Salt! Samut Sakhon, Thailand

Have you ever wondered where your salt comes from? No – I haven’t either!  Salt is one of those many things we tend to take for granted.

Piles of salt in the sunshine

Salt Pans, Samut Sakhon

In Thailand, most of the salt used comes from brine salt-farms, and the largest number of these brine salt farms are close to Bangkok, along Highway 35 in Samut Sakhorn.  We’ve driven past these large square fields that resemble rice patties – except for the obvious absence of rice – many times, and I’ve often commented that they’d be worth photographing, but we’ve always been in a hurry to get somewhere else.  This week, driving home from the delightful beach town of Hua Hin, we stopped for coffee at a petrol station right next to one of the many salt farms.  Well, the temptation was irresistible and I wandered into one of the all-but-vacant lots.

Lanscape: Salt Pans

Entry to the Salt Pans: Planks and Steps off the Highway

Large wooden roller at the salt pans, Samut Sakorn

Wooden Roller

Rolling machine at the salt pans, Samut Sakorn

Rolling Machine at the Salt Pans

Rakes and baskets at the salt pans, Samut Sakorn

Equipment and People at Rest

Wicker basket in water

Briny Wicker Basket

Wooden rake on salt pan

Like the Outdoor Ice-Rinks of my Childhood!

Close-up: Wooden Salt Rake

Tropical Zamboni?

It wasn’t long before people came out to chat to us.  I did my best to ask intelligent questions about the salt pans: “How long does it take to produce the salt?” “One month.” “This one,” I asked, pointing to the piles of salt, beautifully dotted around the paddock.  “Ready,” I was told.  “This one?” I indicated the the smooth surface with the wooden rake lying in it.  “ยัง – Not yet,” was the answer.  That just about exhausted my Thai for the day, so we had to satisfy ourselves with smiling a lot.  My companion looked at his watch: “Three-thirty!” he exclaimed, as if that was important.

Sure enough,  as if by magic, people appeared from everywhere and the salt pan which was ready became a hive of activity: men and women in socks, boots or bare feet, walked out to the piles and set to work.  For the most part, the women shovelled the salt into bamboo carry-baskets, and the men, balancing a basket at each end of a long carry pole, carried the salt back to the store room.

To make the salt, the prepared fields are flooded with sea water pumped in from the near-bye Gulf of Thailand, dammed, and left to dry naturally in the sun. When the water has evaporated, the salt is piled and taken away to be cleaned and bagged for sale: on the roadside, in local shops and internationally.   According to a web-blog source (and I could find no other reliable data), Thailand produces a million tonnes of salt each year.  From what I saw, each pound is labour intensive!

Thai man and woman moving salt

Working in Concert

Thai man carrying baskets of salt

Moving Baskets

Thai woman in a brine salt farm

A Moment's Pause

Portrait: Thai woman smiling; hidden by her hat

That Thai Smile is Never Far Away!

Portrait: Thai Male Worker, Salt Pans

Working the Salt Fields

Portrait: Older Thai woman in a red sunhat

Elders Continue Working...

Thai woman raking salt

Raking Piles into Baskets

Close-up: Bare feet and salt basket

Salt Foot Scrub?

Landscape:  Thai man levelling salt farm

Levelling the Salt with Nonchalance

Close-up: feet in mis-matched wet socks

Socks in the Salt


Salty Reflections

Close-up: Rubbish at the salt farms, Samut Sakhorn

Keeping the Salt Farms Tidy

Broken bag of salt on wooden planks

Somehow, Spilt Salt Seems More Serious when You See How Much Work Goes into Each Bag!

Road-side stand selling salt and fish.

Buy it From the Source! Salt and Salted Fish (ปลาสลิด) for Sale. The Woman is Waving her Hand to Ask Passers-Bye to Stop, While her Dog Sleeps in the Shade.

Food for thought when you next salt your eggs!  Happy Travels.Text: Happy Travels

  • Catherine - February 3, 2011 - 4:56 pm

    Wonderful pictures Ursula, thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - February 3, 2011 - 10:47 pm

    Hi guys,

    you are so right… we take salt for granted, I don’t ever recall wondering how we got it etc… makes my addiction even more profound lolReplyCancel

  • Mike - February 4, 2011 - 12:54 am

    Hi Ursula many thanks for the link to my photoblog. The stats came from a Bangkok Post article and Wikipedia, as you say they are difficult to come by.

    I have relatives in Samut Sakhon, so I usually stop near the farms if we are visiting.

    BTW did you know that production ceases during the rainy season(probably obvious why)?

    You have a very nice blog and I think the photos are great.

    Best wishes

    • Ursula - February 4, 2011 - 1:38 am

      Hi Mike! You obviously had more luck with Wiki than I did. I tried the Bangkok Post link, and they sent me to the front page. I thought your page was great – and daily!! My gosh, weekly is killing me! 😉 Oh well. And, yes, I know all about rainy season! 🙂

      Greetings Cathy and Signe! Nice to see you both. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Paul - September 14, 2011 - 9:09 am

    Hello Ursula, a wonderful set and comments. I travelled along this road from Hua Hin last year but I do not remember seeing the salt fields. But now I have seen these photos I may try and visit this area when I next visit Krung Thep.

    All the best


    • Ursula - September 14, 2011 - 9:52 am

      Thanks for visiting, Paul!
      We’ve driven past so many times – always in a hurry to somewhere else! This visit we were lucky – we stopped mid afternoon on our way back to Bangkok and wandered into the salt pans while it was quiet… not a soul around… Within half an hour, the place came to life, and everyone set to work! The workers were mostly happy to have me hanging around, which was nice. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • janice - March 25, 2012 - 2:32 am

    I was vacationing in thailand in january. I did see these salt fields on are way from Hua Hin to Pattaya. They were very interesting……ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - March 26, 2012 - 10:22 pm

      Hi Janice,
      Thanks for the vist! Thailand is full of interesting sights! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • […] Para conocer más acerca de la recolección de la sal marina visitar el fotoblog: Sal de Samut Sakhon, Tailandia (Inglés). […]ReplyCancel

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