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The five-star farm

Posted on 27 November 2015 by admin

The allure of Chiang Mai draws all types of nature-seekers to the north of Thailand. The mountainous region offers countless opportunities to connect with Mother Earth, whether it’s trekking, forest zip-lining, bathing baby elephants or, you know, simply admiring green areas larger than Bangkok’s public parks.  

Flower arranging with P’Noi.

But there are a few more pursuits to be added on your outdoorsy itinerary. And to take part in them, you won’t need to leave the stunning grounds of the Four Seasons Chiang Mai.   

Pulling into the hotel’s driveway, the warm welcome I received came in the form of towering trees and swaying branches. The structural beauty of the five-star hotel is stunning in its own right, but is simply incomparable to the surrounding landscape (both are the work of architect Bill Bensley). The abundance of foliage and greenery means sightings of butterflies, squirrels and red-whiskered bulbuls are daily enjoyments. As the sun sets, cicadas and frogs take centre stage, crooning evening ballads.

While admiring from afar with a zoom lens is one way to enjoy nature, I thought it best to try something new. Something like wading through a rice paddy.

The one-hour rice-planting session began with a quick change into farmer-style attire. The hotel provided our group of four with traditional indigo-dyed shirts and trousers, rubber boots, straw hats and pha khao ma (multipurpose cloths) to wear. The process of rice farming was then explained in detail, from the importance of irrigation to the lengths of the rice planting and harvesting seasons. After 20 minutes of planting rice, we realised how difficult it was to perfect the method, especially beneath the sweltering sun. We moved on to harvesting, where Farmer Tien displayed his expertise in using a sickle to cut and bind rice stalks. Before edible grains can be acquired, rice stalks go through a series of laborious operations, including threshing to loosen the hull and tossing the grains in the air to remove chaff. The old Thai saying that you should eat every grain of rice rings true, and by experiencing the planting and harvesting process first-hand, I was able to reflect on the true value of something I’ve always taken for granted.

Farmer Tien harvesting rice.

We then paid a quick visit to the hotel’s famed residents: water buffaloes Tong, Tone, Mud and Teh. They may receive special treatment from hotel guests and don’t work in the fields, but they are nevertheless a prominent symbol of the resort, and represent how water buffaloes in Thailand that should be treasured and respected for their indispensable role within farming communities.

But it’s not all work and no play. Later, I attempted a sunset yoga class. Held at the yoga barn, which sits atop the lotus pond, nature was within my reach. Do ask for Dheeraj Patwal, the hotel’s health and wellness manager, who will customise the class to your liking. Suitable for those who can’t bring themselves to get up in time for sunrise yoga, this relaxing workout will leave you calm, restored and ready for evening cocktails at Ratree Bar. The newly designed menu by Javier de las Muelas is fabulous, and the bartenders know how to mix a mean drink.

On the second day of my stay, I explored the nature trail, which surprisingly remains somewhat unexplored. Head gardener Taro guided me throughÂ�the resort armed with a box cutter and an impressive amount of botany knowledge. He walked, barefooted, with ease, describing the medical benefits, historical facts, scents and taste of various plants we passed. A scene from Man Vs Wild came to mind when Taro made a small cut on a traveller’s palm tree, causing water to spout out. “Take a sip”, he said. It was fresh water the plant has collected from the rain. It was pure, and it was bloody delicious.

The trail ended at the rustic rice barn. Just as the sun was beginning to set, I was introduced to P’Noi, a talented florist whose mastery can be spotted throughout the resort. A quick 10-minute tutorial with her, and we had arranged a floral pattern from the fresh petals she had earlier picked up from the hotel grounds and her own home. The contrast of various hues and shapes was incredibly beautiful, and I was more than chuffed to learn that our co-creation was to be the centrepiece for a couple’s romantic dinner that night. If you’re an adventurer — or are simply keen on learning something new — don’t miss this unique route.

To think people travel thousands of miles in search of the postcard-perfect view of verdant green valleys and enriching experiences in nature. How lucky are we, to have this luxury right here in Chiang Mai?

Top tips

• To wake up to the best view in the house, book a Rice Terrace Pavilion room.

• To capture a potentially award-winning photo, make sure you ready your camera and get yourself down to the lower pool area for the farmer’s parade at 4:45pm.

• To get on the good side of the resident water buffaloes, bring them their favourite snack: bananas. G

Four Seasons Chiang Mai is located on��Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road. Visit or call 053-Ꮺ-181. 

Sunset yoga. Photo credit: Four Seasons Chiangmai


Cocktail at Ratree Bar. Photo credit: Four Seasons Chiangmai

Rice planting.

Tong, the albino buffalo.

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