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