Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette
On the way from Phrae bus station to Red Brick Homestay we passed three large buildings which stood a bit off the road, I recognized them as being used by tobacco farmers.
Later that evening we discussed tobacco farming in the area, according to Bua this used to be a main crop in Song province in the past.
This was similar in other Northern provinces until cheaper tobacco became available from places such as Southern China.
Since then tobacco farming has been in decline.
Originally introduced by the British last century tobacco plants, fields and the distinctive looking brick-bamboo curing barns were a common sight.
The next morning we set off on a tobacco hunt expedition and accidentally passed a truck being loaded with freshly harvested tobacco leaves.
We stopped immediately and walked over.
I asked permission to take some pics and took loads of course, the workers were happy to pose!
Removing only part of the leaves of each plant looked relatively easy, although if I had to do it myself.., different story.
This lady too went through the plants like a bulldozer!
Once plucked the leaves are collected and brought to the truck.
Tobacco plants grow quite high.
Once harvested the leaves need to be dried out which usually happens in a tobacco curing barn such as these.
From a distance the barns looked like still the real deal, but close up made us realize that the last time these were used for tobacco curing must have been a long time ago.
Inside nature had taken over, wherever the tobacco we had seen was going, it certainly wasn’t here!
Therefore we some other places as mentioned in my previous blog post (*) and had a lunch break at a noodle stall operated by friends of Corne.
He mentioned our quest to Paul, the wife’s British husband, and with him we found the real deal just a few minutes drive away!
Here they used an updated (and quite differently looking) version of the curing barns, no wonder we’d missed them!
Not as high, steel and concrete instead of bamboo and bricks…
It still is a labor intensive process.
One of the ladies let me have a look inside an active curing barn, I had to take this shot very quickly as the air that came out of it was hot as hell!
Loading the tobacco on the back of a truck.
As usual it was the classic Thai farmer’s Rot E-tan.
The young kid was eager to join the ride.
Inside the cabin, nothing fancy here!
And off they went!
Starting a Rot E-tan!