Tales from the rice fields

by posted in NEWS

While Six Senses Yao Noi is often associated with the iconic limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay, little did we know that our paradise island is also home to the largest paddy fields in the Phang Nga district.

Taking up about 10 percent of the island’s landmass, these paddy fields produce enough rice to feed the entire island, contributing to Thailand’s well-known reputation as the rice bowl of Asia.

Besides the famed White Jasmine rice, other grains that are grown on the island include the Red Jasmine, Suphan Jasmine, Pathum Jasmine, Black Glutinous rice, Sang Yod, Rice Berry, Ayudhaya and Pa-yah Leum Gaeng. Worth a mention is Luem Pua rice, which directly translates to “forget your husband” rice, indicating that the rice tastes so good you’ll even forget about the person next to you when eating it! With these 10 varieties, Koh Yao Noi is known to have the most varieties of rice planted in one location in Thailand.

The farming boom began when Ayutthaya-born Khun Samai married a local from the island and attended the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Bangkok. She brought sprouts from the ceremony back to the island and began planting them in the abandoned paddies from previous growing attempts. From then on, her paddies flourished and inspired other locals to source seeds from all over Thailand to be planted on the island.

Not only have these paddy fields provided a staple food for residents, they’ve also served as a long-standing playground and backdrop to local life. Evenings in the paddies see a group of children kicking a football covered head-to-toe in mud – not the cleanest football game you’ll witness, but certainly the simplest source of satisfaction for them! Actually, mud football serves a purpose greater than an innocent form of amusement. The trampling and stomping of feet help to prepare the soil for planting rice.

Bang Sommart, a host at Six Senses Yao Noi whose family owns about 16 acres (6.4 hectares) of rice paddies remembers his childhood on the paddy fields: “Growing up, I used to spend my time with the buffaloes on the fields, riding them, talking to them. They were my friends and I knew I had to take good care of them because they are helping my family.” He also recalled being paid THB 2 a day. It took several years to finally upgrade his ride from a buffalo to a motorcycle. But it wasn’t about the money; what mattered the most was the gratification followed by a compliment from his grandfather for a job well done.

Today, buffaloes and humans have been replaced with machines that speed up the process of plowing and harvesting. Although more efficient in time, the results aren’t 100 percent better. Buffalo dung is a great natural fertilizer and produce can be lost due to the speed of modern harvesting. Machines, however, have enabled Bang Sommart to explore other career paths while maintaining their rice fields.

In honor of the good-old days, every year in December, Six Senses Yao Noi organizes a rice harvest where guests can roll up their sleeves and experience a day in the paddies with the locals. “Events like this allow us to not only feel part of local life but understand the hard work being put into every grain of rice that we consume daily. Even more importantly, it gives us pause to respect the depth of culture, sustainability and connection with Yao Noi’s incredibly humble community,” said Graham Grant, general manager of Six Senses Yao Noi.

We can present you with a fully-planned excursion or design activities around your ideas at Six Senses Yao Noi. Let our island take you under its spell and amaze you by its sheer untouched beauty.

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For more information, please call +66 7641 8500 or email reservations-yaonoi@sixsenses.com.