Every year stalls pop up on the 3086 from Kanchanaburi selling termite mushrooms which the local villagers collect from the mountain forests.
The het khone termite mushroom is regarded by Thais as the king of them all. And at the height of the mushroom madness cars from Bangkok and even further afield can be seen queuing up to buy this expensive and much sought after delicacy.
They appear when the weather starts to change at the end of the rains. After the termites have swarmed from their nests to establish new colonies. Giving the mushroom spores in the organic matter the ants have gathered, the chance to germinate and sprout.
In the central region het khone are found in the Phetchaburi, Kanchanaburi provinces as well as the mountainous part of Suphan Buri. But the sweetest, tastiest mushroom are to be found in Nong Prue in Kanchanaburi.
This small farming town has a well established reputation as the mushroom capital of Thailand. And the stalls pop up every year at the intersection with the road into the town, transforming it into a bustling market as the customers arrive in search of the freshest and the best mushrooms on offer.
These are special days for the local people who wait patently for the first mushrooms to appear. And just before the rains cease completely there will be extreme hot and oppressive weather which they refer to rawn het or “mushroom heat”.
There is another variety of het khone grows in Isan. They are called het pluak by the locals and can be found at the beginning of the rainy season, from late May through early June. And the villagers gather them for eating rather than to sell. But when the price goes up they find their way to the markets in Bangkok.