karen henry prince edward island karen henry pei

Armchair travel: P.E.I. chefs inspired by 5-week Thailand adventure

Original article by Sara Fraser of the CBC

‘Exotic sounds, fragrant smells, and the intense heat and humidity. It’s addictive’

Chef Chris Colburn | Krabi, Thailand
A long-tail boat at sunrise, taken at East Railay Bay, Krabi, Thailand

Diners can expect some Thai flavour on the menu this summer at the historic Dalvay-by-the-Sea resort in Dalvay, P.E.I.

Executive Chef Chris Colburn and his spouse Karen Henry, also a chef at Dalvay, have just returned from a five-week culinary adventure to the southeastern Asian country, and Colburn agreed to share the couple’s trip as part of CBC P.E.I.’s ongoing series on armchair travel.

“I use travel as a culinary inspiration for my restaurant menus, and since Karen and I met we have explored some of the world’s top food destinations such as Cambodia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam,” said Colburn.

Hungry for inspiration

The couple spent a couple of months in Thailand during 2010 and wanted to return ever since. This time they were most looking forward to experiencing the cuisine of chef Gaggan Anand at his eponymous Bangkok restaurant Gaggan, winner of Asia’s best restaurant for the last three years.

“Islanders can expect to see several Thai-inspired dishes this summer at Dalvay-by-the-Sea,” Colburn said.

Chef Chris Colburn | Massaman Curry Mise en Place
‘We’ve been making this dish at home for years, but were taught a few secrets at The Blue Lagoon Cooking School on Koh Chang, Thailand,’ says chef Chris Colburn, sharing a basket of ingredients used to make Massaman curry.
Chef Chris Colburn | Dinner at Gaggan
These green pea mushroom rolls were part of a 26-course tasting menu at Gaggan Restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand, which boasts the title of Asia’s Best Restaurant for 2017 and is ranked the 7th-best restaurant in the world.
Goat Brain Waffle | Gaggan
Goat brain waffle was part of a 26-course tasting menu the couple ate at the world-famous Gaggan Restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand.
Chef Karen Henry | Chef Chris Colburn
Chefs Karen Henry (left) and Chris Colburn shot this selfie while attending The Blue Lagoon Cooking School in Koh Chang, Thailand.
Chef Karen Henry
Chef Karen Henry plates a cashew chicken dish the chefs learned to make at The Blue Lagoon Cooking School on Koh Chang, Thailand.
Chef Chris Colburn | Mussels | Ko Chang, Thailand
‘Street food in Thailand is shockingly cheap and some of the best in the world,’ says Colburn, who bought 24 shucked oysters with chili vinegar and fried shallot for 100 baht — the equivalent of $4 — in Koh Chang, Thailand.

‘Flexibility to explore’

Perhaps surprisingly, the seasoned international travelers did no advance planning.

“Traveling without a set itinerary gives us the flexibility to explore a different city, a different island, or even a different country at the drop of a hat. We’ve found that letting your days and weeks unfold randomly can lead to some amazing adventures,” said Colburn.

Railay Princess | Krabi, Thailand | Chef Chris Colburn
One of 2 swimming pools at the Railay Princess Resort where the couple stayed. ‘Krabi is known for its limestone cliffs, caves, underground streams, and sinkholes,’ Colburn says.
Elephant on Beach | Ko Chang, Thailand
Every afternoon between 3 and 5 p.m. local elephant trainers bring their baby elephants to the beach to bathe. This photo was taken at Kai Bae beach in Koh Chang, Thailand.
Karen Henry | Ko Lanta, Thailand
Karen Henry spending a lazy afternoon at the Old Town Lanta Pier in Koh Lanta, Southern Thailand.
Grand Palace Bangkok | Chef Chris Colburn
Monkey statues guarding the Golden Stupa at the Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand.

‘Stunning beaches and scenery’

“The highlights certainly include the Thai culture and street life, the incredible food, and the stunning beaches and scenery,” Colburn said.

“Every minute is dominated by exotic sounds, fragrant smells, and the intense heat and humidity.  It’s addictive,” he shared.

This trip was especially rewarding, he said, as the couple adopted a stray kitten they named “Noi.” After they returned to Canada, a flight volunteer from The Lanta Animal Welfare Center flew the kitten from Bangkok to Toronto where they picked her up.

‘Koh Kood’s western and southern coasts are dotted with glorious white-sand beaches — the ocean is crystal clear and warm like bath water,’ says Colburn.
Ko Chang | Chef Chris Colburn
A self-explanatory street sign in Koh Chang, Thailand.
Railay Princess | Monkey | Chef Chris Colburn
This naughty macaque monkey opened the couple’s sliding glass hotel door and stole several bags of cashews! In Krabi, Thailand.

‘The place for you’

Although Colburn said the couple “spent too much” money on their trip, he highly recommends Thailand to others.

“If you have a few bucks in your pocket, a few weeks to spare, and a sense of adventure, then Thailand is the place for you,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything about the country, I love it.”

Karen Henry | Chris Colburn
The couple’s last day in Bangkok, Thailand, was spent riding through the streets by bicycle and cruising the canals by long-tail boat.
Baan Makok | Thailand | Chef Chris Colburn
‘Deep in the mangrove swamp, our hotel on stilts,’ explains Colburn of the couple’s accommodations at Baan Makok Hotel, Koh Kood, Thailand.
AWA Resort | Ko Chang | Chef Chris Colburn
‘The spectacular AWA Resort on Koh Chang, Thailand, a true architectural gem. We spent 8 nights here and it was our favourite hotel stay during the trip,’ says Colburn.
Some people bring home knockoff designer purses — but in Thailand, Colburn and Henry found and adopted a starving kitten they named Noi.


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist


Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King’s College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She’s worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca

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