One of our days in Chiang Mai was spent helping our friend Julie check out organic farms for her new organization, Live It Global. Organic farming in Chiang Mai is becoming more popular, thanks to several people who are pushing the community in that direction. There are a lot of small villages around Chiang Mai that are mainly focused on agriculture, growing fruits and vegetables which they sell in the local markets. It was a great experience to get out of the city and see how some country people live.
We set off from Chiang Mai and met up with a friend of Julie’s. This friend owned a small farm where they were organic farming, offering cooking classes, and also practicing building traditional houses out of mud and bamboo. After checking out her place, we set off to visit some more farmers in an outer village. On the way we stopped at a small roaside noodle shack serving very traditional foods and we could tell that they didn’t see many foreigners because of the stares. I got some delicious noodles thickened with blood and Carrie a pad thai. Behind the restaurant was a lush rice field. It was so nice to finally get away from the tourist scene. Real Thailand is good for the soul.
The original place we were headed was blocked by a flooded road, so we made a u-turn for plan B. Another 15 minute drive and we veered off down a single lane road. We passed fields of bananas, longan berry, coconuts, mango, and rice, eventually pulling off the pavement towards a wooden house in the distance. The house was build on stilts in the traditional way– sleeping area on top and kitchen and animals on the ground floor. The owners rushed out to meet us, enthusiastically showing us around, even though they had had no idea we were coming and what we wanted. On the top floor there was a picturesque view of the farm and a hammock to lay out on. They had trays of sprouting seedlings all over, the whole place vibrant with life We instantly felt at home thanks to the famous Thai hospitality.
After a long chat in Thai that was over our heads, we walked out into the farm and got the full tour. The farmer brought a machete and kept whacking off different fruits for us to try. We had fresh coconuts, pomelos, rose apples, and other fruits we’d never even seen before. It was great!
Live It Global offers farm and homestay-based experiential education programs for university students or adults continuing to learn! Most programs are focused on sustainability and agriculture, but custom programs are also available. There’s a heavy focus on learning about and respecting Thai culture along with actually giving back and helping the local Thai people who will teach and host the participants. I highly encourage anyone who thinks that sounds interesting to check out the website! The flagship programs will be launching next summer, and since we’ll probably still be around these parts, we’d love to see you in northern Thailand then!
When our coconuts were done, we got into the side car of the farmer’s motorbike and were driven into the nearby village. We stopped to talk to some very old women who were making ornate paper lanterns for the upcoming Yi Peng festival (same thing as Loy Krathong in Bangkok, except the lanterns are floated into the sky in Yi Peng, instead of floated down rivers).
After this visit, we stopped at a tiny Thai whiskey distillery in the middle of the jungle! The family making the whiskey was super proud of their product and loved getting Julie and I to taste it! It was good, just strong!
The rest of the day included riding around on the motorbike and sidecar meeting more local people (and their dogs) in the village. We checked out a massage parlor at someone’s house, where a blind lady was the expert Thai masseuse. Everyone we met ushered us in with smiles and offers of fresh fruit and drinks, even though most of the time they had no idea why three random farang (Thai word for “Westerner”) were suddenly showing up at their houses. The countryside in Northern Thailand is so beautiful, and the organic farmers are so hospitable and eager to share their knowledge. We know Live It Global is going to be such an incredible life-changing program for all who participate, and we were so happy to be involved in a small way at the beginning!