Northwood University

The Northwood University Study Abroad Blog

 

Semester in Asia 2013- Rubber Plantation

After three flights, 2 layovers, 8,818 miles, and 30 hours of flight time, we are in BANGKOK, THAILAND! I can’t say that it was an easy journey but I am so happy to be on the ground, even if it is only for five days until our next flight.  After arriving to JHL Golf Villas and Homes, just outside of Bangkok, we hurried to bed in preparation for a 6am wake up call for our first business partner program the next day.

Today we visited the Haddyai Rubber Plantation about an hour outside of Bangkok.  The 1,000 acre plantation is owned by Kuhn Pat.  His family owned business produces sheets of rubber which are sold domestically throughout Thailand.  Thailand is the biggest rubber producer and exporter of the world.  The process to make the rubber was surprisingly fascinating.

 

Each worker is assigned 1,500 trees.  At midnight he goes out and “cuts” half of his trees.  The next night the other half is cut.  A metal cup is attached to each tree to catch the dripping latex.  The process is similar to maple syrup tapping.  In the morning the worker collects the latex and brings it into the factory. These workers are paid based on production and receive 35% of profits they assisted in producing.

Here the latex is combined with 1 part acid to 1 part latex in metal bins and mixed until the substance thickens.

Metal sheets are then inserted into the bins to harden the sheets into slices. The slices of hardened rubber are sent through a press machine to thin the sheets out.

The rubber sheets are then lined on bamboo sticks to dry.  Next they are sent into a large barn known as the smoke room.  They are smoked for 3-4 days.  The smoking process gives the rubber a longer shelf life of 1-2 years in the warehouse.

             

Imperfections that occur during the smoking process are cut out of the rubber.  The women in the above pictures work about 12 hours a day and are paid 300/baht a day.  This is equivalent to 10 US dollars.

From start to finish the rubber takes about 5-6 days to make.  After a long morning at the rubber plantation, Kuhn Pat took us to lunch…

  

YUM! Pad thai, tom yum, fish cakes, sea bass, catfish, fresh coconut drinks, morning glory, seaweed salad, the list goes on.  Overall it was a great morning and afternoon with Kuhn Pat.  We met his son and nephew who live in Bangkok, and plan to meet up with them in a couple weeks.  Kuhn Pat is a perfect example of what it is like to be a successful business leader in Thailand.  He is very humble, and was very welcoming.  He loved the fact that some of us were from Texas, where his very successful cousin Charlie lives (his cousin owns the popular jewelry chain Charming Charlie!).

Our next stop on our jet-lagged day was Buddha Mountain:

Buddha Mountain is located in Pattaya.  The 130 meter high mountain is one of the areas most noticeable landmarks.  The Buddha was created in 1996 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s position at the throne.  The image was carved out of the mountain using laser technology.  The gold leaf paint was then applied.  This Buddha image is one of the worlds largest.  Around the mountain was plenty of gorgeous landscaping and shrines where many Buddhist believers come and pay their respects.

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