Narong “Mee” Thaicharoen is an alumnus of Maejo University’s 49th class.
After several years working in private sector as an employee, Narong started his own business in Lopburi province at 73/3-4 of Delang sub-district, Pattananikom district. His retail shop “Thai Charoen Supply” has provided farmers animal medicines and facilities for beef cattle and dairy cows.
In 2003, Narong bought 24 rais 1 ngan plot of land (1 ngan = 0.25 rai and 2.5 rais = 1 acre) in Pattananikhom. Trees were planted in the property that he named “Baan Rai Thai Charoen”.
“I had a plan to afforest to reduce global warming,” said Narong. “At that time most farmers in Pattananikhom grew only one type of plant. On the contrary, I have followed in HM the King Bhumibol’s footsteps, planting three kinds of the afforesting for four kinds of benefit. Sufficient agriculture means to have enough to support ourselves,” he explained.
Bamboo plants and teak trees were selected to grow in his acres in the first year.
Narong said: “Bamboo is a multi-purpose plant. Its culms can be used for several different purposes. Its shoots can be eaten. The plant doesn’t need chemical fertilizers.
“Most bamboo plants in my property are ‘pai ruak’ (Thyrsostachys siamensis Gamble in Gramuneae family) that can be used as a barrier against wind. In 2003, I created a living fence with 500 young plants I bought from Prachinburi ten baht per bag. In 2009, I sold bamboo shoots for Bht 20,000. Now I have 1,600 young plants for sale.”
Popular products from Narong’s farm are bamboo young plants and bamboo culms. Many garden designers spruce up garden design with colorful bamboo. “A vineyard in Italy recently ordered bamboo culms from my farm to construct vineyard trellis. However, the deal was not a success due to unacceptable condition,” said Narong.
According to the owner of “Baan Rai Thai Charoen”, Pattananikhom is a cattle town. The ‘pai ruak’ culm at the height 1.10 metres is one of the best selling products using as a livestock fence post. Each culm costs Bht 2.50 and a bundle with 20 culms costs Bht 50. To make a fence, all posts are spaced 4 metres apart with one strand of electric wire at the top.
Nonetheless, the star of the farm is not ‘pai ruak’ but ‘pai majoo’ (Dendrocalamus Latiflorus). Ten years ago Narong grew only 44 ‘pai majoo’ plants. Now the plants produce lots of baby bamboos.
‘Pai majoo’ is a very large clumping species, which grows to about 25 metres and is as large as 20 centimetres in diameter. Each internode has a height of 20 to 70 centimetres. Each node produces many branches and leaves.
The plant is actually native to Taiwan known as giant Taiwanese bamboo. In the beautiful island Ilha Formosa the ‘majoo’ bamboo shoots are used in numerous dishes and available in canned and dried versions. Also, the bamboo culms are widely used as construction and agricultural materials. Sheaths from new bamboo culms can be used to make paper. ‘Majoo’ bamboo leaves are used as a part of the ingredients to complete Chinese aromatic liqueur ‘Chu-Yeh-Ching.’
Narong said that ‘majoo’ bamboo is notable for its strength and beauty. There are many ways to use ‘majoo’ bamboo in garden design. A flourishing ‘majoo’ bamboo groove creates a fantastic forest. ‘Majoo’ shoots provide delicious taste. The large size of ‘majoo’ leaves can be used as a plate inside a steamer to place the food on that.
“100 ‘majoo’ leaves cost Bht 25. Japanese restaurant in the province orders 1,000 ‘majoo’ leaves a month. Bamboo culms are needed but the products are produced in small batch. Clients also require bamboo shoots. ‘Majoo’ and ‘Lijoo’ (Dendrocalamus oldhamii) bamboo shoots with sweet taste are their favorites. There are around six to seven bamboo shoots per kg,” said Narong.
The Baan Rai Thai Charoen is well known for its scenic landscape. Besides dense bamboo forest, aesthetic trees including chanpa (Dracaena loureiri Gagnep.), intapalum (date palm), bai ngoen (caricature plant) and lantom (plumeria aka frangipani) are planted in his property for sale. Garden designers all over the country realize that Narong’s farm provides quality trees.
The farm is also a serene homestay. Narong’s beautiful mansion amidst a sea of trees that is big enough for 15 people is the main dwelling. The price is Bht 3,500 per night. There are four more nice bamboo huts that each hut for four people costs Bht 600 per night.
To create bamboo hut, Narong follows ancient wisdom of building. “The hut made of various types of bamboo plants in my acres including ‘pai ruak’ (Thyrsostachys siamensis) and ‘pai see suk’ (Bambusa blumeana). It also made of materials that are almost forgotten such as ‘ton laan’ (fan palm aka talipot palm). The tree’s leafstalks are used to make a house floor while old leaves are used to make a thatch roof that will have a useful life of five years,” said Narong.
According to Narong, every hut covers the area 3x3 metres with open-air bathroom and a clump of bamboo plants. “I want my guests to enjoy the magic of nature. The cost of each house is Bht 80,000. Materials are not expensive but workers get big pay.
“I hope younger generations to realize that several types of nature materials can be used to make dwelling. We can build thatch roof with dry vegetation such as ‘yaa kaa’ (cogon grass), ‘yaa faek’ (vetiver grass), ‘bai tongtueng’ (Dipterocarpus tuberculatus Roxb.) and ‘bai laan’ (fan palm),” said Narong.
Narong’s farm has never used chemical fertilizer. It is now a habitation of orange-headed fireflies with black wings (Pyrocoelia praetexta Olivier), which are different from fireflies (Pteroptyx malaccae Gorham) found in brackish water area.
The Baan Rai Thai Charoen homestay gives visitors the opportunity to learn about nature, local flora and fauna and local lifestyle. Guests can try delicious homemade dishes by Narong himself who is also a veteran chef.