Week 5: Pai and Donjiang Village Homestay!

A lot has happened since my post last week! We had a 3 day weekend so I visited Pai (small touristy city north of Chiang Mai) and then starting Monday, we went to our first 1 week homestay in a organic farming village. Now I’m on the grid with plenty to share!

Image result for chiang mai to pai road
An aerial view of some of the road to Pai. So many turns! Photo from here

Pai Summary:

I was on the bus heading to by at 6:30 am 27/9. The bus ride there was about 3 hours long but with all the huge curves on the way, it felt like a lot longer. Upon arriving to Pai we found out the road connecting Pai with Chiang Mai had 762 curves- it was crazy. We got there around 9:30 am and were pretty tired as we couldn’t sleep on the bus as I had planned to. Anyways, once we made it there we had a few hours before we could check into our hostel. We hung out at a cafe and walked around for a bit. Pai is a really beautiful place. The town, while very touristy, gives off a welcoming vibe and is surrounded by forests and beautiful mountains. Upon checking into the hostel, I napped and hung out for awhile. In the evening we explored Pai Walking Street – an evening street market, and listened to live music at a bar.

View from walking around Pai

We fit a lot of activities into Saturday. Pai doesn’t have public transportation or Grab (Thai Uber), so we struggled to get around as many of the attractions are a ways from the city. We found out that one of our friend’s dad’s owns a tour company, so we got to spend the day on one of his tours and with our friend! We got to visit natural hot springs, an amazing view point, an attraction called Chinese Village, Pai’s famous White Buddha, several cute coffee shops, the Bamboo Bridge, and the Pai Canyon. We made it to Pai Canyon just in time to watch the sunset. It was amazing! Afterwards, we went out to eat with our Thai friend and spent more time on Walking Street. I have so many pictures from this day – you’ll have to check them out on the “pictures” page. There was so all kinds of good street food and at one point we found ourselves at a fire show. On Sunday after checking out of our hostel, we had a few hours to spend before getting on the bus back to Chiang Mai. I walked around Pai some more with a few friends- we stopped in some more cafes and shops and had popsicles from 7-11. The bus back to Chiang Mai was just as curvy as before but didn’t feel quite as bad because I knew what to expect! Once back at my dorm it was a quick transition to unpack and repack as on Monday morning we were heading to a village.

Pai Canyon for Sunset
One of the coffee shops we stopped at “I Love You Pai”

Donjiang Village Summary:

Starting on Monday, we went to our first homestay at a village in an organic and subsistence farming community called Donjiang. The food that I ate with my family, including sugar, rice, and meats, came exclusively from their farm or from their neighbors – it was really cool to see and I learned a lot! My host family consisted of a mom, dad, and older brother. The language barrier was difficult at times but I was really impressed with how much I could communicate with them. The routine for the week was pretty consistent. In the mornings, I would work on my family’s subsistence farm. I got to water, transplant plants, apply fertilizer/pesticides, and feed livestock. We’d also take lots of breaks and have funny Thai conversations. After lunch, all of the K students would learn about something else about the way of life in the village. We made organic pesticides, tea, tofu, and also helped our host family with preparing their surplus goods to sell.

View of my family’s plot from the road
Rice fields from evening walk around the village

On Thursday, we got to go into the city to sell our family’s produce at the Chiang Mai Organic Market. We had a pretty early morning as it was a little over an hour drive to the market – we rode in the back of a pickup truck there (modified with benches and handholds). Once at the market, we helped our families set up their tables and worked at their station. I enjoyed seeing how the farmers engaged with their customers and I really got a strong sense of community among the farmers. There wasn’t competition between different booths, and people would help their neighboring booths happily. Sometimes my host mom would go to take care of something, but when I needed help interacting with a customer, the lady next to us would help me. It was a long day at the market, but between the Thai I got to speak, yummy snacks I tried, and observations I got to make, it was one of my favorite days in the village.

We had a farewell dinner the night before we left Donjiang that was a potluck style with all the K students and host families. We helped our families prepare a dish – I made Yum Woon Sen. I liked eating many different Northern Thai dishes I haven’t seen much in the city and talking and laughing with everyone. We presented these little posters in pairs about what we learned during our time there. On my poster, we talked about how we learned and improved our Thai, saw a sustainable “zero-waste” system in action community wide, gained good insight to organic farming and the culture, and experienced the market from a farmer’s perspective. It was really cool all around and definitely enhanced my studies at Payap University. I really liked talking with my host family and was impressed at how well we were able to communicate. On Saturday, we had some bittersweet goodbyes. While sad to leave, I was ready to get back to the dorms and continue with classes.

Farewell Dinner in the Village

Highlights:

This whole week was very action packed! In Pai, my favorite part of the trip was the Pai tour we did as we got to see so many attractions and it was so beautiful. However, the highlight of this week for me was definitely getting to know my host family. They were so kind and worked really hard to speak in terms that we could understand. When I messed up we would just laugh about it and try again. I especially enjoyed breaks we would take working on the farm with our host mom – we’d chat and ask lots of questions. It was fun, and I’ve also noticed a big jump in the speed that I can speak and listen to Thai.

With my host parents

Thank you for reading! I’ve gotten a bit behind my usual schedule, but I’m working on getting back on track! For more photos, check out this page!

4 thoughts on “Week 5: Pai and Donjiang Village Homestay!

  1. WOW, Margaret!!! What a crazy-fantastic-amazing adventure you’re on!! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and the photos that bring your story to life!! I can’t imagine being able to take in all that you have in the short time you’ve been there!! SO MUCH!! and SO AMAZING!! Loving every moment that you share!!

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