Day 44 – Sat – 18th July:
Today is the day I am going to the Organic Farmstay in Pai. Firstly I got up early and packed, and then asked in reception for the quickest way to 7-11. The guy actually recommend that I try Tesco Lotus which was very nearby at a gas station. I was unsure how food would work at the farm so I was planning to stock up on some dry snacks, determined that the same thing (that happened on the camping trip) wouldn’t happen again.
I also bought a 50 baht rain-poncho (basically a very thin plastic sheet in neon pink) as I had no wet weather gear. Then I walked back to the hotel. At 11.50am I went to see if my laundry (which I dropped off yesterday at the place next door) was ready, it was. She did say to collect at 12pm but my bus was picking me up then and I wanted it all packed in my bag before then, ready to go.
Of course I should have known that the bus wouldn’t be on time. I think it arrived in the end around 12.40pm so I spent a slightly frustrating but reasonably interesting hour in the reception watching two men install a metal shop grill shutter thing across the front of the shop. I was accompanied by a small Thai girl (it was Saturday so no school, but then I have learnt since that they don’t start school until the age of 7 anyway so maybe that is irrelevant), who was playing some kind of game on a tablet PC.
The lady who may have been the owner, but who was often on reception, came and explained about the shutters. She said that a couple of nights ago someone threw a small molotov cocktail (which didn’t explode) through the wooden shutters (which was the only form of door the property had). I expressed my surprise, as I thought the area was very safe. She mostly agreed but had decided measures had to be taken hence the shutters.
Anyway a songtheaw finally picked me up and took me to the bus station where (me and some other tourists) we were transferred into a small 15 person minivan. After an hour and a half the bus stopped for a quick rest break and I bought some interesting Thai sweets, much like chewits but from an obscure brand and mangosteen flavour! They were very nice!
We arrived at 4.20pm ish in Pai, it was like a quiet giant Ko San Road, the town being three or so large main streets full of tourist shops. Anyway the annoying thing was that in the bus we drove right through the town that the Farm ‘Tacomepai‘ was situated in but (and I asked before when we first got on the bus) the driver would not stop to let me out. He kept saying ‘one stop one stop’, which is stupid really, it’s not like I wanted to be dropped off down a road just literally get out of the bus.
So I had to pay a lot (200 baht) for a taxi to get back to the Farm because no one else was going that way, and I ended up with a whole mini van to myself.
On arrival the Farm seemed deserted so the driver got out and tried to help me find someone. I don’t think he would have done this if I had change to pay him but I only had a 500 baht note and he had no change (which also seemed silly). We found an old lady sitting in the porch out of the rain weaving baskets. I had read about her on the farm website (she was described as Grandma, and it said she was always in the porch, if you wanted to watch traditional weaving). She spoke no English but went and got a mobile phone and put me on to her daughter (the wife of the farm owner), the person who I had been emailing.
She seemed very surprised that I was there even though I had said I was coming, but explained in Thai to the Grandmother. The driver then asked the Grandmother for change and left once I’d paid him.
I sat with the Grandmother in the porch, waiting for something (I didn’t know what), pointing at the chickens and saying ‘gai’ which is chicken in Thai the lady pointed at the ducks and said ‘bet’ which is duck (which I didn’t already know), so that was interesting.
Then a Thai man arrived and gestured for me to follow him with my bags. He took me down a dirt track past some small fields on my right. Another volunteer appeared, she was French and spoke some English. She showed me to a hut but then the Thai man asked her to show me the next hut along instead.
I asked her what I should do and she said tomorrow she would show me round the farm. Here a picture of my little house with ensuite bathroom.The bedding was very grotty looking so I was super glad I had my hammock and silk sleep sack. You can see in the pictures that I strung it up between two bamboo beams.
The hut was made from 100% bamboo and some kind of large leaf (maybe Palm leaf).
I took stock of my food from Tesco, it was mostly snack food but I had one can of tuna because I was unsure if I would be fed tonight, arriving at the time I did. So I ate the tuna and then put it outside, not sure where to dispose of it just yet.
The Thai man called me out of my hut and gave me some clean sheets and blankets. I used the blankets as a sort of carpet/mat under the hammock and I used one sheet. It was a duvet cover (and pillow cases) that I think was for the floor mattress bed and grotty pillows but I pushed it all to the side against one wall.
Then the French girl came and called me for dinner! Yay food. It was rice with a vegetable/stew/soup thing. It had a good flavour as most Thai food does but was not very filling for me. It was like a watery stock with stringy leaves in it. The Thai are very clever with the food, they make a lot of flavour from very little but they also fill up on rice. I think my metabolism is set for meat and veg and rice doesn’t do much for me.
Anyway when I returned to my hut I discovered I had made a new friend. A little white cat was enjoying the tuna water and dregs from the can I had left out (I was unable to drain it at the time of eating). She was very happy.Day 45 – Sun – 19th July:
A lot of cricket type insect nosies last night. I got up for 8.30am and went down to the volunteer kitchen for breakfast. There was a lovely sweet bread which was a nice surprise and also some egg and veg, and of course more rice.
I couldn’t find the French girl who was supposed to show me round so I wandered up the the main house. Next to the house was a large wooden open walled building which was labeled the ‘classroom’. This is where the owner (when he was there) used to teach permaculture farming.
I found a middle aged Swiss guy called Andy who was very nice and explained to me about the farm.
It was built and designed by this Sandot the owner, a farmer who studied permaculture farming, he ran courses and volunteer programs until a couple of months ago when he just left to run a new project he had thought up. The new project was near the border further north, near Laos (or so I gathered). The only volunteer here was the French girl Carine who had been here over two months, since the last properly run course.
He said he was hoping the owner was going to come back or maybe was going to formally sign over some control to him so he could continue with the projects. I asked what I could do to help and he said that he was leaving later today but I was welcome to help him clear up from his current project. He said it was a shame I wasn’t here last week as I could have helped with the building of his ‘art studio’.
So I spend half an hour or so with his Thai wife/partner, clearing the waste wood that was scattered around the classroom building. This literally involved throwing the scrap bamboo into the forest that started a few feet from the building, of course it would rot down and be good for the ecosystem but it was amusing to me anyway.
Then the Swiss guy Andy showed me the ‘art studio’, which was another wall-less structure with a strong concrete base a few inches thick and four metal girders supporting a corrugated iron type roof.
There was a large locker which was full of tools and he said he hoped to rent the space out to artists etc. I told him about William Stone and some of our scrap art projects. He said I was welcome to use the space for free while I was here as he had no plans yet as such.
I helped clear a bit more rubbish and this was stuff like plastic cement sacks which we threw in a pit (already full of rubbish) and I think they will burn it all at some point (that is what they do here in Thailand).
There wasn’t much left to do that I could help with so I went to find the French girl. She explained to me that a lot of volunteers come and sit in the kitchen and smoke and drink and pay the volunteer fee (200 baht a day) but treat it as a cheap place to stay, and maybe do some yoga in the yoga hut. She was very fed up of this and also with Sandot the owner who had popped off to his new project.
Her English was quite good and I think the reasons she was short with me yesterday was also because her English was a bit rusty, she also spoke some Thai in order to communicate with the farm hands etc and probably hadn’t spoken English for weeks.
Anyway she said she studied permaculture farming and at the moment was just running her own little garden near her hut because she was unable to plan any big projects without Sandot’s help to explain it to the farm hands.
She showed me the last crop of beans and said I could help peel them and then after lunch, which appeared by magic on the table in the kitchen area (a pot of rice), she showed me a field I could start clearing. I worked for a couple of hours, using the traditional Thai farm tool which is like a large garden hoe with a slightly thicker and sharper metal head.
Later at dinner (in the kitchen again) the French girl Carine talked about some of the problems with Thai farming. One being the lack of farm education and also that they didn’t remove ‘bad seed’ and just kept planting the same stuff every year, (in a couple of posts time I will explain how I learnt about their seed checking process which is very funny and illogical, which is strange as the Thai people are normally very logical).
I mentioned the white cat and she said that cat was always bothering her, Carine thinks it was looking for some affection (her own words). She told me it also had two kittens but it killed one and kept trying to put the other one in her house. I haven’t seen any sign of the kittens though.
The farm is set in a very beautiful flat area surrounded by other farms. It is nice and cool compared to the city’s, as there is a lot of greenery and damp air. It is also very quiet except for the loud insects in the evening. I can see why people like to come here for their yoga retreats.It has been a very interesting taste of the farm so far. I have enjoyed it even though it is very confusing as to what is going on….
Next up: days forty-six and forty-seven.
Previously: days forty-two and forty-three.