Photo: Enjoy the late light at Huay Tung Tao.

Huay Tung Tao

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Hugely popular among locals and expats alike but little frequented by tourists, the small but scenic lake of Huay Tung Tao lies a short ride from Chiang Mai’s downtown at the foot of Doi Suthep.

The small lake, actually a reservoir fed by streams descending the forested backdrop of Doi Suthep, is ideal for swimming and the energetic can also do a circumnavigation on foot. For most though, the main draw is the almost continuous ring of waterside eateries.

Fun with friends. Photo taken in or around Huay Tung Tao, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Fun with friends. Photo: Mark Ord

It’s difficult to see where one ends and another begins, and all 30 or so are pretty much identical, featuring slightly raised and covered bamboo platforms set along the water’s edge. Variations on a theme are stilt ones over the water or simple mats on the ground.

The universal menu formula is northern Thai and Isaan fare, with an emphasis on fish, accompanied by a choice of plain or sticky rice, washed down by lashings of cold beer. Don’t go ordering green curry, cashew nuts or mojitos, although you may find one or two spots making a few food concessions to tourists. Huay Tung Tao signature dishes are deep-fried whole fish, fish in orange curry and kung taeng, or dancing shrimp, so named as the shrimp are eaten live—albeit slightly stunned by the lemon juice and chilies.

A relaxing setting. Photo taken in or around Huay Tung Tao, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

A relaxing setting. Photo: Mark Ord

Other popular choices are sun-dried beef or pork, and laap, the ubiquitous Isaan minced meat salad. Chiang Mai’s version is laap muang, a richer mix with pig blood incorporated into the sauce.

Beer and food prices are very reasonable. Even a whole fish often costs not more than 150 to 200 baht, so two people could graze all afternoon for 500 baht or so. Quality varies between places and owners and chefs come and go, but we’re yet to find a bad one. Very busy on a hot weekend, Huay Tung Tao is generally quiet during weekdays. Things get underway by mid-morning but close down shortly after sunset, with the busiest hours in mid-afternoon. This is one of our favourite Chiang Mai lunch options.

Terrific seafood. Photo taken in or around Huay Tung Tao, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Terrific seafood. Photo: Mark Ord

Huay Tung Tao is accessed from the “canal road” to the northwest of town past the city’s 700 Year Stadium. Depending on traffic, it’s a 20-minute or so drive from the town centre. A tuk tuk would set you back at least 200 baht each way, but get a few friends together and hire a return songthaew for 500 baht or so. There’s little public transport out that way so don’t forget to organise your return.

Huay Tung Tao
Off the Mae Rim canal road, (route 121), past the 700 Year Stadium, Mae Rim
Mo–Su: 09:00–18:00
Admission: 50 baht for foreigners, kids free

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Location map for Huay Tung Tao

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What next?

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