Kantoke | Dances and Dining in Chiang Mai

Kantoke An evening full of Lanna traditions

When in the Northern Rose, the ancient capital of the Lanna kingdom. Why not take the time to spend a relaxed evening at some of the town’s Kantoke restaurants? It is an excellent introduction to get a one-timer for the typical Thai way of dancing with the hands. (Even though the foot movements are equally important.) Here you will get the classical dances in a graceful declaration of beauty. Something that is mainly addressed in the Northern Lanna culture.

The angle like performers represents the beauties of absorn(apsaras in the Khmer language). They were the heavenly beauties that danced at the Dusit heaven where the God Indra ruled. These dances are part of a strong local tradition in different versions in many South-East Asian countries. Since Chiang Mai is a crossroad for many cultures, the show includes dances from the hill tribes and sometimes from the shan-minority.

What does Kantoke mean?

Kantoke means to sit down and enjoy a meal on a low positioned table and eat local delicious food like; Gaeng Hangley – tamarind sauced long-cooked pork curry. Originally from Myanmar/Burma. Dip sauces like Nam prick nom, the green chilli dip. Minced Pork in tomatoes and chilli paste And the regional classic, Kaep Muu – the crispy fried pork skin.

The last one is brought back from markets to their relatives by Thai tourists in huge packages as gifts to friends. Moreover, delicious sticky rice goes with the main dishes.

The dishes come in small bowls on a bamboo tray. Staff refill the bowls continuously. So in a way, it is a kind of buffet.

Kantoke Chiang Mai
A Shan Tai dancer finishing the performance

The combination of dance and food that are typical for the region and time concentrated over roughly 2 to 2.5 hours is, despite the reputation of kantoke as somewhat of a tourist trap, a good idea to watch. It is a fun night out with good friends and family and an easy way to approach the culture of Lanna.

Due to the lack of tourists during the pandemic, the famous places like the Old Cultural Centre and Khum Kantoke has been out of business, and hard to say when the Kantoke – nights will come back again and where. But if you see the opportunity, yes, it is a bit touristic, but hey, we are tourists, and the dances are as typical as they can be, and the food is yummy.

Shan dance in full action

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