The month of April marks several important notes to the Thais.  It is usually the hottest month of the year. It is the best time to eat ‘sticky rice with mangos’, one of Thais’ most favourite desserts. Last but not least, it is the month that Thais celebrate the traditional New Year – Songkran.

My mother said it always rained on Songkran day.  So, after Songkran, the farmers will start preparing for a rice cultivation as it indicates that the rain will be coming soon.  Thailand is an agricultural society and rice is the staple crop. We have approximately 126,574.40 sq. km of paddy fields all over the country.  The majority is in the north east region that is about 57% of the total planting area.  The famous ‘jasmine rice’ comes from this region.  Rice is almost everything of Thai life.  It is essentially a key part of the tradition and customs, way of life, origin of local folk arts and music, etc. Usually held in May, the Royal Ploughing ceremony is an important event that marks the beginning of the rice growing season.

Water is the main factor for rice cultivation. In the past, Thai farmers relied on nature and only grew the rice once or twice a year.  Nowadays, with the modern irrigation, Thai farmers can grow rice more than once a year.

Man power is also very important for farm work.  Of course, it is impossible for one family that owns a large piece of land to do all the work in the field by themselves.  So they ask their friends and neighbours for help.  The act of helping their farmer friends in the field is in Thai known as “Long Khaek”.  The farmers and their friends will gather together in the village to transplant the paddy sprouts and work in other stages such as harvesting and threshing. Nobody gets paid from this work but they will lend their hands in their friend’s rice paddies in return. It has long been a common practice in the farmer’s communities nationwide.  This tradition bonds the people in the community as they treat each other as a family.  That’s probably why Thais call the strangers “uncle”, “aunty”, “brothers”, “sisters” etc.

The picture of water buffaloes and rice paddy is a familiar scene in the upcountry. Unfortunately, these images are slowly disappearing since they are replaced by the ploughing machines, harvesting tractors and threshing machine, for example. These machines work faster with less manpower. The traditional way of life of Thai farmers is changing quickly.

Rice is still the main crop.  Any dish that is eaten with rice is called “Kap Khao”, which means “with rice”. Rice is also the main ingredient of many Thai sweets.  If you go to the morning marketing in Thailand, you will see a traditional Thai rice pudding named ‘Khanom Krok’, which is all time popular for a quick breakfast.  So, next time you go to Thai fresh market, try them!