Originally from Chiang Mai, we had planned on going to Pai for a few days. Mostly I was just excited about the potential for puns with a name like Pai, but before we left we were diverted. On the wall at Giant House we saw a poster for a place called Mindful Farm which was west of the city. After taking a look at the website, we knew we had to change our plans and go there instead.
Mindful Farm in owned by ex monk Pinan, his wife Noriko and their daughter Nobara. They started it almost two years ago when Nabara was born and have been welcoming guests ever since. It is an organic farm where they mostly live off what they grow and sell what they don’t need. They welcome volunteers to come stay with them for only B200 (about $7) a day, which includes accommodation, and all you can eat.
Like it’s name suggests, Pinan and Noriko practice mindfulness in their lives and encourage the volunteers to practice as well. The days are somewhat structured, which was a welcome change for us after doing whatever we felt like, whenever we felt like it for the past 7 weeks. The schedule was as follows:
6:30 – Wake up/walking meditation for 30 minutes
7:00 – Help prepare breakfast
7:30 – Eat as much as you can (it’s usually that delicious)
8:30 – Clean up/start working
11:30 – Stop working
12 – Eat as much as you can
1:00 – Rest until you feel rested (amazing right – in Pinan’s words “When you feel tired, you must rest. Sometimes I don’t rest at all and sometimes I rest all day”)
Between 2-3 – Start working again
5:00 – Stop working
5:30 – Eat as much as you can
7:30 – Group silent meditation
8:30 – Bed
We followed some form of this for the four days that we were there. All of the food is vegetarian, which made me a little more willing to try everything. I gave up trying to figure out what stuff was (which is my picky nature) and just piled up my plate. There was barely anything that I didn’t like and I found it fascinating how Noriko made such flavourful food with so little. There were even a few things that she admitted to never having cooked before (let alone knowing if they were edible) that turned out delicious. Their attitude is to use everything, and that’s just what we did.
We slept in very basic (and not super comfortable) bamboo huts with mosquito nets, while other volunteers slept in mud huts. But they were more than sufficient for a decent night’s sleep.
Unfortunately while we were there I got a few migraines, which put a damper on my experience, but Keith had a ton of fun and worked very hard, helping to build a new bathroom, making and hauling mud, mixing cement and weeding. I mostly stuck to helping prepare food, and get some vegetables ready for planting, but also spent a lot of time caring for Nabara so that her parents could work. She was amazing and so much fun to watch as she has only a few toys and books that stay in the house, so every day she explores her world as entertainment. Her creativity and personality are so neat, having been shaped by her unique upbringing on the farm as well as the number of adults that pass through her life so frequently. By the time she starts talking I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up fluent in 5+ languages!
Although we would have liked to stay for much longer, we decided that it would be best for me to be in the city where I’d be more comfortable and hopefully the migraines would go away. It was a very neat experience though, and a great option for anyone interested in volunteering (without paying hoards of money to do so). Pinan and Noriko are very welcoming and although it’s a rustic experience, it’s one that is totally worth it!