[Heads-up: Both of the home stays mentioned in this article do not have websites or pages. Please message me for their contact information until we can get it all online.]
Phrao is a district of the Chiang Mai Province in Thailand, an area rich in both history and cultivated land. Set 107 km northeast of Chiang Mai city, Phrao is a lesser-appreciated rural area with pleasant views of Sri Lanna National Park and farmland. I’ve been there once before, to attend a music festival. On this second visit to Phrao the skies were a lot clearer and the weather a bit milder. It was a true holiday from the city. Cooler nights, cleaner air, and picturesque countryside.
I was in the company of a few English teachers, Rachel (a South Korean chef), and two of our lovely Thai friends. It was a great crowd to spend the weekend with. All of us had travel stories and historical lore to share, and having a chef in the mix is always a plus.
The greatest thing about this trip, other than the beautiful people that I spent it with, was that we got to see a bit of Thailand that’s less affected by tourism. The Phrao district is known for its farmland, mangoes and gorgeous mountain scenery. While Phrao’s popularity is growing, it is still a lesser visited tourist destination. We got to visit a couple of homestays that are off of most people’s itinerary, and one of these little getaways has only just opened this year.
Kon Gup Din homestay is well worth a visit if you want a break from the hustle and bustle (relatively speaking) of Chiang Mai for a while. Juan and Tip have built an expansive, winding garden full of miniature clay statues and water fountains. I always find something new back there. Because it’s located in the small farm town of Phrao, there is always fresh, locally grown food on the table, and owners really knows how to cook! We are regularly impressed with their thoughtful presentation. On this visit we were served fresh mango smoothies, mango sticky rice, papaya salad, delicious fried vegetables and fish soup. As with everywhere that our Thai friends take us, the event was a feast.
What truly made our visit special is the amount of heart that went into it all. Kon Gup Din uses organic, locally grown produce whenever possible.
Last time we were in town and visited the farm, everyone was busy harvesting and sorting big, lumpy potatoes, most of which were for export. Our meal that day included some of the best potato stew and fried potatoes I’ve eaten in Thailand. Now only a month later, the same farm has been totally rotated to grow onions, but it’s mango season, so everyone was this time busy picking and sorting them.
We got to visit a mango farm and collect some of what had fallen off the trees. As you can see from the photo below, Rachel was thrilled.
Our Thai friends introduced us to some farmers who let us hand-pick some export quality mangoes for ourselves.
On this visit we spent the night at the brand new Mon Sang Jun homestay, run by a wonderful and multi-skilled couple. They have enough space to accommodate a few family-sized groups and a cozy little kitchen with a lot of open-air dining space. The owners have a collection of her own products including honey, tea, balm, soap, shampoo, baskets, and rice.
The surrounding landscape is serene, painted with views of undulating fruit orchards and deep green hills, patches of flame trees and all sorts of birds. Visitors are also conveniently located for excursions into the surrounding mountain range where you can find waterfalls, riverside restaurants, and temples with unique and intricate architecture, such as Wat Ban Den (Mae Taeng District).
Even if you spend your days lounging at the homestay, there is plenty of room in the garden to lay out an ice box of colas and Chang, kick back and spend the whole day soaking up those little moments. It’s the kind of place that you can easily spend a few days in, so we were all sad to leave the next day, but also exhausted after a long night of dancing and celebration on a nearby farm with some of our Thai friends.
While I’ll admit I’m a mountains and cool weather kind of guy, outings like these keep me from packing up and leaving the Chiang Mai region too soon.
Sending my love,
Bradley A. Stone