In February, I was so lucky to embark on one of the most enjoyable FAM (familiarization) trips of my life to Thailand, for the “Think Rice, Think Thailand” campaign. Organized by the Department of Foreign Trade (DFT), Ministry of Commerce, Thailand, a group of us were on the trail of learning all about rice and understand the entire ecosystem of rice, from the unique farming system, processing to the different uses of rice in everyday products.
The journey started in Bangkok and continued on to Chiangmai, where we learned all about Thailand and its rice. The trip ended in Bangkok when we had an amazing cooking class with Chef Vichit Mukura, one of the most celebrated chefs in Thailand, plus a scrumptious modern Thai lunch at Khao.
I grew up with rice and I eat rice on a daily basis. Rice is a staple in my kitchen; it’s something that I can’t live without. It was such a rewarding trip to learn more about rice, something that I almost took granted for. I have always loved Thai rice, especially Thai Jasmine Rice or Thai Fragrant Rice. After this journey, it reaffirms to me that my choice has always been right. Thailand serves the best quality rice to the world and it was eye-opening to discover new rice-based products from this trip!
Think Rice, Think Thailand journey officially started in Chiangmai. As soon as we arrived at the airport, we were chauffeured to the Ban Phae, The Thai Lue sufficiency economy village to learn all about rice. We changed into Thai traditional costume and headed to the village.
Here I was in a small “tuk tuk” on the way to the village with sweeping vistas of mountain range, clear blue sky and fields of green. The surrounding areas are pristine and peaceful, with buffaloes frolicking in the muddy rice fields.
After the introduction to rice, its farming eco-system and dance performances by the local female farmers, I changed into my working boots, provided by the host.
Here I was farming the rice into the paddy field. I have to say that it wasn’t an easy feat. After this exercise, I realized that every single grain of rice that I eat involves lots of hard work by the local farmers. We also learned about harvesting rice and milling rice using traditional tools and equipment.
After the hard work in the sun, I was drawn to the assortment of foods offered as our lunch, from freshly made rice paper snacks to my favorite Burmese-Thai noodle dish Khao Soi.
This is the Khao Soi stall and I asked for her secret recipe. I might have to make this utterly scrumptious noodle dish one day.
After the feast, we all took group photos, with the gorgeous mountain range and sweeping views of green paddy fields as the background.
We were then transported to have a spa treatment at Oasis Spa before we checked into our hotel.
For dinner, we went to a gorgeous traditional wooden Thai home for a northern Thai “Khantoke Dinner” with cultural and dance performances. We changed into beautiful Thai traditional costume before savoring dishes upon dishes of northern Thai cuisine.
The traditional performance was absolutely entertaining. Everyone went back to the hotel with a full stomach and happy smiles on the face.
Day 2 of the FAM trip started off with a tour of the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden. We were surrounded by lush tropical jungle, floras and greenery. The highlight of the day was the visitation to the Maesa Elephant Camp where I learned so much about elephants and their habitat.
Do you know that there are only 5000 elephants left in the wild in Thailand and the number is decreasing on a yearly basis? Also, do you know that an elephant eats 200 lbs of food per day? It was mind-blowing to learn about these facts! I also participated in making elephant food and feeding them. It was really fun when we had to walk the elephants down to the stream and gave them a quick bath. It was a truly unique experience that I will never forget.
That night, we had an exclusive long table dinner and live music by Thailand Jazz legends “Koh, Mr. Saxman” at 137 Pillars House which is probably the most stunning boutique hotel in Chiangmai. I took little G there when he was a baby, you can read about it here.
This was the beautiful table setting of the dinner. This is probably the most beautiful table setting I have ever seen in my life!
Just like that, Think Rice, Think Thailand was coming to an end.
Before we all parted way, we had a cooking class with Thai celebrity chef Vichit Mukura at his renowned restaurant Khao. We made Khao Tod Naem Sod or deep-fried spicy minced pork in curry rice wrapped with mango dressing.
We had a presentation ceremony with the official at the Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce.
Lunch at Khao was utterly delicious, with a special Chef’s Table menu crafted by chef Vichit Mukura.
It was hard to say goodbye to the most hospitable hosts and all the friends I have made during the trip. Even though the Think Rice, Think Thailand journey ended, new friendships fostered and blossomed and the sweet memories created will forever be cherished by me.
I came back home to California with a completely new understanding of rice, my daily staple, and now every spoonful of rice will forever remind me of Thailand.
About Think RICE, Think THAILAND:
Think RICE, Think THAILAND is a campaign initiated by Department of Foreign Trade (DFT), Thailand, with an aim to promote Thailand’s premium-grade rice, an ideal choice of rice for people all over the world. With the country’s geographic location, climate and soil fertility, tens of thousands of prime-quality Thai rice species of various colors and flavors have been groomed and grown and that is how the way of rice has merged into the way of Thai life.
Thai Rice Products:
Rice is classified into 4 types:
1) White Rice
2) Cargo Rice
3) White Glutinuous Rice
4) Parboiled Rice
There are 12 type of white rice, and 6 types pf cargo rice, 3 types of glutinous rice, and 9 types pf parboiled rice.