Field Trip: Serba Wangi Rice Mill in Kedah

31 days of Living in Penang

I’ve mentioned it before that we are a homeschooling family.  Our kids aren’t enrolled in any of the (many) international schools in Penang.  We are hooked into the Distance Learning Resource Centre at Dalat International School which is a great opportunity for anyone who is homeschooling in Penang.  One of the big benefits to this program is the opportunity to connect with the other families that are registered with DLRC.  This past August one of the moms organized a field trip to Kedah and we were grateful to be part of it.

This post is being linked up to the Hip Homeschool Moms link up party.  They are collecting field trips around the world that homeschoolers can find.  Readers who have found this post through that website might also be interested in our field trips to

Rice Mill_2

The drive was easy, especially made easier by caravaning with the other families.  That gave navigating responsibility to other people (not me) and gave us the opportunity to enjoy the Malaysian highway system.  I’ll say it again: I’ve driven in several Asian countries and the Malaysian highway system still awes me.  Cars stay in their lane.  There’s very little litter on the sides of the road.

We arrived at the rice mill, having only had to turn around twice.  Yeah, near the end, the GPS lost the road we were on.  But that was only for about a kilometer.  We lost the GPS map 7 km before reaching the Goat Farm on that field trip.

The Serba Wangi Rice Mill is located in Kedah.  This is in the next state over from the state of Penang.  Peninsular Malaysia is made up of 13 states and federal territories.  Kedah is the rice bowl of the country.  This is where the bulk of the rice fields are.    You can tell from the drive.  Even from the highway you can see rice paddies stretching out into the distance toward every horizon.

Padi Field 3

The Ban Heng Bee Rice Mill in Kedah is one of the largest rice mills in the world, and they process rice grown throughout this state and beyond.

IMG_2257We arrived and were ushered into the small auditorium for the rice mill presentation.  Each child was given a glossy Serba Wangi brochure listing all the different brands of rice that are sold under the banner of Serba Wangi.  There’s Jati, and Eco Browns, and a few others.  I could tell you more of the sales pitch, but just visit their website to get their spiel.

It did turn into quite the sales presentation, but it was educational as well.  The kindly “uncle” came out and greeted us.  He showed us the various stages of rice, from paddies, to the unprocessed rice kernels, to brown rice, and finally polished white rice.  Each child was given a small spoonful of cooked brown rice.

We then watched two video presentations.  The first was the Serba Wangi overview promotional video.  It covered the history of rice in the area, milling, etc.  It did not fail to drop the name Serba Wangi ten times in a five minute video.  The second video was a promotional video for their new Eco Browns line of brown rice.  They are very proud of their ability to mill, pack and ship large quantities of brown rice to the Malaysian market.

To their credit, it is an economic challenge to get that much brown rice to the market fast enough for a consumer to get it before it goes bad.  That’s why historically white rice was favored over brown rice: shelf life.  Now with more sterile processes and freeze drying and vacuum sealing, they can make it last that much longer.  So, I guess the kids and I learned a little something about brown rice.

We wrongly thought we would get to see the actual mill, but they said that it was far to dangerous for people to just go in and see.  But they did have a working model of the mill on the stage for us to see.  They ran the mill with about a cup of paddy rice, the rice that is still on the stalk.  We got to see it milled down to brown rice.

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After the presentation, we were given a small cup of their ecobrown beverage, a sweet rice drink.  We got the chocolate flavor.  It was quite nice and the kids asked (and received) second cups of the stuff.  No it isn’t sugar free.  I don’t think we would have liked it if it were.

Then we were ushered out of the auditorium to the gift shop where we were welcome to buy any of the Serba Wangi products, various brands of rice and the rice beverages.

The Verdict:  I would recommend this field trip as a good half day outing.  It is a bit of a drive out of Penang, but worth it.  It did get a little heavy handed with their self-promotion, but since the whole thing was free, we couldn’t blame them.  They needed to get something for their effort.  And to be honest, our family had already been faithful consumers of the ecobrown brown rice.

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photo by: Azmil77