-style". This means that for each classic dish on offer, the experienced chefs have tested various recipes to refine what they believe to be the most delicious version.
Meanwhile, the menu and deco reflect an appealing mix of tradition and innovation inspired by Thompson's marvellous taste in art and design.
"Other than the cuisine itself, what we have tried to concentrate on in our restaurant business is the Thai lifestyle and design," Booth added. "When you enter a Jim Thompson restaurant, you'll see the place decorated with beautiful fabrics, in a dynamic fashion statement.
"Yes, it's a way to promote our products, but we are not trying to sell fabrics in our restaurants. The restaurant business completely stands on its own to celebrate mainly the integrity of Thai culinary art.
"Unlike our retail shops, which cater mainly to tourists, the restaurants make it easier for us to interact with locals, which we see as very interesting. Through that, we've seen there's still a lot of good opportunities for good Thai restaurants with honest Thai cuisine. We are now looking around the region to expand our restaurant, and we've set our eyes on Bali, Indonesia," Booth said.
Pumpkin is one of the most popular products at the Jim Thompson Farm.
Even though 90 percent of the Jim Thompson enterprise's approximately two-billion-baht yearly revenue comes from tourists, the company doesn't only help popularise Thai culture among foreigners. Undeniably, it also encourages Thais to understand more about our traditional ways of life that may be disappearing over night.
Thus, the Jim Thompson Farm in Nakhon Ratchasima's Pak Thong Chai district, which was originally a silk cultivation farm and weaving village, opened in 2000 to visitor interested in learning about the Thai silk production process as well as the regional culture of the northeast.
Other than the silk weaving quarter, the farm also features the 10-rai Isan Village and Korat Village comprised of eight clusters of age-old northeastern-style and tribal-style houses made from wood, bamboo and rattan. Some of the houses were built as long as 200 years ago. Within the villages, visitors will get to see the traditional Isan lifestyle and displays of handicrafts.
Hoping to give farm visitors a better understanding of art, environment, nature and ecological system, the farm has lately initiated the "Art Centre on Farm" project.
This pilot art project is where contemporary local artists are invited to work within the context of ecological agriculture and Isan architecture. With an aim to bridge art, life and nature, the participating artists work in close relation with nature and make use of local and recycled materials. Art pieces created under this project will be exhibited at various points in the farm.
All Jim Thompson’s silk fabrics are hand-woven by locals.
"The Jim Thompson Farm is not just a tourist destination, but a great educational hub," said Booth.
"You can learn about the silkworm cycle, local craftsmanship and Isan life. It's interesting that even Thais have less opportunity to see this cultures."
"In the past we had only foreign tourists. Today we are happy to say most of the farm's visitors are Thais. They are Thai students and families who come to to learn about Thai culture," said Booth.
For those who are interested in agricultural and gastronomic tourism, the farm is also a great place to visit. A spacious plot of land has been dedicated to organic fruit, vegetable and flower plantations.
Among the highlighted products are various types of pumpkins, cantaloupes and hydroponic salad greens, all of which are available at the farm's market.
This shop at the Raffles Hotel Singapore is among the company’s 38 outlets worldwide.
Ready-to-eat and preserved fruit products are also popular here. Expect to find a variety of jams, honey and tea. And if you're in for adventurous gastronomy, try Jim Thompson's best-selling crispy roasted silkworms.
"In the past, Thais looked at Jim Thompson as a brand of luxury goods and almost nothing else. With our farm and restaurants, we now have more connections and interactions with the local people, which we're glad of. Because, at the end of the day, Jim Thompson is a Thai company and our only home is Thailand."