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

Expect some Thai flavour on the menu this summer at the historic Dalvay-by-the-Sea resort in Dalvay, P.E.I.: Chefs Chris Colburn and Karen Henry have just returned from five weeks in Thailand.

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

A long-tail boat at sunrise, taken at East Railay Bay, Krabi, Thailand. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

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. 

'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. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

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. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

Goat brain waffle was part of a 26-course tasting menu the couple ate at the world-famous Gaggan Restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

Chefs Karen Henry (left) and Chris Colburn shot this selfie while attending The Blue Lagoon Cooking School in Koh Chang, Thailand. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)
Karen Henry plates a cashew chicken dish the chefs learned to make at The Blue Lagoon Cooking School on Koh 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.

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. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

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. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

Karen Henry spending a lazy afternoon at the Old Town Lanta Pier in Koh Lanta, Southern Thailand. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

Monkey statues guarding the Golden Stupa at the Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

'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. Jealous yet? (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

A self-explanatory street sign in Koh Chang, Thailand. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

This naughty macaque monkey opened the couple's sliding glass hotel door and stole several bags of cashews! In Krabi, Thailand. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

'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."

The couple's last day in Bangkok, Thailand, was spent riding through the streets by bicycle and cruising the canals by long-tail boat. (Submitted by 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. (Submitted by 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. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)

Some people bring home knockoff designer purses — but in Thailand, Colburn and Henry found and adopted a starving kitten they named Noi. (Submitted by Chris Colburn)


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara has worked with CBC News in P.E.I. since 1988, starting with television and radio before moving to the digital news team. She grew up on the Island and has a journalism degree from the University of King's College in Halifax. Reach her by email at