May be it is the yearning for a simple life that drives many people back to the farm. In Thailand, where agriculture has always been a staple, at least before these past decades, small-scale homegrown farms are now becoming a big trend. Those who have come full circle in life, those who have seen it all and realized that nothing values more than the natural gifts of great seasonal foods, and those seeking a real self-sustainable, wholesome and fulfilling lifestyle, and even some who want to contribute something back, are now making their way back to the basic. And self-sustainable farming, as a way to feed themselves and perhaps a bit of the community, is the answer.
And these small farms, being nothing like the industrial farming, contain not just natural edible treasures, gorgeous views and clean air (not to mention troves of creatures, organism in the ecological biodiversity, wild birds and some turtles); they are also a good and living reflection of Thai traditional farming lifestyle that has somehow been forgotten.
At Sampran Riverside, one of Thailand’s longest-lasting family-run resorts, an organic farm is attracting not just tourists, but also hard-line city dwellers who want to break free from it all. Being just about 80 kilometres southwest of Bangkok, a weekend here offers a real relaxing, and even back-into-time vacation. For some people, visiting this farm makes them think of their childhood when sitting on a simply-assembled bamboo stretcher and the aroma of burning woods are most comforting. If you like nature and have a mind for their wonders, you will be excited walking in this farm. There will be lots of questions. Is that the cabbages we eat with somtam? What are these beautiful herbs? Is that the cotton trees we normally harvest from to make cotton? What about these water buffaloes? I myself just learnt that they are not the same species as those working buffaloes, these are called water buffaloes for their love of muddy pool, their indignant attitude and not for their love for hard works.
When the big flood hit Thailand two years ago, the land across from Sampran Riverside was entirely inundated. The resort was in the middle of making a self-sustainable scheme. As a newcomer into organic farming, they were searching for a way to learn and contribute back to the society. After all, being in Nakorn Pathom has a big plus side. This land, along with the nearby in the same Chaophraya basin, is rich with natural minerals. The natural brackish waters nurture the country’s best fruit orchards for centuries. The nearby Nakorn Chaisri area is known for their most delicious pomeloes, aromatic young coconuts and many other tropical fruits. They used to have their own aromatic hommali rice which has somehow ceased to exist. The rice, recalled as ‘hommali Nakorn Chaisri,’ is now being revived by this resort. They are preparing a rice paddy where they will start growing this very rare rice in the next few months, using the old rice planting methods of hand-planting, producing a more nutritious annual rice crop than the industrial bi-annual one.
We were there recently as their guests as part of our ongoing write-up project for a well-being guide by the Thailand Tourism Authority. Lotus ponds with their huge green leaves covering almost the whole surface of water, the wild birds and the new trees we saw there made this place a vacation unlike others. This is a gorgeous place. A natural, although with a well-planned landscaping, one. They offer at this farm a lunch picnic or an afternoon snack with chilled fresh coconut juice or their homemade herbal teas of mon rose petal, lotus, mulberry, lemongrass and butterfly pea. You can come in group for a group-building activities (competing to make a plate of somtam from this garden), or you can take a weekend off, bringing kids along, so they can learn more about the beauty of nature.
And while here, drop by at their fabulous Inn Chan restaurant that serves Pad Thai that I wrote about in my last post. Sampran Riverside is trying hard to be as organic as they can be. They have received an organic certification for this farm and their beloved mon rose farms at the resort premises from the IFOAM-accredited Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand (A.C.T) and they are planning to have the first four dishes, including the clear soup of mulberry leaves and minced pork, tom kha gai (chicken soup with tangy galangal-infused coconut milk) with banana blossoms, stir-fried vegetable and Thai dessert of banana in coconut milk, certified as well.
Here’re the beautiful lotus pond equipped with a cabana where one can relax over the natural surroundings. The pier at the hotel can accommodate fancy boats. They also have hammocks stretched out by the resort’s main building for those wishing to chill with a drink in hand looking at the river.
Sampran Riverside is about 80 kilometres, or about an hour ride, southwest from Bangkok. Apart from this organic farm, the resort is known for decades for their cultural shows, vast space of manicured landscape (do not miss their ancient banyan tree by the lake that is trimmed to be like a plump mushroom), Thai Village where Thai traditional wooden houses are restored back into life with myriads of Thai activities, their Arusaya Spa (also located in a gorgeous restored Thai-style house) and their weekend farmers market that carry chemical-free vegetables and fruits from the nearby orchards as well.