Tao Garden Health Resort

Health food in a beautiful garden

The Tao Garden Resort approached the Chiangmai Mail Dining Out team with an offer of a dinner buffet and the opportunity to meet Master Manak Chia, the founder of Tao Garden, before he went on his next world trip. This looked to be something different, and so we naturally agreed. And it was!

The resort is around 30 kays out from Chiang Mai centre on the Doi Saket Road. The side road off the main highway is well signposted and there are electric gates guarding the entrance. Security guards usher you inside and at the Welcome Hall you leave your shoes and cares behind, and enter another world. The enthusiasm of the staff is infectious, so we were definitely looking forward to the experience, which turned out to be a lot more than just eating.

We walked along the pathway through the verdant green surroundings to be greeted with the sight of an octagonal, open-sided building in the middle of a pond filled with carp. There was a quiet aura in the late afternoon as the sun was slipping down out of sight behind the trees and birds and crickets could be heard having their last conversations for the day.

Master Chia met us, along with two of the long stay residents and we sat at the circular tables inside the octagonal (Taoist principles) and discussed a little of the philosophy behind the restaurant section (called the Dining Hall). “Health is Wealth,” said Master Chia, following up the slogan with “Good air, good water and good food are what is necessary.”

The good air was self explanatory, there being no vehicles allowed in the resort proper, bicycles or on foot being the transport of the day. Good water came from an underground spring which ran through the resort property, and the ‘good food’ we were about to try.

The buffet costs 200 baht and is an all-you-can-eat deal and on that day (the items change daily) included steamed vegetables (eaten with chicken dipping sauce), steamed fish with taro and ginger, stir-fried yam beans with shrimps, pineapple and tofu vegetarian curry, stir-fried asparagus with oyster sauce, pasta, tofu soup with seaweed soup, some very different juices (including one made from sweet Basil leaf) and fruit salad. In addition they make their own teas, all of which have different medicinal properties. Still on the ‘alternative’ theme, there are some very unique condiments including selected sesame’s and dried banana.

Master Chia and his assistants presented a range for us to try and I was taken with the sweet tasting fish with the taro and ginger and the pineapple and tofu vegetarian curry was particularly nice. These were eaten with brown rice and a brown rice drink. This latter item, I have to admit, was beyond me, but like oysters are something you can grow to love, I was assured.

After the healthy repast we were taken on a tour by Master Chia and his two disciples who took us on a walk all through the property where we could see the scrupulously clean buildings (again octagonal) where they held meditation classes and the alternative medical areas where they performed colonic washouts, blood examinations, aromatherapy massages and other complementary medicine techniques. As darkness fell, the hush of tranquillity was omnipresent. This had been much more than a simple dining out.

The Tao Garden Health Resort impressed us with the dedication of its people and the calmness of Master Chia, and the beautiful surroundings of the resort, more than the actual buffet itself. The Taoist principles are reflected in the octagonal structures and the integration of buildings and the natural landscape and streams was a welcome change from the more usual ‘resort’ style of residences. If you have an interest in complementary medicine or Taoist health principles, then the buffet might be a place you would like to try as a toe-dipping experience. The food is not of the gourmet restaurant type, but should be a healthy alternative. Interesting and relatively inexpensive!

Tao Garden Health Resort, 274 M. 7, Luang Nua, Doi Saket, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 495 596-9, fax 053 495 852, email [email protected]