Though most travelers go to Thailand to ride elephants, lie with tigers, visit ornate temples, eat pad thai, hop around the Phi Phi islands, and go to the many bustling night markets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok, you haven’t experienced the real Thailand until you’ve met the people that feed the country and most of the rest of the world. Thailand produces 27 million tonnes of rice every year and is the worlds second largest exporter of the crop. Just about every Thai persons diet revolves solely around this one crop and therefore much of Thailands work force is occupied farming rice!
Not too far out of the bustling cities, you will soon hit vast fields of the brightest green rows of rice plantations. The green is greener than any grass and gives the fields an almost electric glow! Living in Mae Ai, Thailand, in the far north regions of the Chiang Mai province, these bright green fields were my back yard and all of my neighbors were rice farmers.
It is a tiring job working day in and day out in the heat of the hot Thai summers. Even though the temperatures will be 80-90 degrees, the farmers will still be covered head to foot in clothing, both to protect themselves from the oppressive sun and the leeches in the rice paddies.
Just about everyone is involved in the rice farming process. As I would go out into the fields to meet these farmers and observe their farming techniques, I would be shocked to see how young some of the woman were out in the fields, and their beauty disguised by mud and layers of clothing protecting them. I would also see young boys out watching their fathers work tirelessly in the fields. I met one husband and wife tag teaming their field. One would gather and separate bundles of rice plants, handing them off to the other to redistribute in an open section of the paddy.
Walking through the rice fields was an interesting process. The little trails raised above the muck would wind around the fields. There is no one direct way to get from place to place, but a zig zag of the trails. Trying to get from one place to another with no imperceivable obstacles would often end in dead ends where the raised trail would end in the middle of a field.
It was very interesting seeing how these communities live and see all the hard work behind one of the worlds most commonly consumed foods! Gives me a new appreciation as I eat every grain of rice!
Next time you make it to Thailand, make sure you get out of the urban areas and observe the beautiful green rows of Thailands rice production!
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