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Chiang Mai Thailand - All About Chiangmai Thailand


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Monday, 07 July 2008 14:45


IN 1987, THERE WERE an estimated six million buffalo in the Kingdom. But now, just 12 years later, those numbers have dropped to 1.8 million. The introduction of the "Mechanical Buffalo" (rice paddy tractor) is the major cause of the declining numbers, while changing dietary habits among the Thai people as well as the demand for beef by thousands of tourists visiting Chiangmai every year, has led to the wholesale slaughter of buffalo for meat. This huge decline in numbers is visible, or more accurately, NOT visible to one and all. Just a few years ago, visitors to Chiangmai would see buffalo working in the rice paddies, grazing in the fields, on the sides of the roads and even on Huay Kaew Road, where a couple of magnificent animals grazed happily for all to see in a field. They were a part of everyday life; for the farmer they were indispensable, and for the passerby, a sight to remind you that you really were in Asia, despite the concrete jungle of the modern city to which we have become accustomed. The farmers gave the family buffalo an endearing nickname "Ai Tui" meaning younger uncle fatty.

Years ago when the farmers fought the incursion of the Burmese in Bang La Chan village, buffalo were used in warfare due to the lack of horses or elephants in that area. When you travel to Singhburi you will see a statue commemorating the courage of the Thai warriors and buffalo alike.

The buffalo found work plowing the paddy fields; it has been used to turn water wheels for irrigation and grinding wheels to crush sugar cane. It has been a means of transport for centuries, conveying farmers to their fields. It has also provided countless hours of entertainment, buffalo racing being a favorite sport of the villagers. Sadly, modernization has taken its toll, and there is no stopping progress. That does not mean, however, that the buffalo should join the long list of animals already extinct. It is a peaceful, docile animal and despite its size and shape, is surprisingly pleasing to the eye. There is something about its movements and demeanor that convey a sense of tranquillity, and to allow it to disappear would change the vision of Asia all of us have in our minds.

One project dedicated to saving the buffalo, possibly the first of its kind in Thailand, has recently opened on the outskirts of Mae Rim, just a few kilometers north of Chiangmai. Situated on approximately 21 rai of farm land, Mae Rim Buffalo Training Camp enjoys magnificent views of the scenic Doi Suthep mountains, and is the perfect place to experience the atmosphere of Thai country life of years ago, as you watch farmers and buffalo working the fields in traditional style.

The aim of Mae Rim Buffalo Training Camp is to preserve the traditional way of life of the Thai farmer and the buffalo. When you visit the camp, you will watch a demonstration of skill as buffaloes are taught working commands such as: "Turn left", "Turn right" and "Go straight". You will see a water wheel operated by buffalo, providing irrigation to fields, and you will watch a farmer and buffalo work as a team, plowing a rice paddy. You will also see sugar processed from raw cane as a buffalo turns a pulping machine. This amazing piece of equipment is completely handmade of wood in a design that has been in use for hundreds of years, and is a superb working example of the ingenuity of the Thai people. Visitors to the camp will watch an incredible show of skill and dexterity as handlers demonstrate many different ways of mounting and dismounting the animal. This is more than just a way of getting on the back of the buffalo, it is an art form that has been developed over centuries. The buffalo handler is usually introduced to his animal at an early age and over the years, as they grow older, a bond is formed. The handler will become so at home on the back of his buffalo, that he will often play music on a bamboo flute while he relaxes, or even lie back and fall fast asleep while the animal grazes peacefully in the fields. You can sit back and marvel at these antics, before experiencing the thrill of a buffalo race as farmers compete against each other for fun.

After the show, visit the folk museum. This traditional Thai farmhouse is not just a living recreation of times long gone by, but also allows you to experience a lifestyle maintained to this day in the rural countryside of northern Thailand. Finally, round off this cultural experience with the thrill of a lifetime as you ride a buffalo through the peaceful valley, enjoying the scenery from a view point you will never forget.

A visit to Mae Rim Buffalo Training Camp is a must for any visitor wanting to witness and experience the culture of Asia as we imagine it. Tractors, threshing machines and other mechanical devices are not only widely available, but now affordable as well. The farmer's life has always been a simple one, but also arduous, and no one can blame them for wanting to ease their work load, while increasing their productivity. This should not, however, sound the death knell for the buffalo, and by visiting Mae Rim Buffalo Training Camp, you will be doing your bit to preserve a part of Thai culture that could soon be lost forever.


For more information, contact Khun Boonta at Fax: 844818 Mobile telephone: 01-8822331.

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