Prawn Farms in Chiang Rai
The rainy season has stopped and the mornings are definitely foggier that the last few months have been. These are sure signs that the winter season is coming and hopefully the tourist season this year will bring many visitors.
Chiang Rai is definitely a landlocked province. However, Chiang Rai does have a sizeable fish and aquatic resource industry. Several fishponds supply the local market with a steady supply of freshwater fish like Pla Sawai (Pangasius sutchi), Tilapia, and even fresh water prawn.
Fresh Water Prawn? You betcha " Macrobrachium rosenbergii. A cousin of mine who lives in France mentioned that these prawns were like the UN " " big head with little body". I guess there's meat to what he was saying. At least the prawns taste good, especially when freshly taken out of the ponds and cooked over a charcoal grill.
There are two places where I really like to eat freshly broiled prawn. The first is right at the heart of prawn farming land at Thoeng district. Sixty kilometers to the southeast of Chiang Rai, take highway 1020 until you reach Thoeng town. Go through the intersection with the stoplight (you shouldn't miss it because Thoeng is such a big town, it has only one intersection that has the stoplight) and head further down the highway about a kilometer. There is a small alley to the right that will take you to the prawn farms. The farms are about three kilometers off the main highway.
Several no-frills establishments line the prawn rearing ponds. You can occupy one of the several thatch-roofed huts and let the pristine surroundings soak in. November can be quite cool so it really is a nice time to be out in the open. A word of advice " " bring a sweater because it could be chilly.
Goong Pao (Charcoal-broiled prawn) and Goong Ob Woonsen (Prawn baked in a clay pot with glass noodles) will be in the menu. The management will send a charcoal stove on which you can grill the prawns yourself. You could have them do it for you but why take away the fun?
Another place, which is really good, is the Sukhothai Restaurant along the Bandoo Pong Prabaat Hot Spring road. The turnoff leading to this place is easy to miss. So when you reach the Bandoo Public Market, drive slowly until you spot the road. The restaurant is about 2-km. from the highway.
Sukhothai Restaurant has a few bamboo huts built right alongside a waterway. My boys like to sit here because they can see the fish in the creek and the view is definitely much better here than at the main building where they have a loud Karaoke machine. If you're lucky, you might have a frog belting out his best rendition of an old local favorite tune.
As with the prawn farm in Thoeng district, this place can give you really good UN prawns. What is nice about this place is the price is reasonable. Also try out their Paad Thai and something that they call Kloog Klig. These last two are definitely the best in Chiang Rai province.
Learn about culture and customs at Hilltribe Museum & Handicrafts, 620/25 Thanalai Road. Tel. 053 719167. Open daily 9 am to 4 pm.
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