Thailand’s Rice Terraces
I’ve eaten my fair share of rice while travelling—from arroz con pollo in the Caribbean to sweet mango sticky rice in Thailand. Curious about this simple grain that seems to grow so abundantly in Asia, I walked down to the rice fields at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai to get a closer look and learn how it is harvested.
I watched as the farmers paraded onto the fields wearing blue long-sleeved uniforms and woven palm hats to protect themselves from the sun. They seemed to come from multiple directions, and moved swiftly along the narrow pathways between the flooded fields. It’s actually quite the show. I tried walking those same terraces and almost fell in! In addition to a green thumb, I guess one also needs grace and agility to grow rice.
One farmer carried a bamboo pole with two baskets full of baby rice plants dangling from either end. I watched as he tossed these bundles of grass into the water and thought, “Well, that looks easy.” But it’s not that simple.
Rice starts growing in the soil. When it has matured slightly to become “baby rice,” as the farmers call it, it is cut and moved to the mud in the flooded fields. Each grain in the bundle is then stuck upright in the mud. Apparently, rice needs a lot of water to grow, and the flooded terraces are a unique and beautiful form of irrigation.
The whole process takes about 120 days from seed to harvest, and all the rice grown at the Resort is donated to local schools and temples.