My friends invited me on a day-trip to a fruit farm with a homestay in Samut Sakhon Province, roughly 45 minutes’ drive from Bangkok.
Because of the pandemic, we hadn’t been able to travel anywhere for a while, but Thailand has been slowly easing restrictions. This was my first trip out of Bangkok since February, almost three months ago. So, I said yes instantly.
My friends rented a car and picked me up at 6 in the morning. I wasn’t even mad at how early I had to get up.
I was awake, but mostly, I felt alive, to be traveling somewhere again. I know I wasn’t going far or for long, but after months of working from home and not being able to even sit at a cafe with my coffee, this short day-trip meant everything.
Samut Sakhon only has three amphor (districts). The biggest one is amphor muang (city center), you may have heard of Mahachai, an area known for great coconut ice cream. The second biggest is Kra Tum Ban. The smallest one is Baan Praew — where I was going — best known for their fruit farms.
During our drive there, I wondered how the homestay industry is affected by COVID-19. I had never been to Samut Sakhon before and I had no idea what to expect.
We arrived at a community convenience store, Baan Suan Cham Chuen, surrounded by canals and thick mist of trees, with a coconut farm across a canal. There’s a man working on one of his boats in the canal. He made us feel welcome straight away with his easy-going and relaxed personality.
The man’s name is Somsak Thongkum, or “Dad”, as we ended up calling him.
Dad and his daughter Kanyarat “Som” Thongkum opened Baan Suan Cham Chuen homestay in 2004. The community convenience store is where other farmers leave their farm goods to sell to visitors, Somsak only takes a small fee of five baht.
Dad fed us with huge, fresh coconuts, one had almost up to one liter of juice in it. As someone who does CrossFit regularly, holding a coconut up with one hand was even a struggle.
All my friends know how much I hate boats because of how terribly seasick I get, so they kept it a secret that I would have to take a boat to a nearby farm.
Inside Baan Suan Cham Chuen, the trees and greens are even more dense, while homestay houses are hidden among all the branches and leaves. The regular-size ones set you back 800 baht a night for two people, with breakfast for two included. While their biggest one, right next to Dam Nuern Sa Duak Canal, for 10 people, cost 2,000 baht a night.
Som told us, before COVID-19, the homestay houses were usually fully booked. Vacationers would be advised to book one week ahead. They stopped receiving guests during the pandemic for safety reasons. But now with the restrictions eased, guests are welcomed once again.
The Homestay industry began to boom in 1998, through the Amazing Thailand campaign that drove “Experience Tourism”. Because of the campaign, the homestay industry also enjoys more support and less restrictions from the government than the hotel industry.
Currently, there are around 100 homestays throughout Thailand, those who officially registered, at least.
There’s a yellow boat with a kind and smiley uncle, who was getting it ready for us. Motion sickness or not, there was no turning back for me, so I hopped on the wobbly boat.
“Try to sit in the middle and not lean on your left or your right,” said the uncle.
For 150 baht per visit, per person, the tour will take you around for as long as you can withstand the blasting summer sun. More importantly, you can eat every fruit you see on the trees. All these fruit farms are strictly organic.
For mulberry and coconut, they are available all year. Dragon Fruit can be found from the rainy season to winter. From November to March, you will find mangoes and longan. Between February to April, you’ll get to eat the grapes.
Just contact Baan Suan Cham Chuen and organize it in advance with them.
Som, the 34-year-old millennial daughter of Dad, was the one who organized an alliance among all the homestays in the town. Because of her, all guests can take a day-tour to any fruit farm belonging to any homestay.
The boat ride was very pleasant. I didn’t get motion sickness, we went through a sort-of mini forest-like area and it felt like Disney Jungle Cruise Ride.
We visited a mulberry farm that also operates as a dragon fruit farm as well. The dragon fruits weren’t ready, but I was eating a lot of mulberries from the trees. There were a few chompoo (rose apple) trees on the same piece of land as well, which I also ate a few, straight from the tree.
We got back to Bangkok around 3pm. I was sunburned, but it was very much worth it. Everything I had experienced that day felt very “preserved”.
Those who don’t have a car or don’t want to rent one can also take the van to Baan Praew for 80 baht – the vans run from 6am to 5pm. Then walk 100 meters to catch a boat taxi for 15 baht, it runs straight to Baan Suan Cham Chuen.