This post is one in a multi-part series.
Frédéric Colas has been travelling the globe with his family since July 2011 raising money to build an African school for Burkina Faso’s Cissé Yargo village. Every time a Facebook friend or “real time” friend hosts the family, the Colases donate $100 to their “We Like the World” project (when they stay at a Four Seasons, the Colases donate $250 per night to the project). In addition, for each person who friends the project on Facebook, the family donates $1. The journey ends in Burkina Faso this June.
It all started with a wow moment—a rice moment, actually. As soon as we spotted the lush, green rice fields of Thailand’s Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, we were transported back in time to a day looking at rice fields three years before. But on that day, we were in Ubud, Bali. And it was there that we decided that the world was so beautiful and amazing that we should spend a year exploring it.
And we have. Now our year is speeding towards its end as we once again find ourselves standing in Asian rice paddies.
Among the many wonderful sights of the Four Seasons Chiang Mai resort, the rice fields are the most inspiring—and relaxing. Nestled at its centre, the 10-acre fields are the resort’s beating heart. Not only because rice is essential in the Thai culture, but also because it influences many of the resort’s activities and pace.
For instance, on the first afternoon at 5 o’clock, while we were resting by the swimming pool after a day of travel, we heard the inspiring sound of Thai drums and gongs. We were both surprised and delighted to see a procession of 40 resort farmers leaving the fields, playing music, smiling and waving as they made their way back home. This ritual (the farmers’ idea) is their way of saying good-bye to the guests.
Rice is definitely a special thread running through the fabric of Four Seasons Chiang Mai. There are the fields, the farmers and their procession. And guests can also take part in rice planting. Heloise, our eight-year-old daughter, was very excited to give it a try. First, we pulled on farmer attire, including boots and denim clothes. (She loved this part.)
Boontha, a 16-year Four Seasons veteran and one of the 40 resort workers, served as our rice planting coach. He loves his job at Four Seasons, he says, because it’s near his home, and because while he works, he is surrounded by the beautiful countryside and fresh air. His wife was also employed at Four Seasons before she retired three years ago. Boontha’s son, Chittichai, manages guest relations at Thailand’s Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui.
Like Boontha, many resort farmers live in the nearest village. The rice produced here is donated to the local village and to the local village temple. It is a way for the resort to be part of the local life and support the community.
Boontha showed us the different steps of the planting process from seeds to harvest. First, you prepare the rice seeds by soaking them in water for two days. You then store them in water for two more days. After that, it’s about soil preparation. Ploughing is done with the help of the resort’s water buffaloes. (Héloïse realized that the water buffaloes she enjoyed riding in the morning after breakfast also had a serious job to do!)
Finally, it’s about direct seeding. This step proved to be very hands-on. We had to walk through the water and root the seeds deep into the soil. This is called the “Tai Klob” method. We planted a variety called Sanpatong. Our hands were covered in mud. Sticky mud was squishing through our toes. So much fun! And in 120 days, the rice we planted will be ready for harvest.
We would never have had the chance to try something like this back home in France. And we also realised how tough the job of a rice farmer is: bending over most of the time, working in the sticky heat, feet sloshing in the water or boots in the mud… Next time we eat rice, we will definitely appreciate it all the more—and think about how it arrived there, from the seed to the plate…
In our next post, we’ll tell you more about cooking rice, specifically fried rice, thanks to the fabulous cooking class we had with Rewat, the executive chef at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai.
This post is one in a multi-part series.
Read more about Chiang Mai in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read more about Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai and its Kids For All Seasons*/Gecko Club kids’ club.
*Kids For All Seasons (KFAS) is a Four Seasons complimentary recreational and educational program for children of resort guests. Most KFAS clubs are designed for youth four to 12 years old, and open daily from 9 to 5. (Younger children can often join KFAS with a nanny or parent, or resorts can arrange for babysitting.) But details vary from property to property, so check the resort’s website for more information.
Kids can go all day or just for an hour or two. Activities inside and out include games, sports, music, treasure hunts, swimming, arts and crafts, cultural education, environmental preservation work and yoga. Not your average camp, the VIP offerings are pretty extraordinary—for example, at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, kids can help the resort’s marine biologist graft coral in the lagoon sanctuary.
A French native, Frédéric Colas has travelled to 50-plus countries on five continents. Fred created the Digital Marketing Department for Procter & Gamble in 1996 and in 1999 was named one of 12 Global Media Mavens by Advertising Age. In 2000, Fred co-founded Fullsix, a Europe-based leading digital marketing group. An art lover and advertising exec since 1991, Estelle worked for most of her career for the Havas Group. She is currently Global Brand Director at BETC Euro RSCG in Paris. She wants to make a difference in her life, for her family and for others. The couple lives in Paris with their eight-year-old daughter Héloïse.
View all posts from Frédéric
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