Smitten by Chang Mai’s Charm and Creating Honeyed Memories
I’ve always been fascinated by Asia. That massive continent halfway across where I live. It teems with cultural charm, amazing architecture, rich cuisine, endless sceneries and so much more.
And so my Asian adventure brings me to its southeastern part, particularly Chiang Mai Thailand where all the things I love about Asia abounds.
It is a tourist drawer and it’s easy to see why. Its majestic temples alone are enough to fill your day with awesome wonders. I mean, these Buddhist temples, also called Wat, are absolute masterpieces! Intricately designed, these steep, multi-tiered structures must have been envisioned to be symbols of perfection, or heaven, or nirvana. It can’t be anything less. And there’s lots of gold color too. They shimmer against a backdrop of lovely landscapes and clear blue skies and you can’t help but think of a supreme being or noble ideals.
The Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Phan Tao are just some of the many breathtaking temples (there are over 300 of them in Chiang Mai alone) you can see here.
(photo credit - mychiangmaitravel.com)
Lest you blame me for not giving you a heads up while gushing about these wonders, these scenic temples are religious sites and so visitors must observe proper decorum when visiting. Here’s a rules primer for first-timers.
My trip here was motivated as always, by my love for adventure and all things honey. And so my quest involves discovering cultural treasures and experiencing Chiang Mai’s honey industry. I was particularly on the lookout for lychee blossom honey as the fruit is abundant in this city.
Later in the blog I’ll also be sharing with you more about my honey quest and a recipe I tried using lychee blossom honey. This brownish honey blends well with a variety of eats because of its fresh sweet fragrance and taste that complements other flavors just right.
But before that, let me first shine the spotlight on the beauty of Chiang Mai, the perfect setting for my lychee-liscious honey adventure and a whole lot more!
Old world charm – Eastern style
A walk through the streets of Chiang Mai Old City kick started my adventure. And it was truly a feast for the eyes, mind, and soul. You can explore this stunning place by foot and immerse yourself in its relaxing scenes featuring stunning temples, historic buildings, galleries, and vintage shops.
It’s a place that breathes art. And there’s plenty of options to shop and dine – in style. Its old-world mystique-meets-vibrant vibe within its centuries-old fortress walls is just perfect for travelers.
Chiang Mai Night Safari
Just 12 kilometers from the city is Hangdong where the Chiang Mai Night Safari is. I decided I wasn’t going to miss a tropical safari experience this side of the world and I must tell you it was worth every baht and more.
(photo credit - sightseeingchiangmai.com)
It’s similar to the Singapore Night Safari – a thrilling night of wild animal encounters without having to fear for your life. Here you get to enjoy hand-feeding and petting animals, open tram rides, trails, light shows and more.
They offer three animal zones: The Savannah Safari that lasts 30 mins where you get to hobnob with elephants, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, antelopes, wild deer, the whole gang.
Then there’s the Predator Prowl that’s great for your wild side, also a 30-min ride. If tigers, lions, vultures, hyenas, bears are your kind of beasts then you’ll be in your zone here.
And the Jaguar Trail, a sweet stroll through wild habitats where you get to see tortoises, flamingos, ducks, white-striped tigers, and of course, jaguars.
I spent a few more days just exploring the city, scouring for unique sights (well, everything here has a unique charm about them) and feasting my eyes on all things historic, artistic, interesting, and relaxing. And I tell you there’s a never-ending array of things to see and do all around.
The locals are warm and welcoming and always going about, but with a sense of serenity in their graceful, kind of laid-back ways. This mélange of past treasures and present buzz makes for a good balance while taking in the beauty of this city and experiencing the people’s vibrant lifestyle. And if you’re a nightlife kind of tourist, there’s lots of that here too.
Being a honey enthusiast, bees are like family to me. And so the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders got me curious. Yes, species of crawlers in glass cases get me going gaga. Manop Rattanarithikul, an insect enthusiast and his wife Dr. Rampa developed this rather unusual but interesting museum over a course of several decades for the love of it, and as part of a malaria control program in the past.
(photo credit - bucketlistjourney.net)
Now if bugs are not your thing, there’s the Chiang Mai National Museum where a walk through its halls can teach you a thing or two about Chiang Mai’s history, geography, art, trade and economy through photos and artifacts.
(photo credit - bucketlistjourney.net)
Chiang Mai Flavors
What’s a trip without a food trip? Chiang Mai’s rich culinary flavors are a treat for the tastebuds. Right from the myriad street food vendors to restaurants and fine dining, it’s one gastronomical delight and a food adventure not to be missed. And so I got my taste of authentic Pad Thais, curry noodles, Miang Khams, sticky rice, and vegetable and meaty dishes that are a combination of savory, mildly spicy, and herbalicious flavors. The kind that lingers pleasantly in your mouth long after you’ve had your fill.
Chiang Mai is also known for its Apis cerana bees. And where beehives are, honey is sure to follow. Thailand has the greatest diversity of honey bees in the world and Chiang Mai is home to many bee farms that supply varieties of honey locally and internationally. According to Dr. Paul Page, a bee enthusiast with a PhD in pollination ecology, beekeeping in Thailand was mainly developed by early Taiwanese settlers and investors and has since grown to be a thriving industry here.
And since lychee (a variety locally called longan) abounds here, lychee blossom honey is easily available and that too, top-notch quality. And so with a jar of it in hand, and sweet visions of culinary bliss, I tried an interesting recipe I found on the internet called Lychee Blossom Honey Chocolate Ganache.
I’m pasting here the complete recipe details for your easy reference.
(Serves about 4 people)
For the chocolate ganache
photo credit - simplyhomecooked.com)
● 1 cup really raw Cashews, soaked 2 – 6 hours
● 1 cup filtered water
● 1 cup Beach Organics RAW Cacao Powder
● 1/4 cup Beach Organics RAW Lychee Blossom Honey
● 2 tbsp Beach Organics Virgin Wild Crafted Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
● 2 tbsp Beach Organics Organic Cacao Butter
● 1 Beach Organics Vanilla Bean, scraped
● 1 tsp Beach Organics Vanilla Infused Fleur de Sal Sea Salt For the crust
● 1 cup really raw Cashews
● 1 tbsp water
For the chocolate ganache
1. Blend cashews and water until smooth and creamy.
2. Add Cacao Powder and Lychee Blossom Honey, and all spices until mixed.
3. Blend all the fats and refrigerate for overnight before indulging.
For the crust
1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it reaches a doughy consistency.
2. Press into four mini tartlet pans with removable bottoms.
3. Place bases onto a mesh dehydrator sheet and dehydrate at 115 degrees F for six hours.
4. They should now be firm enough to remove from the tart cases so you can continue to dehydrate them for a further eight hours.
5. Place the tartlets on a cooling rack for three minutes before serving.
And that sweet, satisfying treat was one of the highlights of my Chiang Mai trip. As was my visit to the Viang Ping Bee Farm in Muang Chiang Mai where longan honey, lychee honey, wildflower honey, and sunflower honey are produced. I was in a sweet spot miles from home!
I concluded my trip with some more honey tasting, food trips, a Thai spa massage and some mingling with the locals.
‘Twas an amazing Asian + honey adventure worth the long trip (and the extra pounds)!