Chaiyaphum is a small, quiet provincial capitol. It is pretty laid back, and there isn't a whole lot to do, but it is worth spending a day here if you are passing through. Maybe even two days...
This was the hotel I stayed at - Siam River Resort. There aren't many choices in Chaiyaphum, but this is definitely the place to stay. When I came back to visit a second time, the place was actually full.
And this is the vilalge where I spend most of my time. No, it's not like this every day. One of the local boys was going to spend some time in the temple as a monk (or a novice), so they had a big party for him. Mnay drunk people, al lwanting dance with the foreigner.
These strange looking rock formations are on top of a hill (elevation, maybe 1000m). They are know as "Stonehenge of Thailand", and it struck me as odd that my guidebook makes no mention of them at all. The road to get to them is a bit rough, and I thought we might turn back. They are located within a park where you can camp. They might even rent camping gear - I don't know since there isn't a lot of information about this place.
When I first saw the rocks, I thought they might be fake. When I looked close up, they appeared to have been "poured", like cement. Eventually, I decided they were real rocks, possibly eroded by the wind, since they are on top of a hill.
There is a national park nearby with a scenic little waterfall. Tat Ton National Park charges the usuall 200 baht fee to get in, but we knew the guy at the front gate, so he let us in for free. It was very busy, and many Thai families were having little picnics. The park-ranger-guys seemed to be busy making sure no one brought beer to the other side of the waterfall.
There is a dam and reservoir with lakeside restaurants similar to what you would find at any beach in Thailand. I am always surprised at how cheap it is to eat out here - it was 450 baht (maybe $15) for 6 of us, and we were all full at the end.
You can see a few old trees sticking up from the lake, so I guess it is a man-made lake. The little raft is where they raise fish, and you will see the cook going down there every 15 minutes or so with his net, so it's pretty fresh. Little kids like to swim in the lake, right next to the fish farm.
In the main city, there are few things that might interest a tourist. There is a small park on the road leading out of town with this old waterwheel in it. There's a plque, but it is written only in Thai.
A little bit farther down the same road is Prang Ku, a small park with some ancient Khmer ruins. That's about it really. This won't impress you much if you've visited Phanom Rung or Angkor Wat, but the locals are proud.
Raw Thai silk is golden in colour. Chinese and Japanese silk is white, and is used mostly in the large factorys in Khorat. I don't think it is really a matter of quality, and the silk gets dyed anyway.
Eventually, the silk thread gets woven into silk cloth. This woman's husband is also a tailor, so theoretically, the production of silk shirts could take place entirely within this house - from silkworm to shirt. In reality, she sells the silk cloth. From what I gathered, she can make about 6 meters of cloth per month, but she also seemed to be "taking it easy", so maybe she could do more.
I was pretty ignorant about rice production before I visited. Everything is done by hand here, although it may be possible to use machines to do the final cutting. The rice is first planted as randomly dispersed seed, and then once the seedlings have grown, they are picked and then replanted in bunches. Things makes the final harvest a bit more efficient.
So, for 8 hours a day (or more, maybe), people stand bent over, pushing the rice seedlings in to the mud. I gave it a try, and I lasted about a minute. This is hard work, and it is hot, and there is no wind or shade.
The workers get paid 150-180 baht per day ($5-$6), and in this village, they also get free lunch. This might not sound like a lot of money, but if you had a family of 4 doing this, it would be about $600 per month, which goes very far in the village. Everyone has a mobile phone.
This is what is used to cut the rice. There is probably a machine that could do this, but with people farming small plots it would make sense to buy an expensive machine, plus I think it would have trouble moving around the field due to the earthen dividers between the plots.
And then the rice is loaded on to the "truck" and brought to a collection site, where it will be taken and seperated from the stalks, and then milled. The rice can be milled by hand (everyone in the village has done this), but more commonly it is taken to a "factory" mill since it can be done there cheaply. It is probably also sold at that time to wholesalers.
This rice was picked when it was raining, so it is being dried in the sun before being milled. If the farmers grow enough rice, they will keep some for their own consumption. The rice will keep for about a year or so.
This village only gets one harvest a year because of limited access to water. Other places in Thailand might get two or three. Becasue of this, the fields are not usually burned off here at the end of the season. Instead, then stalks are left to die in the field, and then plowed under before the next growing season.