Escaping Chiang Mai City – A Day at Huay Tung Tao Lake
There’s so much more to Chiang Mai than endless temples and night markets. A lot of people I speak to go up, spend a couple of days walking around, maybe do a jungle trek, or a trip to see the elephants, then leave. Big mistake! There’s so much more to see of this beautiful part of the country if you just take the time to get out of the city and explore.
In my opinion, there is no better place to do this than at Huay Tung Tao Lake, situated around ten kilometres, or a thirty minute drive from the city. Huay Tung Tao Lake, or just ‘the lake’ as I’ve always known it, is a largish reservoir set at the bottom of the beautiful Doi Suthep mountain. It’s banks are surrounded by little wooden huts, where locals and expats eat and drink the day away, whilst soaking up the peaceful and serene surroundings. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your outlook, not many tourists seem to know about this little gem, so going there still feels like you’ve stumbled across a hidden treasure.
Obviously, though, as much as I love a mountainous backdrop, I come to Huay Tung Tao for the food. They serve up all the classics here, as well as some local specialities. From som tam, grilled chicken, grilled pork etc, to goong ten (jumping fresh water prawns!), and whole fried fish with herbs.
I’m yet to be disappointed with any of it, and I’ve been coming here for six years! Food ranges from 40 baht up to around 180 for a whole fish, so it really is a cheap day out.
My favourite dish at Huay Tung Tao Lake is probably the tom yum goong. This spicy, sour soup is one of my favourite Thai dishes of all time when done right, and at the lake, they don’t disappoint. This was first on my list!
Big, fat juicy prawns, loads of herbs, chunky, meaty mushrooms and a stock that is perfectly balanced between hot, sour and salty. This is everything a tom yum should be, and there’s not a drop of condensed milk in sight. To top it off it would probably feed two people as a main dish, it’s that big!
Next up was the nam tok moo (pork at herb salad), basically a laab, but with sliced pork instead of minced. Hot and sour, with lime and chilli, plenty of herbs, and tender sliced pork. No complaints so far.
I can’t get enough of Thai fried chicken wings, so these had to be ordered! Crunchy, salty, and juicy, they come topped with crispy fried shallots, and a side of really nice, sweet tamarind dipping sauce.
The som tam was a som tam. Fresh and spicy, with plenty of crunch from the peanuts and green beans and not too sweet, which is always my main problem with som tams. A solid choice.
We also ordered a massive vegetable fried rice, two sticky rice, a plain rice, two large Chang beers, two bottles of soda water and a plain water. All for under 800 baht for the four of us, and we left absolutely stuffed!
I really can’t think of a better way to spend a day in Chiang Mai than lazing around this beautiful lake, eating and drinking the day away in a private, rustic little hut by the water.
To get to Huay Tung Tao Lake, you can either rent a songthaew (truck taxi), for around 400 to 500 baht return, or if you are confident on a scooter or motorbike, then it’s an easy 30 minute/10 kilometre ride from town. We still had our truck rented from our road trip to Pai, so If you don’t fancy riding, then a rental car is another option. We paid 1200 baht a day for ours and it was worth every penny.
There is a 20 baht entrance fee to the lake, which is almost not worth mentioning, making this one of the cheapest days out you can have in Chiang Mai.