Heighten your senses

A trip off the beaten path to Nakhon Nayok will treat visitors to unique varieties of locally grown fruits and delight adventure lovers

This time of year is marian plum (mayong chit in Thai) season, so you might see piles of these yellow-orange-coloured oval fruits in fresh markets or supermarkets. However, they are more enjoyable if you are able to taste them fresh in an orchard.


A worker at Suan Mayong Chit Kru Samran sorts the marian plum variety known as thong yai hua khiao for delivery. Price for 1kg of this variety is 200-450 baht depending on the size of the fruit (about 9-15 pieces per kilo). The orchard has already harvested three rounds of the fruit and the next round will take place from tomorrow to Wednesday. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the orchard has not yet opened its doors to visitors but one can stop by to purchase the fruits and see the trees in the front area of the orchard. Booking in advance is recommended.

One of the largest farming areas of marian plums is Nakhon Nayok, about a two-hour drive from Bangkok. Last week, I visited Suan Mayong Chit Kru Samran in Muang district. The owner and a former school director Banyen Penya, now 75, named his orchard after his wife.

I chose this orchard due to the presence of a unique variety of marian plum developed by Banyen in 1997, known as thong yai hua khiao.

"My customers order fruits in advance. I hardly have any stock for walk-in visitors," Banyen said when we met.

Banyen created the variety from a local marian plum tree that was planted in his orchard decades ago. It took him about seven years to fully develop the variety. He named it thong yai hua khiao due to its appearance, a big-sized fruit with an orange-gold colour (thong yai) with light green on top (hua khiao). The average size of this variety is 5.6cm in length and 4.5cm in diameter.

"The peel is firmer than other varieties, the flesh is sweet, and the seed is thin," he said.

The sweetness of this variety is 18-21 Brix -- a measure of the quality of sweetness in fruits, food and drinks by weight. The 18%-21% sweetness range of thong yai hua khiao plum is equal to the taste of a banana, however, the plum also has a tinge of sour. When you eat the fruit with its peel, it will leave an acidic and sweet taste in your mouth.

The taste of this variety makes me like mayong chit more than its twin maprang wan, which has a yellowish colour and a sweet taste. Banyen also grows maprang wan and other varieties of mayong chit in his orchard. In total, he has about 1,000 marian plum trees. The chance to see the ripe fruit on the trees or to taste the thong yai hua khiao variety is still possible this month.

From this farm, I drove along a 3.5km two-lane road to Wat Mani Wong. The temple has been the talk of town since last year due to the construction of a naga cave. It has a unique design with decorations of naga sculptures adorning every part and although the construction of the cave has not yet finished, it is still open for public visits. The place was crowded during the weekday when I visited.

The idea of the naga cave was initiated by Phra Khru Piyarattananukul, the deputy abbot. He had a weird dream of visiting the naga kingdom, so he started the cave project with the goal of honouring the naga divinities through a meditation hall. Visiting the site may make you feel as if you are walking inside a stunning cave surrounded by beautiful mythical serpents. The building also houses a big Buddha sculpture as the principal image as well as wax sculptures of well-known and highly respected monks.

My next stop was Phu Kariang, an integrated farm, about a 30-minute drive from Wat Mani Wong. This attraction can be your lunch stop as it serves Thai food in both set and a la carte options, including a nam phrik kapi set (a spicy shrimp paste dip with vegetables and egg) or gaeng pa gai (spicy chicken with vegetable soup). The farm also arranges cooking workshops for group visitors.

Last but not least, I visited the Chulachomklao Military Academy. It was a pleasant stop and an ideal place to enjoy outdoor activities.

Before entering the school, you need to register at the entrance (there is no admission fee). Just across the entrance is the Tourist Information Centre from where you can get a map and details of the adventure zone.

The adventure zone is located behind the hospital at Chulachomklao Military Academy. You can choose to pay for each activity separately or pay 100 baht for three activities: crossing a lake via a zipline, shooting arrows and biking. If you bring your kids, you can wait for them at a coffee shop by the lake.

The school also welcomes visitors to its shooting range. The fee starts from 160 baht to 260 baht for a set consisting of a pistol, bullets and target paper. If you want to make it a serious hobby, you can apply for a course for either an 11mm or .38 revolver. The fee is 3,000 baht. It also includes a one-year membership fee.

On the way back to Bangkok, you can stop at Wat Chulabhorn Wararam in Ban Na district. The temple was built in 2007 to celebrate the 50th birthday of HRH Princess Chulabhorn Krom Phra Srisavangavadhana.

The highlight of the temple is a pathway lined by tall bamboo on both sides. It is known as the bamboo tunnel or umong phai where you can snap some impressive shots.

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto.

A worker at Suan Mayong Chit Kru Samran sorts the marian plum variety known as thong yai hua khiao for delivery. Price for 1kg of this variety is 200-450 baht depending on the size of the fruit (about 9-15 pieces per kilo). The orchard has already harvested three rounds of the fruit and the next round will take place from tomorrow to Wednesday. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the orchard has not yet opened its doors to visitors but one can stop by to purchase the fruits and see the trees in the front area of the orchard. Booking in advance is recommended.

Wang Rattana Mani Maha Nakhonban Nakarat is the name of this prayer hall built in the compound of Wat Mani Wong. It is also known as the naga cave due to an abundance of sculptures of the mythical giant serpents inside and outside the hall. The hall also houses a 14m Buddha image called Phra Rattana Mani Maha Badan. The hall is expected to be completed in the next two years.

A child enjoys a zipline at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Khao Changok in Muang district. The college offers various recreational choices including ziplining, shooting BB guns, cycling, kayaking, jumping from a 10m tower and team-building activities. The school also welcomes visitors to its shooting facility for those who want to learn or practise shooting firearms.

A group of weavers work inside a room in Wat Pathum Wongsawat in Pak Phli district, about a 15-minute drive from the Phu Kariang farm. The members are senior citizens and descendants of Thai Phuan, an ethnic group that migrated from the Lao province of Xiangkhoang more than a century ago. They still preserve their traditional weaving patterns such as kho, tumton and pho sri. The group’s name is Thai Phuan Weaving Group of Ban Moe and they can arrange a workshop for visitors who want to learn how to weave. The showroom also has a corner to sell their woven clothes. The facility is open daily from 9am to 5pm.

Seen from afar is the 30m-tall seated Buddha image at Wat Sri Ka Ang in Ban Na district. The temple was built in 1972 on the top of a hill. The name of the Buddha statue is Phra Samphuttha Sakayamuni Lokanat. It was built to imitate Phra Phuttha Chinnarat in Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat in Phitsanulok. Not far from the temple is the small Ka Ang Waterfall. Unfortunately, the waterfall is already dry but the water will return during the rainy season.

This green rice field is located in a 50 rai plot of an integrated farm in Muang district. The name of this attraction is Phu Kariang. It is open to visitors who want to experience rural life. The site also features a typical farmer’s house and exhibits farming tools. Next to the house is an integrated farm where mulberry trees, lime trees, vegetables and herbal plants are grown. There is also a fish pond and duck pen as well as an area where you can feed goats. Phu Kariang also has a restaurant and cafe to serve food, snacks and drinks. The entrance fee is 49 baht which can be exchanged for a drink or a pack of local produce, including fresh chillies, eggs or lime or a snack such as pickled mangoes and khao ya khu (a dessert made of young jasmine rice).

TRAVEL INFO

  • Suan Kru Samran is located in Muang district. There is no admission fee. Visit facebook.com/sounkrusamran or call 081-452-8527 for more information.
  • Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy is open every day from 9am to 4pm. For tourism activities, booking is required during weekdays. Accommodation and meeting facilities are also available. For more information, visit crma.ac.th or call the school tourist office at 037-393-120, 089-799-1429 and 092-802-5818.
  • Phu Kariang Farm is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm. For more information, visit facebook.com/pkrfarm and pkrfarm.business.site or call 087-361-5821.
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