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GREEN GOLD

The harvest completed, land is ploughed in preparation for the next crop,
and the endless cycles of cultivation starts once more.

The wet rice-growing cycle begins with the start of the rains in June, when the heavy clay soil
begins to soften after having been baked rock-hard by the fierce sun during the March.

Phrase-makers delight in dubbing Thailand a "newly" industrialised country", and they have a point. Manufactured goods today outstrip agricultural exports, and condominium towers sprout higher and quicker than palm trees. Yes traditional Thailand has not vanished.
Three-quarters of the population continues to derive its livelihood from the land, and many parts of Thailand remain intensely rural. In the countryside and unchanging pattern prevails as farmers follow the annual rice-growing cycle, which is as old as the land.


Harvest time is hard work for farmers but communal effort and increasing mechanisation produce efficiencies

The advent of the rains in June marks the beginning of a new agricultural year. The earth soften with the early downpours and the soil, previously sun-baked, rock-like, and crackrd, now yields to the plough, turning thick and moist.
Once the fields have been ploughed, the arduous task of planting begins. Working in lines, their backs bent and heads covered with scarves and straw hats, men, women and children laboriously root the young plants in the flooded earth. Gradually the countryside assumes a brilliant hue as vivid green rice shoots carpet the land.
While the new crop slowly ripens, the annual Buddhist Retreat is celebrated with religious observances, and many young men will temporarily don the monk's saffron robe to earn merit for their parents.
By October the rains are drawing to a close, the air cools and the paddy fields turn a golden yellow as the rice ripens. The year end is a busy time for rural folk, working long hours to gather in the harvest. Tiring though the task is, the mood is merry and laughter and lighthearted banter echo across the fields.

With the harvest gathered and the stubble burnt off, an air of quiet tropical ease pervades village life and a period of relative inactivity follows. Now rural folk find time to celebrate time-honoured festivals, many exclusively associated with a specific region. All possess long traditions and are often steeped in arcane significance, like the rain-making Rocket Festival in the northeast. But most especially they are occasions for sanuk, for having a good time before the rains return, calling hands once again to the plough.
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