One of the best agro-tourism projects in Thailand is undoubtedly Farm Chokchai in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. In fact it has won many awards. Farm Chokchai is situated on the Friendship Highway in cowboy country and is only 159 km from Bangkok. You can either come here as a day trip from Bangkok or as a stopover on your way to Khorat. The highlight is undoubtedly the farm tours. Farm Chokchai was started by Chokchai Bulakul back in 1957. The farm began with beef cattle but later turned their attention to a dairy heard. Today the farm covers an area of 8,000 acres and has 5,000 head of cattle. In recent years, the farm started their agro tours where people can learn about the running of a dairy farm which also includes hands on experience of milking a cow, making ice cream, petting farm animals and watching a cowboy show.
You can join farm tours from Tuesday to Sunday. During the week they only have two scheduled tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. However, at the weekend they have six rounds starting at 9 a.m. and the last one at 3 p.m. The tours start off with a short movie. Then you are taken outside to see the Machinery Museum where you can see the original vehicles used at the farm. Our guide only spoke Thai but there were signs in English. Our next stop was the Milking Parlor. Apparently, the Friesian cows have a high yield of milk and so they are milked three times a day. On my father’s farm, we only milked the cows twice a day. The milking procedure is fully automated with enough room for 192 cows to be milked at the same time. Our tour guide gave us a demonstration on how the machines work and also how to milk the cows by hand. If you are keen, you can change into some Wellington boosts and have a go at milking the cows.
We were next taken into the Dairy Plant. This is where they produce four milk products: milk, yoghurt, ice cream and milk toffee. Interestingly, the brand name “Farm Chokchai” was sold some years ago so they call their milk products “Umm…milk”! In the dairy plant we watched a movie which showed us how the milk is pasteurized. We were then taken on a tractor and trailer ride to tour the rest of the farm. Each tour is limited to 80 people due to the size of these trailers. This part of the tour doesn’t have any English subtitles so you just have to admire the views of cows grazing in the fields and farmhands working the land. At least there is no two price system and so foreign tourists enjoy the tour for the same price of 250 baht for adults and 125 baht for children. We also passed a sunflowerfield though strangely they didn’t pause for us to take any pictures. A short while later, we reached our first destination. A kind of Wild West Town.
At this first stop, you basically have some free time to wander around. There are souvenir shops and shooting games to play. These cost 30 baht a game. For older children, there is a chance to ride a horse for 40 baht or to take your whole family on a horse and cart ride for only 100 baht. I went for a walkaround to take a closer look at a dragon fruit plantation. I have eaten this fruit before but have never seen the cactus like plant growing on a farm. Next to this there is an ATV Track where for 180 baht you can take a ride along their course. When you arrive at this stop on the tour, your tour guide will tell you how long you have to hang around here. If you don’t speak Thai, make sure that you ask her how long you have.
When we arrived, there was already one tour group that had been there for a while. They were waiting for us to arrive so that the two groups could see the cowboy show together. We had about 15 minutes to wait before the show started. This was of course the highlight. In a small arena, we were treated with some stunts where a horseback cowboy lassoed a cow and then showed how they would then brand it. Another cowboy showed us tricks with a lasso and then one more impressed us with his dexterity with a gun. Well, it would have been impressive if he didn’t drop it at one stage. After the show, the first group left straight away but our group stayed around longer so that everyone had a chance to try all the activities.
After another half an hour, we were back on the trailer to continue our tour. A short while later we paused by the side of the track to see a demonstration of how a sheep dog can successfully heard sheep into a pen and then up into a truck. We then moved on to our last and final stop. This was the petting zoo and animal show. This is a great place for the younger family members. They have smaller ponies here for the younger kids to try their hand at riding. In the petting zoo you can buy food to feed the animals. Here they have some camels as well some deer and rabbits. You can also give some milk to the baby calves. We had about 15 minutes here before the animal show started. This had the usual acts like a parrot doing simple arithmetic and dogs jumping through hoops. I guess I am a bit jaded as I have seen this kind of thing quite a few times but the audience loved it. Once this was over we were ushered back onto the trailer to finish our tour.
I did enjoy this tour even though I was brought up on a dairy farm. I am not sure if foreign tourists would find Farm Chokchai of interest as it isn’t what you see as “traditional Thai”. However, the highlight of any stop here is the Chokchai Steakhouse which had the best steaks I have had in a long time. Whenever I drive to Khorat for a holiday, I always stop here on the way home. I think the tour itself is more of interest to Thai families and expats living in Bangkok. However, if you are on your way to Khorat then it might be worth a small stopover. They even have a boutique camp where you can stay the night in “tents”. If you do this then there are more activities that you can take part in including ice cream making. I will go again as I think Nong Grace will enjoy the farm tour and the petting zoo. However, she might not like the idea of being rushed around as I think she would want to spend more time with the animals.
Many thanks to the management of Farm Chokchai for showing us around for free. Thanks also to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for taking us there. They also paid for our delicious steak and hotel accommodation. If anyone has a tourist attraction or a hotel that they would like us to do a site inspection of, then please contact us through the www.paknamweb.com website. The www.Thai-Blogs.com team of writers are the only bloggers in Thailand who are invited to go with the TAT on media tours and also to attend press conferences. Both Steve and myself will be posting more of our travel blogs here soon. I will post more details and pictures on our ThailandQA.com forums.