October 3, 2015
While not the most tantalizing of names for an event, this month long festival is a combination of a blaze of colour, riotous noise and fragrant food.
When: 1st – 31st October
Where: Kanchanaburi. North West Thailand
Termite Mushroom (Het Khone) & Gem Festival 2015 Kanchanaburi is not just famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai it is also famous for its jewellery and for those in the know tasty Termite Mushrooms which only become available over a very short window of opportunity. These amazing mushrooms are found in all manner of dishes and while mushrooms grow naturally throughout the world these extremely rare and expensive mushrooms, are actually cultivated by termites.
More about Wild Termite Mushrooms (Het Khone)
The termites gather wood (which they later chew) and bring to the mounds, later micro-organisms appear on this decaying matter producing sugar, which in turn the termites use as food.The mushrooms only appear when the majority of termites do not return from propagating and the decaying matter produces an over-abundance of sugar, in turn this matter which will inevitably contain mushroom spores is the perfect habitat for the mushrooms, these spores unchecked by the termites begin to grow and sprout as the rains loosen the soil. It is the combination of the insects need to reproduce and the vast numbers who fail to return to the mound along with the onset of the rainy season make for this one time opportunity for the mushrooms to flourish.
These tall mushrooms are only found in a few provinces and are treasured by the local people, who are known to travel into the jungle for days just to find them. The mushrooms are also known as a remedy for typhoid fever, nausea, cough, and reducing phlegm. It is also believed eating them will make you smarter.
The cap of the mushroom has a pointy head, is light brown in colour, and slightly wrinkled with a long white thick hollow stem, they are known as the king of mushrooms in Thailand. They are crunchy and not tough or especially chewy, with a subtle sweat flavour and fragrance all of their own. I have tried these on a number of occasions and other than the bragging rights I cannot say that they were anything special.
There are lots of events over the month, from participating in a gigantic termite Mushroom contest and watching a Termite Mushroom Beauty Pageant to visiting the volcanic lava fields which are the source of beautiful gemstones found in the province. You can also visit Wat Yang Chang which houses the 40 tonne sapphire Buddha image (the worlds largest) and the smaller but equally impressive blue sapphire Luang Phro Ploey Pailin image.
There are also a multitude of contests including Thai folk singing, a sapphire cutting competition along with a Thai Band contest and famous artists performing live on stage. Of course as with all festivals in the Kingdom there will be a vast array of stalls selling local produce and delicious food including dishes containing Het Khone.
How to get there: For my money the best route is by train as this is an adventure all on its own, details on the two different departure stations from Bangkok, along with times, prices, a trick to get the best seats and an itinerary can be found in my post ‘River Kwai Bridge Festival’
First published 23/10/2014