Elephant amidst the sunflowers of Saraburi — Photo courtesy of Dave StamboulisSaraburi may be a small and rather nondescript neighbor to Bangkok, but it has been put on the tourist map in the last years due to its amazing sunflower fields which blossom between November and January, and have become a huge tourist draw for Bangkok weekenders looking for an escape to nature. The large sunflower fields, which are privately owned, have been opened up to tourism on a mass scale, as Bangkok residents spend hours immersed in them, taking photos, having picnics, and just feeling utterly romantic. Small farmer-style markets have sprung up at most of the sites, offering products like sunflower seeds and oil, natural juices, and other locally grown products. Going hand in hand with the sunflower fields are adjoining bee farms, which offer fresh jars of honey as well.
Some of the farms have even gone as far as to offer tractor cart or even elephant rides amongst the giant flowers (talk about the ultimate photo op!), and have built viewing platforms for photographers to ensure the best angles. It is all hopelessly kitsch and absolutely beautiful, and nobody comes away disappointed. Entry to some of the fields is free, with the farmers hoping that visitors will buy local products on the way out, while others charge 5-10 baht for admiring their flowers.
Sunflower heaven — Photo courtesy of Dave StamboulisThe fields are all best accessed by private car, which gives one the chance to find the “best” fields (depending on the position towards the sun, some flowers are more open in the morning, whereas others stand out later in the day), and to enjoy the different atmosphere at each field (some fields are relatively quiet and spread out, others have the elephant rides and restaurants so are a big draw).
However, if one doesn’t have private transport, undoubtedly the best way to visit is via train, and the Thailand State Railways offer a special sunflower train that makes a tourist trip every weekend and public holiday during the blooming season. The train leaves Hualampong Station around 6:30 a.m. and heads up to one of the fields with a nice mountain backdrop.
The train stops there long enough for tourists to get out, take photos and wander around the fields and souvenir shops, and then continues on to the pretty Pasak Jolasid Dam where it runs out onto the rail track that crosses the dam, stopping out in the middle for people to take pictures. The train is parked on a sweeping curve, surrounded by water, and quite picturesque.
The train then returns to the dam where it stops for lunch. There are an abundance of stalls selling grilled chicken and papaya salad next to the dam, and the grounds are pleasant for strolling, or going up in the observation tower to look out at the dam and adjoining area.
Alone in the sunflower fields — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis The train returns to Bangkok in the afternoon and the trip is around 12 hours in all, with seats running from 300 to 700 baht all inclusive, depending on which class one travels in. The trip and the area is probably one of the better examples of successful agro-tourism at work, and the flower fields really are hopelessly romantic.
For more trip information contact the State Railway of Thailand, 02 2256964.