Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Thailand report II

WE (myself, my wife and eldest son) are staying in Tha Phong, a village near Chaiyaphum which is about four hours drive north of Bangkok and a billion miles
from life in Europe. Today, we looked at some land belonging to my ex daughter-
in-law, situated in the heart of the beautiful Sai Thong National Park. The land is growing tapioca, a crop used mainly for making animal feed although the Thais also make cakes with the milled flour. Harvesting the crop is back breaking work done by men and women alike. Wearing a wide brimmed hat to guard against the warm sun, they are fully clothed, despite the high temperatures, for the tough work of cutting the plant and extracting the roots out of the unyielding land by hand. During the growing season the clay soil is like mud, but at harvest time it dries to a consistency more like concrete which they break up with a pick-axe like tool. The roots are then piled high in a brightly coloured, all terrain utility vehicle for
delivery to the mill.
Tapioca is an amazing crop. After harvesting the roots, the broken stalks are cut into two foot lengths and pushed back into the soil. If they are planted the right way up and the land fertilized, they will sprout, throw new roots and eighteen months
later produce the next crop of tapioca, without much maintenance. Looking at the farmers working the land, I asked my son if he thought this would still be done by hand in ten years time. He thought they would. In another field, I noticed a rotovator being using to furrow the land before planting the stalks and thought about the cost of progress. My son posed the question, "What else would the country people do?" Progress is a human trait. To strive to make life easier with invention and efficiency has been the goal of mankind from the outset, but it has not always
been the answer. Think of the wheel. Invention of this device was crucial for the development of technology and the industrial revolution, but even now after thousands of years there are still some people who move goods by beasts of burden.
They wouldn't dream of switching their camels or donkeys for automotive transport across tough and rugged terrain. The wheel has done nothing for them and who can argue that the easy pace of life for these traders is not, after all, the best practice.

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