Being the rainy season a sunny day is unusual here so when one did arrive we decided to take some exercise and go for a walk out the back of our property.
We are on the very back edge of this little village so behind us is nothing but farming country mostly owned and operated by the Singha Beer company. Singha is the oldest and most popular beer in Thailand although now being challenged by Chang beer. It is brewed by Boon Rawd Brewery, a fact that has little significance until a photo taken later on our walk.
The land is mostly devoted to the cultivation of tea but they are also growing rice, corn and rubber.
The path from our house is a narrow one and we can hear motorbikes on it from early in the morning as estate workers head through to start the day.
Once we walked through this more enclosed part of the road, which is mostly given over to corn, it then opens to the broader area of the estate.
The low structure you see on the left is the accommodation for the Myanmar workers who harvest the tea on the estate.
Over the top of a hill we came across this almost Australia rural scene. A large paddock with a concrete rail and post fence. No animals in it and the fence wouldn’t keep them in anyway as it didn’t go the length of the field. Work in progress or just for show – who knows.
I shouldn’t say this but although this was supposed to be a walk for exercise, as I do very little of it here, the final destination was the Singha restaurant located on a hill overlooking their estate. I have been here once before and was impressed but we drove as I wasn’t aware of the walking option then. What luck it happened to coincide with just the right distance for having a rest, a cold drink and heading back home.
The land directly in front of the approach to the restaurant this way is growing rice as you can see in this photo. I am learning all sorts of farming things via Gaun whose family owns a rice and mixed vegetable farm in Isaan. Part of my education has been that not all rice is cultivated in the same way.
Firstly there is rice grown in the more traditional way we associate with Asian rice farming. The photogenic rice fields with their quite sophisticated levy system to control the flow of water from field to field. The water reduces the number of weeds and pests that would otherwise have an effect on the yield.
There is also “dry” rice, which can be planted out on land that has not been prepared for the water based rice. This type of rice requires far more maintenance to produce a decent crop.
The method of planting and harvesting varies as well. Rice is grown by either randomly distributing the seed or planting rice shoots. The planting can be done mechanically or the traditional hand method. Singha use mechanical or grow directly from seed. When grown from rice just thrown onto the field you end up with a result like this rather than the neat rows of plants you can see in the first photo in this “rice growing” group.
The water hasn’t been properly managed here either because you can see the number of weeds mixed in with the rice. Rice planted mechanically is very regimented when compared to hand planting. and no doubt will eventually replace farm workers in the longer term.
This can be compared with the traditional method of cultivating rice shoots and then replanting by hand as shown in the next couple of photos:
Enough about rice. This is a rubber plantation with a difference. I don’t know whether this leaning effect is as a result of constant wind or if the young plants were following the sun. You would think that staking the trees in their early life would have been the go.
After our long trek through the wilds and heat of rural Thailand to bring you this story it was rather nice to spend some time at the Singha restaurant recovering. Any benefit gained from the walk was unfortunately lost as a result of the consumption of two Singha beers (of course) and a rather good fish and chips!
Remember early on when I said there would be a photo relating to the brewer of Singha beer? Well here it is – the estate is called guess what?
Slightly further up the hill Singha are just completing the building of a new restaurant, which is going to specialise in local produce grown around the estate. It looks as if it will be a more upmarket version of the one where we had lunch. The structure itself is mostly finished and they are now working on the landscaping. It will open in November. We’ll be in Chiang Mai by then but plan to come back to try it out and will report.
So there you have it. A walk in the country Thai-style. A pretty pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
UPDATE 7 October 2014
The new restaurant on the Singha estate is now open and the old one closed. Do make sure you visit the new one for a meal. Very smart – uniformed staff and wonderful views. Make sure you sit on the left side of the restaurant overlooking out to the hills. The food is excellent and good value for money if more expensive than a local eating place. Highly recommended.
Thanks for reading.