If you have the opportunity to go to Chiang Mai, there is an experience that you definitely must-try, which is participating in a royal dinner – Khantoke (Khantoke dinner and cultural show, traditional Khantoke dinner Chiang Mai). Khantoke is not the name of a dish, it is the name of a ritual, a typical traditional dinner of the Lanna Kingdom in northern Thailand (dating back between the 12th and 17th centuries). This kingdom was once very prosperous and comparable to the once mighty kingdom of Sukhothai. So, what is Khantoke dinner in Chiang Mai and where to experience it? Let’s check out our Khantoke dinner Chiang Mai review to know what is it, the price you pay for this experience to find out the answer!
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Khantoke – The royal style dinner in Chiang Mai
Before going to Chiang Mai, I read a lot of documents, articles about this city that used to be the capital of Lanna Kingdom. Before that I only knew Chiang Mai was the capital of Northern Thailand and playing an important role as a traffic gateway to other cities / famous destinations in the North such as Chiang Rai, Pai, Lampang … My purpose trip at that time only was visit Pai, visit the Golden Triangle, but unexpectedly I stayed in Chiang Mai longer than that. And so I had the opportunity to experience Khantoke, a traditional royal dining ritual of the ancient kingdom of Lanna.
According to a legend that in the past, this dinner was served only in the royal family or in wealthy and influential families on big days (weddings, housewives, celebrations, ordinations …). Visitors from far away who want to join Khantoke must be invited by the host personally and must truly have a loving relationship. This is also a meal used to welcome ambassadors of other kingdoms.
Why is it called the Khantoke?
Because Khantoke is essentially the name of a food tray made of wood or rattan, with an average diameter of 30 centimeters, it can hold 7-9 dishes, often used from the time of the ancient Lanna kingdom. To experience Khantoke, people do not use chopsticks but mainly use their hands, in addition there are a number of spoons to scoop soup and broth. These spoons are made from coconut wood. The remaining small trays are made of wood, bamboo or rattan.
The great thing about Khantoke is the combination of enjoying food and graceful dances (Khantoke dinner and cultural show) – the quintessence of the culture of this area. The show takes place for about 2 hours, is a highlight you should choose when having one last night in Chiang Mai.
Khantoke dinner Chiang Mai review: How is a Khantoke dinner like?
Khantoke is a formal, sequential meal. In which, the participants (diners) will gather around at the small tables below. While the opposite direction is a stage set up for diners to enjoy traditional art dances during their meal. It was a stage in the hall made of teak.
The dances to be performed included royal court dances, beginning with the fingernails dance of extremely graceful and beautiful girls. Following are the performances of sword dance, archery or majestic drum dance by the hefty and handsome young men of the North of Thailand. Next is the Magic Bird dance or the silk spinning dance depicting the daily life of this place.
Also in the show, visitors will be admired the unique and exotic songs and dances of the Northern Thai mountainous ethnic groups, the Shan people, the Burmese, including the Mahn Mui Chiangta Dance. An unexpected thing is that visitors sitting down to dine will be “led” to the stage by surprise way to immerge in with the dances of Northern Thailand girls. That experience is so fun! (I also… have experienced it).
Talking about Khantoke’s food, I must honestly say that it is not very yummy! But don’t jump to conclusions. Because it does not suit the taste of Vietnamese people like me, not because it is poorly processed. These are typical dishes that in the past, people in the mountainous regions of Nothern Thailand still ate, so it could be said that they were only regional characteristics. So what are those dishes?
It is a round tray of dishes brought out with a sticky rice dish contained in a bamboo basket. These are some fried dishes (fried chicken drumstick, fried pork, fried pork skin, soup, the rest are vegetables, pumpkin, cucumber and some other vegetables but rather lean towards steamed and raw vegetables. Each of them will be presented in a different plate in order and the color is quite attractive and neat. Each diner will also received a bottle of Chang beer to stay up one night “really to be a Thai”.
Another interesting surprise is that when the show ended, people took turns leaving the hall to leave, to right in front of the gate area of the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center, visitors were kept again with some folk dances, hilarious, funny. These are the dances depicting the activities of growing rice, farming, the joy in the midst of a good crop … a beautiful ending for a wonderful night.
Khantoke dinner and cultural show: Where to join the Khantoke dinner?
Today, there is no other way to join this Khantoke dinner and cultural show than you have to buy a ticket. There are 2 places in Chiang Mai that also organize Khantoke dinner show to serve the needs of experiencing and learning the culture of tourists:
Address: 139 Moo 4, beside Payap University, Super Highway Chiang Mai-Lampang Road,
Hours: 6:30 – 9PM
Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center
Address: Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center – 185/3 Wualai Rd, TMuang Chiangmai, Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Hours: 7PM – 9PM / Sunday: Closed
I booked Khantoke dinner and cultural show ticket at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center via Klook website for $17.89. Because I read reviews about it and felt prefer Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center.
After successful booking and pay, I receive a booking confirmation voucher. Since the schedule that day is quite rush, so I also book the pick up option to be healthy.
When it’s time for the appointment (after a day of cycling to explore Chiang Mai, promptly return the bike and return to the hotel on time) the car came to pick us up and departs to the cultural center. The shuttle bus is a minivan of about 12-16 seats. We take the voucher to compare with the guide to get on the bus. There is also an Indian couple, a Korean female couple, and a Japanese brother.
Note that you should be on time for your appointment because the wrong time of the appointment, people will not wait for long but will … continue going, the rules are so.
Khantoke dinner chiang mai review: Some notes when having Khantoke dinner in Chiang Mai (traditional Khantoke dinner Chiang Mai)
- Before going inside the dinner hall, you need to remove your shoes at the outside and put them in your locker, each locker comes along with 1 card. When you go out, you will give that card to receive your shoes.
- There are a lot of Chinese visitors here, so if you get greeted by the receptionist in Chinese, don’t be surprised, smile slowly and explain that you are Vietnamese.
- Remember bring a camera, camcorder as you will enjoy the exciting dance performances during the meal and will want to save these moments.
- They also will take a photo of you with the girls in ethnic costumes, then print the photos and sell them to you as a souvenir, if you interested in, just buy.
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Are you looking for more Chiang Mai travel guide and top things to do in Chiang Mai? Let’s read: Chiang Mai travel blog — The fullest Chiang Mai travel guide for a great trip to the “Rose of the North” of Thailand.