Tuesday, January 7 – Day 4
This morning we did some agrotourism of the Baan Saladin farming community along the banks of the Mahasawat Canal. When we arrived, we were greeted by a curious ginger tabby and the aroma of plantains frying in palm oil.
Peering into the canal, we could see that it was filled with enormous carp. The professor remarked that I should wear a life vest in the boat we would be taking, since they could eat me if I fell in.
We took two motorized boats up and down the canal. The first stop was an aquaculture farm growing lotus and koi fish. It was not only an incredible sight, but also an environmentally sustainable system. The fish eat insects at the surface of the water and produce excrement that the plants use as a source of nitrogen. We also tried lotus tea, a sweet chilled drink made from boiling lotus seeds and adding some sugar.
At the next stop, we were given a demonstration of how traditional rice cakes were made from old, leftover rice. After the rice was crushed and pressed into cakes, it was left to dry in the sun for two days, then deep fried in oil (eliminating the food safety concern of bacterial growth).
Crispy and delicious.
The third stop, Ban Fakkhao, had us taste gac fruit juice (mixed with orange juice, since the fruit basically has no taste). The fruits are used to make products such as soaps and lotions.
A cute little gac fruit, not to be confused with the jackfruit. Or angry orange pufferfish.
Next was an orchid farm, where the orchids were being grown quite sustainably in coconut shells. Apparently, the nicer ones would be exported, and the rest would be sold domestically.
The tour ended with a tasting of various locally-grown fruits, including pomelo, jackfruit (not to be confused with gac fruit), and guava. All very flavorful in a way that only freshly-picked, locally-grown fruits can be. This was followed by a high-speed cart ride through a fruit orchard, where we could see how the fruits we ate were grown. The cart was drawn by an interesting tractor-like contraption operated by a skillful farmer.
At the end of the path was a rice paddy, where the cart driver stopped to let us take photos.
We ended up buying bread to feed the carp. They swarmed and tumbled all over each other for the food, opening their vacuum cleaner-like mouths to gulp up the tasty morsels. These carp are fatty fish, according to the Mahidol University dietetics PHD student who was with us. No wonder, with all the bread they eat from the tourists.