After spending considerable time on spectacular and stunning sights of Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple), you realise that besides the temple, there is no other popular place to in that area to visit. You either have to head back for 15 kms to Chiang rai city, or continue to wonder where you should go next. Times like these and a place like this, it is hard to stumble upon a secret.
I can you you something, there is a secret place around here. If you continue your trip from White temple further to the south for just 3 kms, you will find something that makes you relaxed, something that gives you a little peacful feeling to center your mind – a hidden gem of sorts.
Believe it or not there is japanese style coffee shop a Japanese coffee shop standing right on middle of isolated rice field not very far from the White Temple. This is unusual to find a place like this here but I bet you will love it.
The name of this coffee shop is “Ryokan Café”
Ryokan is a Japanese word. According to Wikipedia, a Ryokan (旅館) is a type of traditional Japanese inn that originated in the Edo period (1603–1868), when such inns served travelers along Japan’s highways. They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner.
Despite the landscape and culture differences, Ryokan Café in Chiag Rai is trying to resemble the real ryokans in Japan as much it can. It provides customers who travel from near and far with fabulous food and drinks while enjoy talking with the owner.
During my visit, I had an oppurtunity to talk to the owner in person. The shop is owned and operated by Mr. Olarn Natetharn, one of the most pleasant shop onwers I’ve met. Olarn was originally from Phuket. He had falled in love with a beautiful Chiang Rai girl and with Chiang Rai province itself since the very first time he visited the city many years ago.
Olarn always has a dream to open coffee shop. Last year, October 2012, he decided to open Japanese style coffee shop in the middle of rice field here. He sees perfect fit between Japanese style coffee shop and Lanna atmosphere and then a coffee shop of his dream came alive – he calls it “Japanese Lanna Fusion”.
After his mariage, he move himself from Phuket to Chiang Rai. He said, Chiang Rai is a place in his dream where he wants to settle after long years of hard work. He built Ryokan Cafe using his life saving. Olarn also places a big bet on his dream by selling most of what he owns in Bangkok and Phuket and move to Chiang rai.
“Chiang rai is a perfect place where I want to built a coffee shop of my dream. Here people are truely nice and the weather is great. I know this is my second home since my first visit already” he said.
“It looked strange at the beginning to open a coffee shop or the like here, but I knew it will work.” he added.
“This location is great. You can see rice field almost 180 degrees around you. The weather is nice the whole year. It is just a few walks away from Ban Rong Plai Na (one on of Thailand’s sufficiency economy award villages). Wat Rong Khun is not far too, and in fact you can see it from here.” He pointed to the direction where the temple is located.
Yes, you can see the shining temple from here. When you make it to the White Temple, you will have no problem make it here.
When I asked him about where his customers are from. He said that customers surprisingly come from many different places. Most people take a long drive from Chiang Rai city and other districts to visit his shop especially. With little advertising & marketing, more and people keep coming everyday.
Good portion of customers are from Bangkok, who read about the shop in online forums. When they come to Chiang Rai, they normally stop by his shop for a few hours before continue heading to Chiang Rai. Olarn also said most people know about his shop via word of mouth, and with power of internet those words are spreaded quickly. Recently, Ryokan Cafe welcome celebrity customers such as 2012 Thailand’s got talent’s runner-up, Nong Gales, Apple Show, etc. Also it was featured in a few local magazines. Some oversea travellers even hire taxis from Chiang Rai to the shop especially.
As for food and drinks, Olarn said he only selects what are the best he could find. For example, all drinks are made from good quality mixture, delicious pie is from popular Charin Pie from Charin Resort May Suai, Tao Sor is from Phuket, and cake is from the one of the best well-known shop in Chiang Rai city.
“People don’t want to travel this far just to taste lousy drinks. We’re confident that our coffee is good enough to satisfy customers. Here, we do our best to give our customers only best stuff. For example, we only order premium graded coffee beans.”, Olarn said.
“It is the same kind of beans you have in big-name coffee shops in the city. Only that for Ryokan coffee, you taste it in unique environment which is here, Ryokan Cafe”, he added with a big smile.
Beside good coffee, delicius food and pie, Ryokan Cafe is planning to offer Japanese style accommondation for those who love Japanese taste. It will be like mini-hotel equiped with tatami. A tatami is a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms. The decoration will be almost exactly the same as what you would find in Japan and this might give you the felling of staying in Japan. The rooms are underconstruction and they’re projected to be opened this winter, November 2013.
In final words, I and another four friends have spent 3 hours on one afternoon, and we tasted the coffee there. What I can say it is really worth a visit. Since you already made the trip this far to Wat Rong Khun, continue your trip for another 3 kms for a cup of coffee won’t hurt. Instead you will have peaceful and relax moment, after a hot day in Wat Rong Khun. When I visited Ryokan that day, it was a hot day but inside the shop it was not hot at all. Wind blow in almost all the time that I could easily fall asleep right on I my chair. I bet you will love the place, and you will want to come back again. I can’t wait to get back again.
Check out Ryokan fanpage and follow it for the updates at: https://www.facebook.com/RyokanCafe
How to get there
aRyokan Cafe is 3.2 kms aways from te White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Start at the temple, on Phahonyothin Road, head south. At 1.6 kms from the White Temple, make a U-Turn. Continue for about 450 meters, keep looking for Yotahikan Road (ถนนโยธาธิการ) on your left. Once you find Yotahikan road, turn left and continue on that road. Keep going for 1.6 kms, Ryokan is standing on on your right. You will not miss it.
From Google Maps
134 Moo4, Ban San Pu Loei, Tambon Buasali Ampher Maelao, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Drink: Iced Caramel Macchiato, Rosy Green Tea, Hokkaido Hazelnet
Eat: Fabulous Pies from original Charin Pie (from Charin Resort), Tao Sor Phuket (เต้าส้อภูเก็ต), Oriental Cookies, Oriental Cake and Ryokan’s own Brownie.
There are 2 most popular menus you should try – Ryokan Fried Rice (ข้าวผัดเรียวกัง) and Nam Ngiao Ryokan (น้ำเงี้ยวเรียวกัง – Northern Thailand’s noodles with red curry soup).
Free Wifi: Yes
Price: ฿฿ – ฿฿฿
Open 09:00 – 18:30 Hours; closed on every Tuesday.
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