A Day in the Life of a Rice Farmer

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Surrounded by lush paddies and immersed in a deep-rooted tradition, Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai offers guests an intimate opportunity to experience the life for the local farmers in the Resort in a one-of-a-kind rice planting experience.

“Guests get to learn about the process of working with their hands and rediscovering the child-like joys of playing in the mud,” smiles Ashok Nair, Director of Rooms and Residences. “This ‘truly Thai’ experience caters to all age-groups!”

A perfect family bonding activity, the rice planting experience begins with dressing up in a mor hom – a traditional Thai farmer’s outfit, rubber boots, a straw hat and pha khao ma – a multipurpose cloth that is worn around the waist as a belt. This is followed by a short introduction with the Resort’s local farmer, who shares his expertise about working in the paddy fields and the rice harvesting process, followed by a hands-on lesson in planting rice shoots in the shallow paddies.

“Rice plays a crucial role in Thai cuisine as well as our way of life here in Northern Thailand,” explains Chief Gardener Pondkaran Kantha. “Our culture is tied to this centuries-old tradition of rice farming. Rice planting is an expertise that has been handed down through the generations.”

While the farmers make the activity look effortless, Ashok admits it’s a lot of hard work. “The experience allows you to appreciate the rigour and discipline that is typical of the tradition. It’s great for the entire family, where children have fun while learning about a particular aspect of the culture of the region.”

An added advantage of experiencing rice planting is the chance to visit the Resort’s resident water buffaloes P’Tone and P’Thay. “They are our official rice ploughers who also happen to be proficient at posing for photographs!” smiles Ashok.

At the Resort, Pondkaran and her team grow a native variety of rice called khao niew sanpathong. The saplings are sown during the planting season, which begins in May, and as the "green season" progresses from July to September, the rice fields take on a verdant hue that is a sight to behold.

“By late November, the rice is ready to be harvested – the transformation of the fields is fascinating, turning from emerald to a darker green and finally to dry gold,” explains Pondkaran. “Our paddies are 100 percent organic, so we are left with only 40 percent of the harvest – the rest is enjoyed by the birds and other wildlife in the Resort!”

As the sun sets on a hard day’s work in the fields, the farmers gather to the beat of their drums, singing traditional songs – a ritual that honours the local traditions of the farming community who have integrated seamlessly with the Resort.