Seeking Silence in Tacomepai Organic Farm, Pai Thailand

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Silence is where you find the Sound of the Soul." -Luca Zordan

On the bumpy minivan ride up to Pai, Thailand, I spark up yet another random conversation with a fellow traveler. She is an English teacher in Chang Mai, traveling the countryside on weekends with an old acoustic guitar. We chat the whole ride to Pai, a good four hour drive, trading travel tips and talking about everything from music, books, and even falling in love on the road. She is on her way to a meditation retreat in Chang Rai, and suggests that I check out Tacomepai Organic Farm for “the Real Deal”.

After a week of exploring Pai with my travel friends Ben and Chris, I once again find the directions she has written in my journal;

“Drive 6km outside of Pai on the Chang Mai road, just before Pai Canyon. Ask for Sandot.”
Ben drops me off at the farm and we say our goodbyes. He is off to Myanmar with Chris, and I am doing some last minute soul searching before saying goodbye to Thailand and moving to Australia. The farewell is short but sweet.

I walk off the dusty road and down the forest trail that leads into Tacomepai farm, past a little bamboo hut labeled “kitchen” and towards a small Chinese woman reading a book in the sun.

“Is this Tacomepai Farm?” I ask her.

“Yes!” she squeaks, “My name is Chee! Are you hungry? I am Chinese, so I am always hungry!”
I laugh and ask her where I can find Sandot. She points towards a small hut in the center of the farm. I knock on the door, and finally meet the infamous Sandot, with his warm, friendly smile, gentle eyes, and carrying a machete!

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He is on his way to do a quick tour of the land with a Taiwanese family. He uses his trusty machete to knock back the jungle as we follow behind, stopping to look at the vacant bamboo huts along the way. I set up my new home in a tiny bamboo hut that overlooks the old rice paddy fields and the mountains beyond. I breathe in the fresh mountain air and feel the stress of city life melt off of me. This is what I have been searching for...complete silence.

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Back at the kitchen, we all gather around the fire and listen to Sandot play guitar while the girls sing along in Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese. Evan, a German boy with big brown eyes and even bigger dreads all piled up on top of his head, talks with me about Meditation while we sip his home brewed chili tea. He lives in a tree house on the farm and has been fasting and meditating for five days. Tonight is the first night he has eaten since he began his fast and he is overwhelmed with joy.

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Eduard, the Tai Chi Master who looks like an old wizard with his long hair and big beard sits down next to us as we stuff our faces with sticky rice and vegetarian curry. He picks up his handmade bamboo bowl and fork and says,

“Not everyone likes this lifestyle, but the ones that matter, stay.”

That night,sitting in my bamboo hut with nothing but a candle and mosquito netting, I lay awake listening to the jungle surrounding me. Every tiny sound became a snake or crocodile trying to bite me in my sleep! I tried to remember what Sandot said to comfort my fears, that this was the safest place in Thailand. As my mind finally gave in to the peaceful tranquility of real silence, I fell fast asleep. Never in all my life, have I slept so peacefully; no noisy traffic or cars, no people rushing around in traffic to get to the next business meeting…

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just the clear, open night sky in the middle of the jungle and me in my bamboo hut on the farm.

The next morning, I feel a little silly yet relieved that there are, after all, no threatening creatures in my hut... except for the red army ants attacking my freshly washed underwear! There are hundreds of them! Swarming all over my bras and underwear I had hung up to dry! After many failed attempts to get rid of them, I only anger them more! I finally grab “the bumgun” (the water gun used instead of toilet paper in Southeast Asia) and blast them off! So much for peaceful co-existence, but in my defense, they started it.

Life on the farm is filled with activity. We help plant garlic in the swampy fields and build a bamboo hut on The New Land, sweating bullets under the infamous Thai sun. My hands are itchy from spreading out straw on top of the freshly planted garlic, and my feet are covered in thick “mud shoes.” I haven’t eaten meat in two weeks and I feel lighter, healthier.

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I have found an instant connection with a fellow traveler, Reiko; she is a beautiful, kind soul, wise beyond her years. From Japan, she has come to the farm to learn how to build her own dream home. Everything she owns is handmade. Her clothes are hand sewn from Ghandi homespun cloth she acquired in India.

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Since I began my travels, I have met so many wonderful people who inspire me with their amazing stories. People who have turned away from the normal rat race, from the oppressive 9-5 work week, and started a new life outside of the edge of what is acceptable.

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The next morning, sitting in the lotus position on the tiny porch of my bamboo hut, I close my eyes and practice complete silence as Evan and Eduard taught me. The buzz of mosquitoes in my ear, my mind is restless and wandering from one floating thought to another. It reminds me of a small child with ADHD trying to sleep after drinking three cups of coffee. I inhale deeply, focusing my breath, and try once more to clear my scattered "Monkey Mind." 

Here, in this beautiful scenery of lush banana and papaya tree forests, the green green rice paddy fields and mist covered mountains, I once again find that sense of happiness I have been searching for and thought I had lost. I find the Silence of my Soul. Then Sandot yells out, “Hey Lauren! Want to work?” and I find myself shelling coffee beans in the kitchen with Chee and baking Japanese rice balls over the fire with Reiko. Afterwards, we practice Tai Chi and watch the sun set in the sky. My last night on the farm there is a big celebration, and Sandot attempts to teach us a traditional Thai song to perform onstage at another farm! We play drums and cymbals while Sandot sings and plays his guitar for a relatively large crowd of friendly organic farmers. Afterwards, we dance dance dance to the music, laughing off our shaky performance. Everyone is so happy, and I feel as though I have lived on the farm for years. 

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That night, lying in my bed, I think about my time at Tacomepai Farm and all of the amazing people I have met. They have become like family. I know, like so many friends I’ve meet while traveling, though I may never speak to them again, the moments we shared were so intense, so extreme-whether it was scuba diving or bungee jumping or building bamboo huts together on an organic farm- they will last a lifetime in memory.

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How to Make this Trip Happen*:

-Most foreign visitors can stay for up to 30 days in Thailand without a visa if you arrive by air. If you enter via land border, you will be stamped a 15-day permission of stay as a tourist in the immigration post, after which you will have to exit the country again on or before the expiration of your permission of stay. However, the tourist visa can also be extended if you wish or need to stay longer in Thailand. You will have to file an application for an extension of stay at the Office of Immigration Bureau. Visit the Thai Embassy site before planning your trip:

-From Bangkok, take an overnight bus to Chang Mai for 900 THB (about 28 USD), then a minivan to Pai for 300 THB (about 10 USD). 

-Make sure you have a handful of motion sickness pills ready as the roads to Pai can be tortuously winding. 

-Once there, you can rent a motorbike and follow the road towards Pai Canyon for 6km until you reach the farm. 

-Accommodations on the farm is 200 THB (about 6 USD) a night - only 100 THB if you stay for longer. Enjoy!

*This information is updated as of July 10, 2013

Until the Next Offbeat Adventure,
Sole Sis Lauren aka Orange

Lauren grew up in rural Oregon, where she spent most of her time swimming in local rivers and waterfalls, hiking nearby forest trails and searching for hidden faerie homes in fallen tree trunks. For over three years, she has been traveling and drawing comic books about her adventures throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, the UK and Australia. Get your dose of humor and wanderlust when you check out her travel comic, The Wandering Orange.

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4 sole trails

  1. Wow, such a useful information! This is exactly what I wanted to experience, maybe soon! Such a quiet place and a simple life!

  2. Yes, Joni! You should definitely go there! They always need a hand on the farm and its a beautiful respite from city life! :D

  3. Thanks for posting this, something out of the box yet very refreshing experience. I'll try to include this on my 2014 trip. How long did you stay there? More post like this please.... :)

  4. I am staying there the day after tomorrow for a couple of weeks and I am super excited! Thanks for the article.


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