If you pass through Saraburi province at this time of year (around December), you will notice something beautifully unusual in the scenery. Blurs of yellow and orange, bright colours popping out of the green farming countryside, will entice the curious traveller to stop and take a closer look - and believe me, this rural attraction is well worth stopping for.
Starting in November of each year, the province of Saraburi, as well as surrounding central provinces, hit a sunflower high season. The rural landscape fills with vibrant yellow flowers, 72 square kilometres of them, to be exact. As the fields blossom, the province takes measures to ensure that tourists who come to experience this sight will be pleased. In addition to the flowers, there are markets and activities set up on the roadside to offer more entertainment after the fields have been explored. This makes Saraburi a popular destination for Thais on car trips, and a fantastic surprise for the traveller who stumbles upon it.
Being a city girl by nature, the last sunflowers I saw were in a Van Gogh print in a guesthouse bathroom. And so, the sight of man-sized sunflowers, big and blossoming and tall enough to make me feel comparatively short for the first time since arriving in Asia, was surreal; stunning in a giddy, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" kind of way.
The sunflowers are more than picturesque, though you will easily fill rolls of film while walking through the fields. The scene of vibrant yellow blossoms, with lush palm trees and cool granite mountains in the backdrop, is downright beautiful. Also, the fields are large and uncrowded enough to explore in peace, with the opportunity to study the flowers up-close.
The busier fields offer booths of local wares at the entrance, perfect for souvenir-hunters. I would recommend bypassing the sunflower-print blouses and umbrellas and going straight to the roasting sunflower seeds. Here you can sample the freshest of sweet and salted varieties, still warm from the cooking pan (20 baht per bag).
Some fields also offer elephant rides, a highly recommended experience, where sightseers can perch in a basic wooden seat and enjoy the bumpy ride through the fields, led by friendly guides on small but healthy-looking elephants (100 baht for 2-3 people).
Saraburi province is north of Bangkok, an easy 2.5 hour drive on Highway 1. While the sunflowers aren't located in the city of Saraburi itself, the province has placed sunflower posters and signs on the major roads, offering directions. The people of the region are friendly and more than willing to offer their personal tips for the best sunflower fields. Just be sure to bring plenty of film!
Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.