Sugar Cane



Training Day

Back up into the mountains away from the sugar cane smoke for the last couple of days. Another day on the long ride home riding to a special place in the area of Ban Rai to visit one of the unique temples of Thailand.

A great ride into the national park outside of Ban Rai. Cycling amongst the limestone mountains narrowing into a gorge in which stands the temple of Wat Tham Khao Wong. Off the beaten track, this temple is definitely worth a visit.

On arrival, a few local hawkers were selling their wares at the entrance to the temple. Punnets of local grown strawberries were on display which I couldn’t resist buying to throw a few down my gullet for a natural sugar high to get me back to the finish at the local town of Ban Rai.

Wat Tham Khao Wong reminded me of a scene from a fairytale with its mystical gardens, surroundings and the temple itself built into the side of the mountain.

An old photograph sits on a wall in a village cafe when I arrive back in Ban Rai, a reminder of when the King of Rock & Roll met the King of Thailand many moons ago.

Very few foreigners travel to this region due to its remoteness, but as I’ve mentioned before, I occasionally bump into the odd long distance cyclists passing through the district heading North to Mae Sot, the border crossing into Burma .

Heading out from Ban Rai and I’m doing battle with the sugar cane trucks, cane fire smoke again, and small tractor type vehicles carrying loads of tapioca or taro. Tapioca originated in South America, where it was cultivated for 3,000–7,000 years. The Portuguese and the Spanish took tapioca from Mexico to the Philippines in the 17th century. The Dutch introduced it to Indonesia in the 18th century. It is unclear when tapioca was first introduced to Thailand, but one estimate is that it was imported from what is known now as Malaysia in 1786.

Cassava was first commercially planted in the south of Thailand, where it was planted between rows of natural rubber trees. Much of it is planted in Songkhla Province. Factories were established there to produce tapioca starch and tapioca pearls for export to Singapore and Malaysia. Over time, the area of planted cassava gradually decreased due to the encroachment of rubber trees. Cultivation then shifted to the east, to Chonburi and Rayong.

The tapioca industry of Thailand plays an important role in the agricultural economy of Thailand. Tapioca, besides being used as a food, the "native starch" it provides is used as a thickening agent and a stabilizer in many products. Native starch is a powder obtained from plants containing starch. Native starch is extracted from the root of the tapioca plant, which has the ability to grow in dry weather and low-nutrient soils where other crops do not grow well. Tapioca roots can be stored in the ground for up to 24 months, and some species for up to 36 months, thus harvest may be extended until market conditions are favourable or native starch production capacity is available.

Truck Sams on The Long Ride Home in the Huay Kha Khaeng National Park & Ban Rai Sub District of Uthai Thani Province, Thailand