the living land company
A trip to Asia wouldn’t be complete without partaking in the activity of picking rice, or “life,” as they better refer to it as. To many Asian countries, rice is everything and it’s included in every meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not to mention the delicious rice crisp snacks throughout the day and lest weforget, rice wine!
“Rice is life.”
In Laos, a way of greeting translates to, “Have you eaten rice today?” Which to us, can be compared to: “Are you having a good day?”
While we were in Thailand, we really wanted to get the experience out in the fields, engaging in the grunt work of picking seeds or sowing, etc. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to. So when we saw The Living Land Rice Experience in Luang Prabang, Laos, we knew we had to sign up.
The Company & Village
We were picked up in a tuk-tuk from our hotel and transported to the farm. The cost was a little steep, about $50.00 per person, for a half day of activity. We were a little skeptical at first, but they had great reviews on Trip Advisor and it seemed locally-owned and operated, so we hoped for the best. In the tuk-tuk was a friendly couple from Switzerland with their two young boys. We would later discuss American politics. Groan.
Upon arrival, we were driven through the farming community. What we saw looked like your average countryside neighborhood, huts built close together with some farming land. But this particular plot of land was private, away from other homes and vendors. We learned later that the land that we were on, was shared by eight families. They all lived there, all working on the farm, “earning their keep,” to put it bluntly. The company uses its profits to further sustain the village and farm. Not one grain of rice or product is sold for income-based purposes. The rice grown is strictly for consumption among the people who live in the village. Brilliant idea.
The Living Land Experience
Our guide introduced himself as La Lee, family to Bruce Lee. He waited for our reactions and then laughed, shaking his head at the joke. La Lee honestly made the tour. Learning about all the different stages of growing rice could probably be dry and boring, but because of the animated, interactiveway it was presented, he made it worth every penny.
Now, let’s see if we can list all 14 stages of growing rice? On second thought… we wouldn’t dare take the excitement from discovering it for yourself!
One of the highlights of the tour was our first experience squishing the mud between our toes, planting the seeds. We were so careful to not get dirty and covered in the mud (yes, don’t wear anything too nice when you visit!). A Californian woman in the group was a little reluctant at first, but with her son’s plea, stepped all up in it.
Another highlight of the tour was when we really got dirty. We grabbed reins from Suzuki the water buffalo, and helped plough the field. Although we tried so carefully to stay semi-clean earlier, it was all over now. Splashing and sploshing around in the muck made it all the more authentic. Furthermore, the California boy, was proudly ploughing, getting the hang of it when Suzuki stopped. He looked quizzically to La Lee, who waited with a smile.
We all learned soon why Suzuki stopped. Plop. Plop. Plop. The poor boy nowhad to plough right through Suzuki’s droppings.
Free fertilizer, anyone?
Another highlight to note was just the overall hands-on trial we all participated in. We were shown and instructed how to do the stages each step of the way. It was amusing watching the rest of the group, seeing “naturals” and those, um, needing a little more practice? It felt a little like High School P.E. class, seeing everyone go before you, feeling a little anxious for your turn. Telling yourself, I can do much better than her. Just hold it in the middle. Then, when it was your turn, failing miserably. Yes, just like P.E. class.
Taste Testing the Products
Once we finished working hard in the fields (ha!), we were rewarded with a full glass of sugarcane juice. But like the other stations, we did have to work for it. We had to place the sugar canes into a water buffalo-led machine that squeezes the juice out of the canes and is collected at the bottom for consumption. In this case, we were the water buffalo. We ran around the machine, getting every drop out of the sugarcane. It was fun, and the juice tasted that much better because of it.
After our drink, we were invited upstairs to the dining room. Yes! LaLee had prepared a large spread of rice products: sticky rice, rice cakes, rice crisps, rice wine, etc… It was definitely enough for lunch. We all sat around the table, gazing at the spread given to us atop banana leaves. Here, we celebrated about our achievements and laughed at our weaknesses. La Lee passed the rice wine around for us all to try- phew, strong! When we finished eating, we were handed diplomas in Planting Rice in Luang Prabang- how thoughtful.
Once we gathered our things to get ready to leave, La Lee announced there was one more surprise. We couldn’t believe what the morning already included, and there was more! Our enthusiastic guide led us to a side table that seemed a little messy. We all secretly wondered, why the mess? Then, we saw- BAMBOO! An older man, equipped with a small, sharp knife, was buy carving out animal structures made of bamboo. The cause of the mess was the filings from the bamboo. We were each given the option to choose from a bamboo animal. We both chose frogs.
An Experience to Remember
Feeling astonished at everything this company offered and shared with us, we were extremely grateful we had signed up. We really felt like we learned enough about rice production, and now possessed a new appreciation for every.single.grain.grown! If you ever catch yourself in Luang Prabang, don’t miss it!