Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Farmland in Isan

Everywhere else in Thailand the rice fields are filled with water and shine like a thousand mirrors from the air. This, on the other hand, is Isan.

In the central valley of Thailand there is a vast, flat area that is solid rice fields, one big rice field that goes off in all directions seemingly forever. The soil, when you can see it, is so dark and rich that it’s really any farmer’s wet dream. They get high yields in two rice crops per year.

In the north and the south, the soil is just as good. The weather won’t allow two rice crops, but they get one rice and one of something else, maybe corn, maybe tobacco, maybe garlic or something.

The picture is a rice field in Sisaket, which is way out east in Isan. Isan is a poor place, largely because the soil is bad. Most of it is dry, like this field, a little on the dusty side. In some places the soil is mostly clay, reddish with the consistency, when wet, of modeling clay.

The yields are much lower than other parts of Thailand, and half the time the rain doesn’t cooperate with a second crop. There are poor people everywhere in Thailand, but in Isan it’s noticeably harder to be poor.

People from Isan do most of the grunt work in Bangkok, for about four dollars a day, the minimum wage, and they’re glad to get it. Pretty girls from Isan provide a large percentage of the sex workers too. Poverty is a bitch.

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