The fields of gold in Lopburi
Lopburi is a little province towards the northern central region of Thailand which is a two and a half hour drive from Bangkok. Lopburi is most noted for the beautiful fields of sunflowers and the prolific monkey community which occupies a good section of the little town. The vast plantations of sunflowers in this province turns the area a nice rich golden color and is quite a magnificent sight to behold. The best season for the sunflowers which comes into full bloom is in the cooler “winter” seasons of November to March which is also known as the “Sunflower Season in Thailand”.
Lopburi grows some of the most beautiful sunflowers for the sunflower oil and seed production as well as some very unique sunflower snacks which are by-products of growing these flowers. It is also one of the great tourist attractions in Thailand where locals and tourists alike will make a trip to observe these flowers bloom to their full magnificent color and beauty each year. The view is spectacular as the fields nestle among the mountain range as far as the eyes can see.
Industries and other businesses are booming among these prolific golden fields ranging from the tourism sector to small vendors selling sunflower seed snacks to honey derived from the bees that pollinate these flowers. These sunflower estates are open to the general public and tourists for a small fee and one can walk among these huge golden blooms for pictures and to admire the flowers.
Each sunflower can be as large as a dinner plate and the center is heavy with seeds which in turn when dried and toasted will make a great healthy snack. Reminiscence of these fields is the famous Van Gogh painting of “Sunflowers” only much nicer as Mother Nature paints her own version of beauty.
If you are planning a day trip to sunflower fields in Thailand, the best time is in November to early January while they are still in bloom and best time of the day is in the early mornings. As the name of the flower suggests, the flower heads turn to face the morning sun which is between the hours of 07.00am to 11.00am. This is when the blooms are uprights and you can see the full profile of the flower heads but after that towards the afternoon, you would find that the blooms start to droop as the day gets warm and hot. Therefore it is best that you start early in the day to these fields and get the best photos of the day.
Some estates grow these sunflowers twice a year which means that if other places do not have these flowers another estate may still have them. If you are keen to visit the sunflower fields, do check with the tour operators who have full day trips to Lopburi as it may be a little difficult to get there on your own if you are not familiar with the places. There are public transports such as buses and vans from Bangkok or even taxi services and you can check the routes for bus and van service from Mo Chit Bus Terminal and ask for the service to Lopburi. A van ride costs between THB140-256 for a one way ticket and takes approximately 4 hours one way because of the many stops along the way.
Some of the highlights in the sunflower fields are locals selling honey combs, honey and other bee by-products. The honey you buy from these vendors are fresh and direct from the bee hives so mostly you can be sure it is not mixed with other additives and it is fairly cheap retailing at around THB100 a bottle or maybe a little more. They also sell honey combs laden with honey and these are highly nutritious and great for your health.
The vendors who sell the honey will normally bottle it on the spot for you and the honey is from the bees that pollinate the sunflowers so there is a distinct taste in the honey from these sunflower bees. The honey that you buy here is as fresh as it can get and a really worthwhile buy if you love honey with your drinks, on bread or even as a nutritious supplement.
While you walk among the sunflowers, you may come across a lady or man squatting in the middle of the pathways with several small sparrows in a cage. Before jumping to conclusions, these vendors are there for those who are thinking to do some merit while visiting. Strangely, the locals sometimes buy these little caged sparrows to release them into the fields but off course not surprisingly they sometimes get caught again to be sold and release. One might question the logic in this but for many Thai Buddhist, they believe in gaining merit from releasing creatures as a form to take away bad karma so for about THB20 to buy a few sparrows is reasonable to get rid of some bad luck! It also provides a form of income for the vendors from the many visitors and at the end of the day the sparrows not sold are released and the whole concept is repeated the next day!
To attract visitors to their sunflower fields, some of the owners of these estates are very innovative. They “dress” their sunflowers with funny hats and accessories which makes taking selfies for the visitors a rather fun activity. You can actually see how big some of these sunflower heads are from the way some accessories sit on them!
Aside from only sunflowers that make a good picture, the scenery is just as beautiful with the backdrop of mountain ranges and the sunflowers stretching far into the distant horizon. It may get a little warm in the late mornings so it is advisable to dress casual preferably in cottons with comfortable shoes for walking as the soil may be loose and a little muddy at times. A shady hat is also advisable to keep the sun off as you wander around in the open fields.
You can see many of these sunflower fields once you get across the provincial border to Lopburi and some are just plain fields but others can be well decorated. These fields are located along the road and are easy to spot so you have a choice as to which of these fields you would like to go too for a visit. If you follow a day tour to Lopburi then it is easy, the tour operator normally has a designated location and you would also get to visit other places as part of your tour itinerary which makes it worthwhile to go the distance.
At the entrance to the fields you would not miss the make shift stalls that sell a variety of sunflower products including the entry tickets to the fields. The entrance price to these fields differ from place to place but is on the average of THB50 to THB100 per person. A popular item among the visitors to these fields is buying the freshly toasted sunflower kernels inside of which is the tasty sunflower seed. Some are plain while others are salted or flavored and packed into little cone-shaped packages costing about THB20 a pack. They make healthy snacks for those who like to much along the way!
Other items for sale include sunflower seed cookies and rice biscuits with caramel frosting. These make nice little inexpensive souvenir snacks, If you want a memento of your visit to these fields then there are always the sunflower magnets and other small items or if you fancy planting your own sunflowers, then by all means buy the fresh sunflower seeds for your garden and have a sunflower or two to admire in your garden when it blooms!