Farmers set scene for tourists on Thailand’s iconic mountain terraces
Pakakeryor villagers in the shadow of Thailand’s highest mountain began planting rice seedlings in their iconic stepped terraces on Tuesday. The Karen ethnic people of Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai are looking forward to a bumper crop – of both rice and tourists.
For the inhabitants of Ban Pa Pong Piang, the start of the farming season also means the start of the tourism season, as their village in Tambon Chang Kherng, Mae Chaem district, sits among the world-famous rice terraces that cling to the mountains of Doi Inthanon National Park.
Each year, the Pakakeryor villagers plant their rice in this cascading mosaic, surrounded by fertile green forest. Rising above them is the popular tourist destination of Doi Inthanon, offering rare and spectacular scenic views for visitors, especially when the terraces gleam with lush green rice plants or golden rice flowers.
This year, Pa Pong Piang villagers started replanting their seedlings on the 100-rai of mountainside on Tuesday, having sowed the rice seeds late last month.
No outsiders are hired to do the work, as villagers join forces to ensure the crop yields just enough for their own consumption. They make money not from the rice, but from tourism.
Kanya Sutannamthip, a resident of the village, said the tourism season here starts as soon as the first rice is sown. Visitors begin arriving to marvel at the result in July and the high season lasts until December.
Tourists lucky enough to arrive in July witness a shimmering mosaic of gold and green as early-season paddies catch the sun’s reflection. Visit from August to October and lush fields carpet the mountain like a giant green staircase, with white mist hovering in the mornings. The fields turn golden in November before the harvest season, Kanya added.
Her neighbour Wichai Sanga-ngam said Ban Pa Pong Piang has many huts nestled among the rice terraces that serve as homestay accommodation for tourists.
The wooden shacks have no electricity or water heaters. Tourists are provided only beds and blankets for a true experience of Pakakeryor life.
Wichai said each homestay offers a unique view of the terraces and each tourist is charged the same price – Bt700 per night with dinner and breakfast – no matter which homestay they choose.
Currently, Ban Pa Pong Paing can be accessed by two routes: over Doi Inthanon or via the Chiang Mai-Mae Chaem road.