It's hard to imagine a visit to Southeast Asia without learning about one of the most important exports in the region: rice. Plus, if you happen to be traveling with kids or gluten free (or in the Kid Allergy Travel family's case -- both), a visit to a rice farm is sorta one of those must-do Southeast Asian bucket list activities.
So, when we booked our trip to the town of Luang Prabang in Laos, we were on the hunt for an authentic farming experience that could work for a family with two kids between the ages of 10 and five. We read some good reviews about a place called The Living Land Rice Company so we partnered up (via #sponsorship) and got ready to share a cultural, educational, and hands-on activity with our kiddos.
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The Living Land Rice Farm is a community farm cooperative that benefits the Lao people. If you choose to spend the half day participating in the Rice Farm Experience (as we did), your tour will be broken into 5 parts: Rice Farming in the fields, Basket Weaving, Harvesting Rice, Cooking the Rice & Making Sugar Cane Juice, and Sampling Rice Products.
- This tour is action packed, extremely well organized, and starts early in the morning. Traditionally, the Kid Allergy Travel family isn't super big fans of waking up at the crack of dawn to start and activity (especially when they are supposed to be on vacation). But, in this case, we were actually pretty happy to start this tour earlier in the day as opposed to later because we visited in the dead of summer where the heat can reach staggering heights.
- Eat a hearty breakfast before you come. This tour is filled with so many moving parts that the action is going non-stop and you don't want cranky kids.
- Book the lunch option (for an added fee) even if you are gluten free (like Kid Allergy) or a non-meat eater (like my hubby). They can accommodate you no problem and the food is just downright scrumptious and worth the added cash. We used our portable gluten sensor (Nima) and got a positive result--- the Nima came out with No Gluten Found! #nimatestedandapproved
- Our tour included a nicely appointed van from our boutique resort Satri House to the farm. We saw other guests arrive via tuk-tuk. If the type of transport matters to you please inquire when booking your tour to see what options might be available.
- Wear the conical hat provided upon arrival. In Laos, this infamous Southeast Asian bamboo hat is called the koup (ກຸບ). It acts to protect your face and body from the burning rays of the sun or the downpour of a monsoon downpour. Got kids? Don't worry! They have some perfectly sized conical hats in small sizes to fit a range of children.
- Lockers are available to store any personal items. We had the oh so precious and irreplaceable Nima Sensor (a portable gluten tester) with us and I was glad it could be kept safe while I was out and about enjoying the tour.
- For those who don't bring their own filtered water along, The Living Land Farm does have what is labeled as safe drinking water. We didn't try it out, however, because the Kid Allergy Travel family always travels with their own sterilized water just in case a location doesn't give patrons this option. This includes a HydraPak Seeker 2L Collapsible Water Storage, an American Red Cross UltraLight UV Water Purifier by SteriPen, and some flat fold Sea to Summit X Cups.
- The first portion of the tour requires you to get over your fear of walking barefoot and getting dirty. You will be removing your shoes and you will be walking through, wading in, and schlepping through muddy waters. I’ve never been one to walk barefoot anywhere so this was a bit of a shock for me at first. But, everyone else on the tour didn’t seem to hesitate, so I decided I’d have to get over any phobia for the sake of doing as the rest of the group. And, if truth be told, once I just let go, I sure was glad I took the leap.
A Tour in Five Parts
1. Rice Planting & Harvesting in the Field
You do a short crash course about rice and then head right out to the rice paddies to get to work.
As part of your hands-on instruction in the fields, you must get in the murky water to begin the rice planting lesson.
Kid Allergy was the first of the family to plop right into the water showing no fear. He was having a blast! Unfortunately, the 5-year-old was just too short to hop in with the rest of us. He was perfectly fine with this though and felt completely satisfied to watch and listen from the sidelines on dry land.
Next, you learn about how the buffalo is used to till the soil and then volunteers from the group are requested to work with the buffalo themselves. Note: There is no riding of the buffalo. The task is simply to work the plow behind the animal to act as a team to accomplish the goal of tilling the soil.
During our lesson, the buffalo urinated in the water. Although in my mind I knew that all the other waters I had stepped foot in were almost 100% likely to have the same fate, there was just something about stepping in directly after seeing it that urged me to give this particular opportunity a pass.
Next, everyone is invited to another stage of the planting process and you get to try your hand at planting rice stalks in a straight row across the water soaked soggy ground. It was about this time that I got not only my feet drenched in mud but also plunged my hands inside of the earth and started to find my groove here. I was able to let go of my phobias and got into the act of creating something. We planted as a group and once we were done we felt a sense of pride in what we had created even if our rows were somewhat challenged and ended up being anything but straight.
Next, the tour arrives to a rice paddy that has fully grown rice that is ready to be harvested.
A large curved knife is used to cut a group of stalks at a time.
Kid Allergy had recently taken interest in growing plants back home and I could see that this was totally his jam. He was filled with questions and he was eager to get out there and gather that rice. Under the supervision of my husband and the tour guide, Kid Allergy meticulously used the tool to cut and gather up rice stalks.
2. Basket Weaving
Everyone is brought under the shelter of a rooftop to wash up.
You get a little break from standing while you have a quick basket weaving lesson with some of the older folks who have retired from the more manual labor required to work the rice fields.
Then, you get a water break and some time for the kiddos to play with the new toys they have created.
3. Threshing & Separating Rice
Next, you are moved to another area to start the threshing process where you extract and separate the rice from stalks.
This was the part that got the little one really interested. He had a ton of questions and really got involved in trying to understand the process.
Next, comes more separating requiring the work of two people.
Kid Allergy was able to do the bouncy bit on his own with great effort. Our littlest one required a bit of help. It is quite the cardio workout trust me!
You learn that this basket tossing part is women's work and doing it well is a right of passage for marriage. I tried and failed miserably. It is harder than it looks and does take skill and coordination to get it right.
4. Cooking Rice & Making Sugar Cane Juice
Off you go to see how rice is traditionally cooked and turned.
Then everyone gets their chance to crush sugar cane to produce some sweet tasting juice.
5. Sampling Rice Products
Lastly, you all get to sit to deep the fruits of your labor with some delicious rice products. All gluten free and animal product free. All tasty.
Plus, for those that do drink alcohol, you get to sample a bit of rice wine.
Our visit to The Living Land Farm was remarkable. The tour was educational, interactive, well-executed and organized, fun, kid-friendly, and gluten free. This will be the experience that will change the way you and your children look at rice. Our time here on this rice farm made every single one of the Kid Allergy Travel family more appreciative of the food we eat and the people who so lovingly produce it. This is an absolute must itinerary activity when visiting Luang Prabang. I would even go so far as to say it is a must when visiting the region of Southeast Asia as a whole.
That being said, I do want to go over a few tips to make your visit go smoothly.
- If you want your kids to do every part of the tour including the rice planting portion, I would say they could probably be able to stand in the rice paddies at about 7 years old and up. If you are traveling with children younger than that like we did this trip, our kid at 5 years old was able to easily participate in everything else with the exception of part 1.
- The land around the rice paddies are soft and did give way on our little one while he was spectating the rest of the family planting rice. He was caught off guard and slipped into one of the rice paddies and soiled his bum. He shed a few tears not out of terror but simply out of surprise. Make sure to discuss this possibility with your kids to make sure they are paying attention to avoid a slippery mess and potential embarrassment.
- Wear clothing that can get muddy. I had the little one in his swimming trunks and shirt. Kid Allergy went in soccer gear. Getting filthy is part of the experience here so make sure to plan laundering into your budget and timeline. There are plenty of penny type laundry options along the main drag in Luang Prabang that say they use filtered water to wash clothes. Our family instead opted to have the folks at the Satri House get our clothing squeaky clean before we had to pack up and head to Bangkok.
- Although our family did not have any ill medical effects as a direct result of participating in the muddy water rice planting portion of this tour, I need to point out a potential health risk because this blog is aimed at providing information to families with children. When we visited an infectious disease doctor in the States, the doc highlighted that a number of parasites can live in soil and that rice paddies are no exception. He specifically named strongyloides as a potential threat and warned that the risks should be considered before choosing to do a direct skin to soil activity. Per the Center for Disease Control in the United States (CDC), you can increase your risk to exposure via direct contact with bare skin if soil happens to be contaminated with the parasite. The good news? Even if you and/or your children choose to skip direct skin to soil contact, you can still enjoy this tour! This can easily be done by simply keeping your shoes on and standing on the sidelines during the first part of the tour just like our littlest family member did during our visit.
Kid Allergy Travel received a discounted rate to attend this tour with The Living Land Rice Farm. Although this was part of a media visit, rest assured, the opinions provided in the post by Kid Allergy Travel remain our own. Photos by Kid Allergy Travel.
Looking for family-friendly accommodation while visiting Luang Prabang, Laos?
AVANI Luang Prabang - $0.00
AVANI Luang Prabang is a modern boutique hideaway with a storied history. Formerly the site of French officer quarters, then home to a landmark local hotel, these peak-position grounds in the heart of the old town now welcome you with classic-contemporary style â€“ design thatâ€™s a breath of fresh air while remaining true to the townâ€™s colonial architectural heritage.
Read more about things to do that include kids during your visit to Luang Prabang, Laos:
Need Travel Protection? Don't forget travel insurance if you are traveling to Laos with kids! We booked ours with Travelex and made sure we had medical evacuation included because this is a somewhat remote location in the world.
Heading to other Southeast Asian countries nearby? Visit our other pages for family friendly recommendations for locations in the area here: