Binge on a fruit buffet
Between April and July, the orchards of the eastern provinces open their doors for the public to enjoy the fruit season to the max.
"Fruit Buffet" is the theme that farmers use to promote their sweet harvests directly to consumers. The idea is like it's an all-you-can-eat buffet where you pay an entrance fee to visit an orchard and eat various fruits, as many as you please.
The main types of fruits are rambutan, longkong and mangosteen while some orchards may offer more varieties like santol, rakam (salacca) and mafai (Burmese grape).
The highlight is durian, the king of fruit, which is now ripe.
This year at least 60 farmers in the East have joined the campaign, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) -- 31 orchards in Rayong, 25 orchards in Chanthaburi and seven orchards in Trat.
Those orchards that join the campaign must be chemical free during the farm tour season.
A tourist plunks a ripe mangosteen from the tree in an orchard in Rayong. Photo: SUPAWADEE CHAROENPIPATPIMPA
When visiting the orchards, visitors are normally greeted with appetising-looking fruits for sampling while waiting for a farm tour. Some orchards also provide what the locals call rot rang, which is an open-sided bus with wooden rows of seats, to drive visitors around their orchards.
A number of orchards in Chanthaburi, Thailand's fruit capital, earn praise because they have grown their fruit trees using organic farming methods for years. The technique is based on Participatory Guarantee Systems certification, which means that farms are inspected and reviewed by other organic farmers to ensure the quality.
Among them is Patthawi Organic Group (081-762-2702) of Ratthai Pongsak in Makham district. Ratthai also has workshops and classes for farmers who want to grow fruits with organic cultivation techniques. The group has 17 members and their produce is also offered at Ratthai's orchard.
Suan Pho Ruay or Chong Mu Haeng Organic Farm (081-295-3149) of Patayawadee Jangchaie in Khao Kitchakut district also offers other organic products, which she harvests from her organic orchard, such as organic eggs and honey of stingless bees (known as channarong), while Suan Saw Sudjai (081-377 3190) of Sudjai Sudprasert in Laem Sing district offers a walking tour with a farmer.
For durian fans, Suan Ban Rao (081-804-4169) of Kajohn Puttisuknirun in Rayong's Klang district offers a durian buffet. The owner grow 111 varieties of durians including champion cultivars like Lin Lap Lae, Kan Yao Muang Non, Kop Thong Dam, Nok Yip and Ha Look Mai Thung Phua.
Fresh fruits in Chanthaburi orchards. Photos: Arthur Jones Dionio
Those who visit orchards will also have a chance to buy back fresh fruits and other processed fruits like durian kuan and durian chips as well as a chance to explore more attractions and beaches of the coastal provinces.