This country is a culinary paradise. I always go to Bangkok for a few days, then to Chiang Mai where I have taken a hands on cooking class many times. The Mandarin Oriental is definitely my favorite hotel, I love to sit in the lobby and just take in the atmosphere of all the beautiful huge teak lanterns which hang everywhere. It’s location on the river makes it one of the best hotels in Asia.
It has many traditions revolving around food. Following the rice harvest, the national festival of Loy Krathong held in November celebrates the water spirits who impart a fruitful growing season, beautifully marked by floating candles that set waterways aglow for miles. During Songkran, the Thai New Year in April, join the locals who visit wats (temples) to offer alms and meals to the monks, or take part in a playful water fight as they splash one another in an act of cleansing and renewal. In July, attend the Thai Food Festival where you will be treated to tried and true recipes by some of the nation’s leading restaurants. Sample the cool yet fiery Som Tum, a slaw of green papaya mixed with fish sauce, lime juice, peanuts and plenty of garlic and hot chilies.
One favorite restaurant in Bangkok is Nahm, ranked in the world’s top 50 restaurants by Restaurant Magazine and the first Thai restaurant to receive a Michelin star.
Phuket, 800 miles to the south by air, is worth a visit with gorgeous beaches if you want to relax after lots of sightseeing. Baan Rim Pa, Phuket’s most authentic Royal Thai restaurant is outstanding. Take a private cooking class at the Blue Elephant. You browse the local markets with the chef and return to the kitchen to prepare a four course lunch.
To gain insight about a drink said to lower blood pressure, boost immunity and regulate cholesterol, take a guided tour at the Jiaoqulan Tea Group in Chiang Mai. Lovely location alongside the Mekong River. Learn how to brew the perfect cup of tea, and take some sachets home with you.
By MAUREEN JONES (Star Patcher)