Its been more than three months that I visited Chiang Mai in Thailand but my stories from from one of the most culturally significant city of Northern Thailand are yet not over. 7 hundred years old heritage and proud Lanna culture of Chiang Mai really got me hooked because it shines through their traditions, hands-on craft work, art, language, clothing, architecture, music, food, etc.
In Chiangmai, one must definitely go for the Khantoke Dinner and Lanna dancing shows. Here is my experience of dining in a traditional way at Khum Kham International Complex. It was a perfect place to get a taste of Northern Thai Culture.
Tidbits on the endearing Lanna culture!
The Lanna, which means 1 million rice fields (a rich agricultural area) was born from the Lanna kingdom. Chiang Mai was the capital of this kingdom and it means ‘new city’. It is infused with artistry which is an eclectic mix of history and modern influence.
- Even today, old Traditional Lanna Thai culture is lived through clothes. On Fridays, the employees of many government agencies in Chiang Mai wear a Northern Thai Style dress. For the men it is called Moh Hom and for the women Pha Zin.
- Lanna believe in religion (Theravada Buddhism) and are equally very superstitious. I remember seeing spirit houses outside their houses and buildings. That is a way of conveying to the dead people that you live peacefully in your abode and let us live too.
- Nestled in the foothills, the name Lan Na happened because of its agricultural richness and a special rice was grown only in this Northern belt and that is what we know as sticky rice. The Lanna curry is salty and spicy hot in taste. They are fond of chili sauces or namphrik.
- Language of the Northern Thai is called kham muang and it is different from Northern Thai.
Khum Kham International Complex at the Chiang Mai Business Park
On the second day of the Chiang Mai visit, our FAM group of four dined at Khum Khantoke. It is a big area built in 2000 with a special intention to preserve the knowledge of local culture and tradition. The wooden pavilions are called Khum. It has four Khums. No less, it is famously known as the Golden Palace for luxury events in Chiang Mai. Being large in space, it caters to all sorts of meetings, weddings and functions of the locals and travelers. Here, we got to see, eat and experience traditional Thai lifestyle in food, music, dress, art and music. Indeed, it made for a memorable experience!
Let the pictures below take you around the complex
The dinning area was on the first floor, thus we walked towards the escalator but not before we had clicked these beautiful peacocks. Before finding a way to the dining hall, it was important to put away our shoes. This was interesting and really when I looked at the number of footwear on the racks, I was surprised. It was all a new thing to me. So far I had loved the ambiance and the surprise elements at every step.
A few things that caught my attention around ‘Khantoke’ custom of dining
- A beautifully lit hall
- Both round table and sunken seat arrangements
- There were more than 200 people already sitting inside
- Most of them were eating from huge and round wooden plates
- People were sitting on the floor cross-legged or with legs on one side.
- The people serving the food were dressed in traditional way.
- There was a stage set where performances were yet to happen
The lady manager showed our way to the reserved table. We chose the round table seating for us. The drinks came first on the table. I asked for coconut drink while the others had beer. The fruits too may their way to the table.
The Lanna styled meal is prepared under the influence of Northern Thai flavors. The specialty of the platter is that it consists of several bowls of dishes and is served on a wooden tray with small legs. Traditionally, the plate or the tray was made from teak or woven bamboo. The teak wood or woven rattan is locally referred as khan tok.
After we shared our preferences, we were given our platters. You have to see how we were spoiled for choices. I ate from both veg as well as non-veg khan tok. Everything was really different and I would lie if I said I liked everything/ But I really a few favorites- chicken mince made with enough red chillies and the sweet banana fritters from the veg side. Along with this, also came the sticky rice in a woven bamboo baskets. I love This was one place where one could easily eat for 2 hours over dance and music. The ambiance was unique and absolutely lovely.
While everyone was enjoying their meal and I was still tasting from every bowl, the traditional performances and authentic folk dances took to the center-stage and it really added to our pleasure. I also learnt that locals in Chiang Mai celebrate the festivals and special occasions with the Khantoke dinner even today.
And I danced too!
Overall it was a great evening and I really savored on a beautiful aspect of Chiang Mai. Before leaving the complex, I did click a few more pictures of the bright night and colorful pavilion.