October 23, 2014
Termite Mushroom & Gem Festival
When: 1st – 31st October each year
Where: Bo Pphloi Municipality, Bo Phloi District, Kanchanaburi. North West Thailand
Thailand’s 3rd largest Province of Kanchanaburi is host again to the Het Khone (Termite Mushroom) & Gem Festival. Now in its 17th year, the month long event is a time for this beautiful province to show case two of its precious natural phenomena, both of which are abundant in the district of Bo Phloi, (the districts name actually means gemstone mine).
While gems can be seen all year round and in many parts of the Kingdom, these sort after mushrooms are seasonal, it is only now when you can join in the many events that take place throughout the month, featuring this King of mushrooms. The event features a host of activities from simply letting your taste buds loose and trying all manner of Het Khone dishes, to participating in a gigantic Termite Mushroom contest, plus a range of cooking contests focusing on the delectable fungus. There is also the Termite Mushroom Beauty Pageant, all this alongside a Gem Festival displaying locally made jewellery, many stage entertainment featuring leading Thai artists, and of course a vast array of stalls selling local produce and food.
More on the unique Het Khone
While mushrooms grow naturally throughout the world these extremely rare and expensive mushrooms, are actually cultivated by termites. The termites gather wood and other plant matter and transport it to the mounds, the foliage is chewed and later microorganisms 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 onetime opportunity for the mushrooms to flourish.
These lanky fungi 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.
I have added this post even though I have never been to the festival and there is so little factual information on the event to convey, I still think it is worth mentioning it. My view is while the festival may not be something I would specifically go out of my way to see, it is worth a visit if you are planning to be in the province in October, as one thing is for sure, Kanchanaburi has so much more to offer.
How to get there: For my money the best route is by train, details on the two different departure stations along with times, prices, a trick to get the best seats and an itinerary can be found in my post ‘River Kwai Bridge Festival’
For more information on the festival, please contact:
Tel: +66 (0) 3451 1200, +66 (0) 3451 2500
More on Termite Mushrooms from CNN
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