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Khum Khantoke Restaurant,
Chiangmai Showpiece

Visitors to Chiangmai are delighted to learn about northern Thailand culture at Khantoke Dinner Show performances. The tradition of Khantoke is much older than 30 years butbefore it was more of a ceremony presented only to very honored guests. Taking place in the cool and dark evening after sunset amid candlelight and lanterns, the event reflects the subtlety and warmth of the combination of food and entertainment that brought on the feeling of being treated as an honored guest for most.

In operation since November 2001 the Khum Khantoke in the Lanna Cultural Center, is the newest Khantoke Restaurant to open in Chiangmai. Located on the eastern side of Chiangmai on the Superhighway near Carre Four Hypermart the Khum Khantoke in the Lanna Cultural Center is very spacious. The first impression as one drives toward the center is the panoramic expanse of architecture expressing the regal Lanna theme. The colored lights on the warm teak bring out a fantastic light show in itself. Visitors can choose either to sit traditional style on the flat floor on pillows with triangle pillow backrest or in an open air sala with wells to rest the feet and legs under the table.

As the Honored Guest at a Khantoke Dinner, you will be welcomed by your hostess or host and escorted to your low-set dining table. Plump cushions and back rests ensure great comfort and there is plenty of leg room for guests who choose to sit at tableswith "leg wells' recessed into the floor. One of the first things you will notice is the richness of the surroundings - ornately carved teak panels, traditional Old Lanna carvings discreetly illuminated to give just the right setting. On the stage is a group of seven musicians, classically garbed and seated in the lotus position, playing the soft melodies of ancient Siam. The central instrument is the Ranad ( a wide, low xylophone-like instrument) with the other players spaced around.

Next a selection of dishes will appear, served on a Khantoke. A Khantoke is a low tray, atop short pillars, on which the various food-dishes are displayed. Khantoke tables come in a range of diameters (from 10 to 50 inches) depending upon the number of dishes for the group's table. And the dishes! There will probably be "Gai Tawd" (a flavorsome chicken creation), "Gaeng Hung-Lay (a pork and ginger curry which is one of this writer's favorites!), several steamed or fried vegetable platters, fresh cucumber slices for dipping in "Nam Prik Ong" (a mild chilli and tomato sauce) and "Pudt Pugg" (usually a cabbage dish) all accompanied, of course, by a large bowl of steamed rice and a straw basket of sticky rice (lovely for dipping into the sauces). The Khun Khantoke offers alternative food selections available from an allcarte menu. (So please ask about this when booking with them.) A light, sweet dessert will follow -perhaps popped rice crackers - along with fresh fruit, coffee or tea.

Whilst your hostess has been attentively serving you and the musicians have been playing easily to your ear, perhaps you will notice a change of rhythm, a change of beat to the music. Soothing gives way to a soaring and more energetic tempo as a line of gorgeously attired Northern Thai dancers come into your view. The girls, and boys, will wend their way around the floor-space so you may have a perfect view. After all, you are the Honored Guest so all of the dancer's graceful movements are especially for you. We are sure you will be charmed by such elegance and graciousness.

Khun Khantoke is the first in Chiangmai to present a scene from the Ramayana drama depicting Hanuman winning the heart of a beautiful mermaid. The glitter of the costumes and the headdresses are awesome under the colorful spotlights. The monkey god, Hanuman, comes alive frolicking and tumbling and the audience applauds often. Everyone loves his shenanigans.

Not only do visitors get the opportunity to watch the dances but also get a chance to dance themselves, each being taught the simple yet graceful steps and hand movements of the ramwong circle dance by the friendly performers. Towards the close of your Khantoke evening, the Thai Classical Dancers will demonstrate the "Raam Wong" circle dance and invite all guests to join in the circle. Thai guests will be eager to respond but you, the visitor, may feel a trifle shy. Please don't be. You don't have to participate but it is "Sanuk maak maak" (great fun) and your hostess or host will be honored to show you the way. You too can follow thsimple foot movements and the graceful turns of arms, hands and fingers And think of how you can demonstrate to the folks back home!

A firework display rounds off the evening. As visitors leave, they get a chance to launch a giant Kome Loy lantern, a kind of hot air balloon. All guests get a spiritual lift as their worries float away into the dark night sky. Hopefully they will feel the easing of their hearts as all Thais do when they light up the heavens with these cleverly designed lanterns that carry their cares away. Typically guests feel refreshed and happy after this lively few hours during which all their senses-- touch, hearing, taste, scent and sight opened to the experience of the Khum Khantoke dinner.

To avoid disappointment reserve in advance by calling the Khum Khantoke at Tel. 304121-2 early in the day.

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