Northern thailand has been a wonderful blend of incredibly nice people, stunning Buddhist temples, and delicious food.
Our first stop was Chiang Mai. Way up north, most tourists use Chang mai as a pit stop for other tourist activities like trekking and mountain biking outside of town. We immediately fell in love with the place. The locals were so friendly, despite language barriers, and we felt very safe. The food is hands down some of the best I’ve ever had. So yummy and so cheap. Food stalls are all over the place, and they come out in full force during the night markets. For as little as 10 baht (40 cents) you can get a pretty good snack of noodles, fruit, street meet on a stick, or ice cream. By the end of the night we were so full and barely spent 5 dollars. Let’s just say our 20$ a day budget never left us hungry for a second.
No trip to thailand is complete without a traditional thai massage. For only 200 bhat an hour (about 8$), you get a truly yin and yang experience that you both love and hate at the same time. There were moments during my massage that I wasn’t sure whether to scream or cry, so instead I opted to repeat to myself “pain is temporary, this WILL be over soon”, while also wondering if anyone has ever been sent to the hospital from a massage. There were other times I was grateful for the amount of yoga I’ve done in lloydminster, it prepared me for this very moment. The masseuse bends your limbs in ways you didn’t think were possible. Poor phil, hasn’t stretched a muscle in weeks, was being bent into a pretzel beside me. When all was said and done though, we felt amazing and wanted to come back for more
We spent most of our time in thailand at motherland farmstay in the village of Chun (not to be confused with Chud, which the bus attendants had a grand ol’ laugh when we insisted that’s where we wanted to go. …. not sure what it means in thai). Anyway, after getting on the wrong bus and finally arriving at our destination, we were so happy to call the farm home for a week. You can tell that this little community doesn’t see many tourists since every time we went into town people noticed us right away, laughed, and tried to practice the little bit of English they knew, usually “heyrrrrrro” followed by intense belly laughter. We felt like celebs every time we left the house. Sinchai, the farmer, quickly integrated us into his daily traditional thai living. We woke up every morning to roosters (like a natural alarm clock set for 3am), rode our bikes to the market to get fresh local food for the day (some days we could get all ingredients right on the farm). Meals were made together, all from scratch. The most wonderful part about cooking meals at the farm was that you actually see where food comes from. For coconut milk, we picked a coconut from the tree, cracked it open, extracted the water, shaved the meat, then squeezed out all the milk by hand. None of this cardboard box stuff. A simple meal took at last an hour, but man do you appreciate the food you eat.
We would work a few hours a day on various tasks around the farm. We made almost 100 bricks for the traditional thai mud huts (which you don’t see very often in thai anymore but Sinchai wants to carry on the tradition which is great!). This involved going to the rice mill down the road and separating the rice from the skin (another food that we had no idea what it looked like before being packaged into a box), and mixing the rice skin with mud with good ol fashion foot stomping. I won’t go into all the details but let’s just say it took days to make those bricks. Sinchai hopes to use the huts for future volunteers to stay in. His aspirations for the farm and carrying on his culture are enviable. He is a great man with so much to teach, not only about farming, but also bhuddism, cooking, and so much more.
Sinchai made us feel like part of the community, and brought us to all of his social gatherings, including buddha day at the temple and his friends father’s funeral (a buddhist ceremony). We were introduced to his family members and friends who all quickly accepted us and offered to show us around. A master teacher (principle) brought us to his school to introduced us to the kids, where phil immediately fell into his teacher role, and kids just flocked to him. Noi, another friend, brought us to see wild peacocks, a sacred animal in Buddhism. His wife brought us to a sunflower field/farm out of town. We visited sinchais 20 day old niece and met more lovely family members. We even got to play pickup basketball with his son and his friends, and even though they were all speaking thai, we felt right at home, proving that sport, like music, is universal. After 7 days it felt like we knew everyone and we would miss all the people we met.
We can’t say enough about northern thai people. We wish we could stay longer, but we will definitely be back one day! If you’re interested in volunteering at the farm check out their website http://www.chiangmaiprivatetours.com/farmstay/motherland-organic-farmstay-thailand/
Off to Laos!