A green rice field is one of the attractions at Thung Na Mon in Lat Lum Kaeo district.

Green rice stalks slightly sway in the wind. Their rhythmical movements seem to go along well with the humming song of a boy running happily on a wooden walkway built above the paddy field.

On a wooden bench at the edge of the path, a group of teenagers are posing for selfies. They fiddle with their hair and make sure a scarecrow and the green fields are included in the picture. The rice field is part of Thung Na Mon, a learning centre to promote the sufficiency economy model and Mon culture in Pathum Thani.

The farmland is located on the bank of the Bang Luang canal in Lat Lum Kaeo district. The field is part of a concept by Thanjira Ongartudomrat, a Mon descendant and farmer, who wants to turn her family's 12 rai plot of land into a tourist attraction. "I want people to learn more about Mon culture and to taste our food," she said.

The areas around the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Pathum Thani include the districts of Lat Lum Kaeo and Sam Khok — part of my one-day trips to green destinations near Bangkok — which have been home to the Mon ethnic group for centuries. They still preserve their culture through their simple way of life.

Krathom Lung Chorn, or The Hut of Uncle Chorn, is a cactus farm located in Sam Khok district. It was founded by Pichorn Sangsuwan in 1961 as a result of his passion for various species of the spiny plants. Today, the business is run by third-generation descendants. You can find hundreds of cactus species in the 5 rai farm. The sizes of the cacti range from small to large and the prices start from 20 baht. Unfortunately, there is no price tag on each pot. The farm will tell you the price at the cashier counter.

Before visiting Thung Na Mon, I thought the site would be like any other typical trendy place where people come to check-in and take selfies. But I was wrong. Thanks to Thanjira's efforts, she has made sure the place isn't only for herself but also for people in the community. They set up stalls to sell food, snacks or chemical-free fruits and vegetables. She also promotes organic farming and encourages visitors to wander around the farmland to see how the farmers grow herbs, vegetables and raise free-range hens and ducks in the rice field.

"We grow what we want to eat in our integrated farm without using chemicals. We live a simple life like our ancestors and I hope visitors will like this laid-back atmosphere," she said.

Thanjira then dons her traditional Mon costume, an eggshell-colour blouse and phasin, which is a long fabric wrapped around the waist like a skirt and the shawl-like sabai. She cooks pad Thai while greeting every newcomer.

She also advertises khanom bueang Mon or a yellow savoury crepe with sautéed shrimp, bean sprouts and vegetables. She assures that the food is second to none. One of the highlight dishes that she wants her visitors to try is a set of Mon-style khao chae (a platter of rice soaked in ice-cold jasmine-scented water and served with assorted side dishes such as salted eggs, sweet fish, pickled vegetables and yam mamuang, a spicy mango salad). Most of the ingredients for the meal are found in Thung Na Mon such as salted duck eggs, mango and vegetables. The set is available during the weekend and holidays.

In addition to food, the seating area is quite trendy. It is an L-shaped raised platform built over a fish pond and there are tables and thin cushions for people to sit on the floor. An alternative, which is quite popular among visitors, is to sit with legs dangling over the pond. A long translucent table where you put your dish will let you see fish. It is fun if you drop a scoop of rice in the water and see the fish rush to eat it.

Pumpkin Art Town is the name of this place. It is located on a bank of the Chao Phraya River in Sam Khok district. The property is a family destination where your kids can enjoy various forms of arts like painting, sculpting, tie-dyeing and weaving. Covering a 3 rai plot of land, Pumpkin Art Town is quite green with large trees. It also offers accommodation, restaurants, a coffee shop and a playground for kids.

Next to the food area is an orchard where guava and mango trees bear fruit. The plantation is surrounded by irrigation ditches. Running in parallel with the plantation is a small walkway by which mango trees, vegetables and herbs are planted along. Small gazebos with thatch roofs are also erected along the path and close to the ditch. Each structure houses a set of tables and chairs so that people can sit near the waterway. Paddleboats are also available.

Standing tall at the end of the walkway is a lookout tower where one can have a bird's-eye view of the farmland and its surroundings. Visitors can linger here for a while to enjoy the breeze.

Thung Na Mon also has space to host workshops if a group of visitors want to learn how to make Mon-style sabai and a Mon-style paper garland called phuang mahot. The garland is used to decorate homes and temples during auspicious ceremonies like Songkran and Khao Phansa or Buddhist Lent day. Mon costumes are also available for rent.

A short drive from Thung Na Mon is another farm attraction called Pin Fah Farm. The 40 rai site used to grow only rice before it was converted into an integrated farm based on the sufficiency economy philosophy of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The project is run by Nopadol Laddayam and he refers to his family's farmland as Pin Fah Farm. The name is the combination of the names of his parents, Pinthong and Sifah. He has segmented the farm into zones including an area for selling plants, and animals which are raised in their pens, including rabbits that kids can touch and play with. There are also zones for eating and relaxing and the farm has a big fish pond and also pedal boats for visitors.

Outside of Lat Lum Kaeo, I also stopped by at several attractions in Sam Khok district like Talat Ing Nam Sam Khok, a cactus farm in Krathom Lung Chorn and an ancient kiln site.

However, Pumpkin Art Town is what I liked the most in Sam Khok. The riverfront project houses a lot of big trees and is a good idea for a family outing. It gives the feeling of a visit to a park but it also has choices of art and craft activities for kids. An outdoor playground is also available. Food and drinks are served in two restaurants and there is a river-view coffee shop.

Although my visit was short, I am impressed with the idea of having green space with creative activities. For individual visitors without kids like me, you can feel at ease just sitting next to the Chao Phraya River and sipping a cup of tea.

The remains of an ancient kiln site were found in the area of Wat Sing in Sam Khok district. The site is believed to date back to the 18th century. It was excavated in 2000 and revealed four furnaces made of brick. Each had a cylindrical shape at 17m in length. Today, the site is open as a museum. It also displays old jars, short and round with narrow mouths, and clay pots found in the area. Unfortunately, the historical site seems to be abandoned and has remained closed since the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic. However, observation is possible from the outside of the museum fence.

Ran Aharn Hoi Kha, or Hanging Feet Restaurant, is one of the popular attractions at Thung Na Mon farmland in Lat Lum Kaeo district. The facility is like a food court for locals, who are Mon descendants, to sell their food and snacks. Farm produce is also available such as chicken and duck eggs, guavas, bananas, mangoes and vegetables like morning glory and chillies.

Located not far from Thung Na Mon is the Pin Fah Farm. It is open as a farm attraction. Kids will love the place because they can feed various animals including goats, horses and rabbits. Pedal boats are available as well as dining areas built over the pond and next to a rice field.

Ing Nam Sam Khok Market comes alive during weekends. Shophouses are open and offer food, snacks, fruits and handmade products like woven baskets. The market is also known as Talat Kao Bang Toey, or the Old Market of Bang Toey, because it is located on both sides of Bang Toey canal and not far from Wat Bang Toey Nok. If you park the car at Wat Bang Toey Nok, you need to walk a few hundred metres to the market. The closest car park is available at the old Sam Khok District Office and a former Immigration Office of Pathum Thani.

Talat Rahaeng Nueng Roi Pi, also known as the Century-old Rahaeng Market, is located along the banks of Rahaeng canal in Lat Lum Kaeo district. Shophouses are open daily and will have more snacks and food during the weekend.

The Sun is about to set behind the palm trees around the rice fields. The scenic view can be spotted along both sides of Road 347, about 1km from Pathum Thani University in Sam Khok district. For inbound traffic, you will spot a coffee shop and also restaurants located next to the rice fields.

TRAVEL INFO

  • Thung Na Mon is open daily from 8am to 5pm. There is no admission fee. For more information, visit its Facebook page at bit.ly/3hTy9Ou or call 086-773-3856 and 081-302-7994.
  • Pin Fah Farm is open daily from 8.30am to 5pm. There is no entrance fee. Visit facebook.com/pinfah.farm for more details or call 096-679-2559 and 086-708-9066.
  • Talat Rahaeng Nueng Roi Pi Market is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Visit its Facebook Page at bit.ly/3k1jUcm.
  • Pumpkin Art Town is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 9am to 8pm. For more information, visit facebook.com/pumpkin.art.town or call 065-536-6691. The property also offers accommodation.
  • Ing Nam Sam Khok Market is open during the weekend from 7am to 4pm.
  • Krathom Lung Chorn is open daily except for Wednesday from 8am to 5pm. Visit uncle-chorn.com or call 086-525-6874.


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