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It is often said that nobody who’s willing to work will ever starve in Thailand. A 13th century king’s praise for his homeland, inscribed in stone and memorized by schoolchildren, proclaims that “there is rice in the fields, and fish in the waters.” Even in hard times like today, the country’s natural wealth continues to provide hopes and a livelihood for its sons and daughters.

Fruit and salt farming flourish in the provinces on both coasts of the Gulf of Thailand. The Eastern provinces receive the southwest monsoon that makes them greener and wetter than the rest of the country. They produce quality rambutan, mangosteen and some of the best durians for local and overseas markets. Provinces southwest of Bangkok are also fruit growers, though the list varies from one to the next, and cottage industries long ago sprung up to absorb oversupplies. A visit to these quaint little factories offers an opportunity to sample their products and take home some of the best.

Thailand’s agrotourism to a large extent shares a boundary with eco and cultural tourism, since farm life is inseparable from local culture and heritage. Agrotourism centers run by the Department of Agricultural Extension offer tours of local farms with nature exploration and home stay in the villages. Some agro destinations can be enjoyable stops on a long trip, offering sightseeing, education and shopping opportunities in one packages.

Buddhist Meditation

Any of us have at one time or another found the toll of living in the modern world hard to bear. Stress, depression and disillusionment are some of the diseases of modern times that leave us yearning for a solution, a cure, so to speak. More and more people are turning to meditation as they fail to find the answer through worldly paths.
Meditation is found in some form or other in all major religious traditions. Even those who are not religious use it to focus the mind, to hone it, so that it works better. In Buddhism, meditation is the integral to the eight-fold path to enlightenment. One trains one’s mind so that it can see the four-point Supreme Truth that forms the core of Buddha’s teachings: suffering, what causes it, the end of suffering, and the path to that end. Even if you are not interested in Buddhism, meditation is a valuable training that can be applied to daily life, for it helps with concentration and when done correctly can lead to a state of peace and calmness that’s beyond worldly joys.

There are two main branches in Buddhist meditation: samatha (calmness, concentration) and vipassana (insight), which stresses mindfulness. This doesn’t mean that the two are entirely separate, since you cannot be mindful unless you have at least some level of concentration.
The techniques of samatha meditation are many, some older than Buddhism, others developed after the time of the Buddha. Among the most commonly practiced here is anapanasati, or “mindfulness with breathing.” This technique was advocated by the Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikku (1903-1993), founder of Suan Mokkh Forest Monastery in Surat Thani. Meditators at Suan Mokkh (Garden of Liberation), follow the 16 steps of anapanasati as laid down in Pali texts.

Thai Cooking

Thai cooking as now enjoyed all over the world is a blend of Asian and European influences adopted through centuries of trade and diplomatic exchanges. Thais have traditionally lived close to the land and the waters, and original Thai cooking reflected that. Main ingredients were rice, fish, vegetable and herbs. Very little meat was used, and traditionally beef or buffalo meat was eschewed since the animals were the mainstays of farm life.
Thais grilled, baked and stewed their food, until the Chinese introduced the techniques of cooking with hot oil. European merchants, diplomats and missionaries also contributed a lot to the cuisine, starting right after their arrivals in the 16th Century. And we all have the Portuguese to thank for introducing chilies to Thai kitchens. Curries and spices, on the other hand, were brought here by the Indians. Over the years Thai cooks have added their own ingenuity, substituting hard-to-find ingredients with what’s available locally and adapting the recipes to suit Thai palates.

Muay Thai

The history of Muay Thai is interwoven with the history of the Thai people. A gentle, peace-loving people, for centuries Thais had to defend themselves and their land from aggressive powers. They developed a form of close, hand-to-hand combat best suited for the kind of rough-terrain battle they were fighting. Over time it became a rite of passage for Thai men to take up training in this martial art. King Naresuan the Great (1555-1605), one of the country’s most celebrated warrior-heroes, is believed to have been an excellent boxer himself, and it was he who made Muay Thai a required part of military training. Another milestone in the history of Muay Thai was the triumph of Nai Khanom Tom over 10 Burmese boxers in 1774. Taken captive after the Thai capital fell in 1767, Nai Khanom Tom was picked to fight before the Burmese king. After defeating ten of them in a row, he was freed and returned home a hero.

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