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When I signed up for a day excursion that included a visit to a farm in the tropical countryside of Thailand’s Chiang Mai province, I knew our midday meal would be a true farm-to-table experience — a trend already popular in eateries outside farmland.
However, when Nu Hanupongsamartsim and his young daughters Nadia and Jija met me and my friends on the side of the road — where our hotel shuttle had pulled over to meet him — to bring us to his farm in an old pickup truck, I knew this would be a much more authentic Thai dining experience than any found in a restaurant back in Chiang Mai city or Bangkok.
Our visit to a family farm was one highlight of A Day of Eco Valley, the signature excursion offered by the five-star Raya Heritage Hotel in Chiang Mai city. Although the tour may sound like a day trip showcasing the progress of ecological efforts in an aptly named valley, it’s more of a humble, bucolic escape from urban life, offering a stark contrast from the luxury, riverside hotel property that organizes it.
Upon arriving at Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand at 8,415 feet, I felt the difference in temperature immediately. Here, the higher elevation provided cooler, comfortable air for exploring the twin pagodas of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit, along with the views from their lofty sites.
Afterward, our group met Hanupongsamartsim, his daughters and the pickup truck, which transported us down the valley to the farm where we were joined by Hanupongsamartsim’s wife and father, and we observed their organic farming practices. We helped set the table underneath a thatched roof for an intimate picnic lunch of local rainbow trout with lemongrass and other Thai herbs (all steamed inside charred bamboo); sai oua (northern Thai sausages); stir-fried sayongte (a local green); nam prik noom (green chili paste for dipping); and mountain-grown rice steamed in banana leaves. Dessert was composed of organic fruits grown right on the farm. Eating farm-to-table at a restaurant is one thing, but when you’re at the farm, you’re just at the table, enjoying every bite.
After filling our stomachs with a delicious home-cooked meal, we hopped into the truck bed for a ride up the hill, looking forward to working off the food with a post-lunch hike. The young girls led the way along the nearby Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail, a scenic path that follows the many cascades and swimming holes of the eponymous Pha Dok Sieo Waterfall as it descends into the valley. The water eventually ends near the farming terraces and communal village of the Pakeryaw (aka Karen) hill tribes (of which Hanupongsamartsim and his family belong). Here, locals are known for their organically grown coffee. They also thrive by growing vegetables, rice and flowers.
After an enjoyable afternoon of swimming-hole sessions and sips of organic coffee, the hotel shuttle picked us up for the approximately two-hour ride back to the city. I felt tired but refreshed, with a new outlook on Chiang Mai’s countryside, its people and its delicious food-filled farm tables.
The DetailsRaya Heritage Hotelwww.rayaheritage.com