CHIANG MAI'S RIVER OF RESTAURANTS
By Bertil Lintner
RIVERSIDE BAR & RESTAURANT 9-11 Charoenrat Road Tel.: (053) 243 239
HEUAN SOONTAREE 46/2 Wan Singkham Road Tel.: (053) 252 445
CONSULATE PARK PUB & RESTAURANT 127 Charoen Prathet Road Tel.: (053) 278 538
BAN SUAN 25 Moo 3 Sanphisua Tel.: (053) 854 169
Outdoor dining has never been a hit in Bangkok, where the heat, the noise and the traffic fumes have left the pavements to cheap food stalls. Not so up north in Chiang Mai, where some of the best restaurants are on the banks of the Mae Nam Ping, the river that flows through the city. The clear skies and cool nights of winter make alfresco dining here especially inviting.
Along the east bank, the Riverside Bar & Restaurant is as popular with the locals as it is with foreign tourists. Its extensive menu of Western and Thai dishes, live music and dinner cruises have kept customers coming back for almost two decades. For a more distinct northern Thai flavour, head for Heuan Soontaree, a wooden complex on the west bank further upriver. Every night, owner Soontaree Vechanont, a popular local singer, entertains diners with local folk songs. Her teenage daughter, Lanna, sometimes fills in, and may one day become as famous as her mother. The northern Thai food (minced beef with herbs, fermented sausages, pork crackling with chilli dip) is excellent. Very few tourists seem to have discovered this waterfront gem.
Diners with money to spend seeking absolute peace may prefer Ban Suan, six kilometres north of the city. It serves Thai nouvelle cuisine on a terrace overlooking a quiet bend in the river. There's hardly another house in sight, and in the evening candles on bamboo poles light up the river bank. For a livelier night out, try the Consulate Park southeast of Chiang Mai's night bazaar. Once the grounds of the British Consulate, which closed in 1978, some of the old colonial-style buildings still grace the compound, but none of the stuffiness of the old days remains. Today, Chiang Mai residents and visitors come here to eat and to listen to live music, or just to enjoy the serenity of the Mae Nam Ping.
This review first appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, December 26, 2002
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