Tour Director

Traveling through Thailand with Noom: Staying open to new experiences around every corner

For Noom, every day is a chance to have a new experience. Meet someone new. Explore an unknown side street. Share the beautiful (and often tasty) things Thailand has to offer with a first-time visitor. As a Tour Director for EF, it’s a philosophy he can actually live by every day.

Noom takes immense pride in sharing the rich history, culture, and food in Thailand. And there’s plenty to share. “I love to show people around because Thailand is a very beautiful country and we have a very long history,” he says. From the lively streets of Bangkok to the lush landscapes surrounding Chiang Mai, his country offers a whole new world for students to experience. Noom encourages them to be open to all of it. The customs may be different and the cuisine may be unfamiliar, but that’s exactly why they got on the plane in the first place. In Noom’s opinion, the time to dive in is now. After all, he says, you never know when you’ll be back.

So, when students are walking through a market and get a whiff of durian, their initial reaction will, in all likelihood, be to comment on the smell. After 20 years of leading tours, Noom has heard plenty of travelers compare the fruit’s aroma to dirty socks. But does the taste match the smell? That’s the perfect time to find out. Whether students are pleasantly surprised by the flavor or still find it unappealing doesn’t matter. “You gotta try, you know? Once you try and you say I don’t like it, I respect that, but once you’re here you have a try,” Noom says. That’s the attitude he wants to share with EF travelers. Because once they give it a try, they’ll be more open to trying something else new at their next stop. And every stop after that.

A GIF of a mortar in pestle grinding ingredients, an essential tool in cooking food in Thailand.

A Tour Director with a taste for cooking

In the top half of the GIF, Noom cooks food in Thailand, and in the bottom half he serves it to EF travelers.

Variety is the spice of life

Thailand is well known for its cuisine. Noom, for one, thinks there’s so much food in Thailand worth trying, that you could visit for a month and never have the same thing twice. As a former chef, he’s always happy to help students taste their way through an EF tour.

Noom shoes EF travelers a piece of fruit in the middle of a market to give them a taste of food in Thailand.

A micro lesson on Thai cuisine

If you want a crash course in Thai food, just ask Noom. You’ll learn all sorts of fun facts, like that curry has been around for over 700 years. And how there’s a unique approach to food in Thailand throughout its different regions. In the north, where Noom is from, they don’t add coconut cream to curry, but in Central Thailand they do, and the results are wildly different. And if you’re afraid of spice, try Tom Yum soup, which you can order spicy or not spicy.

In this GIF, Noom uses a mortar and pestle and chops some lemongrass while preparing some food in Thailand.

A sense of calm in the kitchen

Noom has been drawn to cooking ever since his mom taught him as a boy. He finds it calming. From the aroma of the wok to the meditative slicing of ingredients, he loses himself in the kitchen. And there’s no better feeling than seeing someone enjoy what you’ve made, Noom says. It’s why his goal is to open a restaurant in his hometown of Chiang Mai one day. (But don’t worry, he’s not planning to leave Tour Directing anytime soon.)

On the left, the ingredients for panang curry. On the right, his recipe, written in Thai, so you can bring some of the food in Thailand to your own kitchen.

Noom’s panang curry with chicken

After all that food talk, we were starving. And Noom was kind enough to cook us up a curry. Check out his recipe below.


Panang curry paste ingredients:

  • 6-7 dried chilis (use fewer if you prefer less spice)
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. shrimp paste
  • 4 shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 slices galangal ginger
  • 6 slices lemongrass stalk


  • 1 lb. sliced chicken
  • 2 cups coconut cream
  • 3/4 cup panang curry paste (see opposite)
  • 1 tsp. palm sugar
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 5 slices of chilis
  • Jasmine rice



  1. Heat the coconut cream in a wok and stir until it turns oily. Add curry paste, then stir for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add sliced chicken with palm sugar and fish sauce.
  3. Wait until chicken is cooked, then add chili and kaffir lime leaves.
  4. Serve curry over jasmine rice.

Noom is just one of the many Tour Directors
with a story to tell

Our Tour Directors are pretty special. Equal parts history teacher, cultural connoisseur, architecture expert, restaurant recommender, and sightseeing savant, they’re trained guides who know the ins and outs of all the cities you’re visiting—and they can’t wait to give you a window into their world.

Want to learn more about all the things you can see (and eat) in Thailand?

Explore Thailand tours

Jake Minton

Jake is a copywriter at EF. His bucket list includes (but is by no means limited to) snowboarding in Japan, exploring the streets of Nairobi, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.