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Mae Taeng, Pun Pun and You Sabai Organic Farms, Thailand

Feb 12 – 13

From Chiang Mai, Miguel and I departed on a motorbike trip. We didn’t have set plans, but had a few destinations in mind. We left one big backpack at a guest house in Chiang Mai and stuffed all the rest of our things into mine. We were told it might be cold up north, so we also brought one sleeping bag just in case. We had an interesting time shuffling everything around to make room for me and all the stuff. It was kinda like a game of Tetris, but we managed to make it work.

And because we rented our motorbike from a company called Mr. Beer, the word “Beer” was written really big on the back of our helmets. We obviously already stuck out enough, but this certainly didn’t help us to blend in.

Our first stop was to a town just a little bit north of Chiang Mai called Mae Taeng. During the drive, we passed a few elephant camps.

When I was still back in Austin, I was listening to some interesting podcasts about Thailand and found this this one. It’s about Pun Pun, an organic farm, seed saving operation, and learning center dedicated to teaching others about sustainable living. The center offers many field trips and workshops about sustainable agriculture and natural building. Many of the people who visit the place, stay there as part of a long term internship. But since we were so close to the area, we figured we’d just swing by and check it out. So this is why we were heading to Mae Taeng.

Their directions were good and very specific, but I left out some of the key details when transfering them onto paper…so we missed the turn several times. We almost gave up on finding the place (as none of the locals in the area had any idea what we were talking about), but luckily we found it.

It was a fun, really bumpy dirt road to get there. Our poor motorbike wasn’t very happy with the journey and started to act sick.

But we figured we wouldn’t worry about that problem until later. It was a beautiful area.

There are actually two sustainable living centers in the area and we ended up spending most of our time at You Sabai. Both Pun Pun and You Sabai are right next to each other and they share a lot of the same activities. So while we hung out during the day with the You Sabai folks, we ate our meals with all the Pun Pun folks at their place.

And Justin, one of the guys living and working there as part of an internship, taught us how to make cob.

It’s a really fun process….as you get to stomp around in the mud.

Justin was working on building a house. And our job was to help him with the roof of the closet.

There is obviously a lot of planning involved in building a house. But the cool thing about cob is that the earth supplies all the ingredients you need (dirt, straw and water) and you have the freedom to design the house however you want. Sometime in my life, I definitely want to build a cob house. Here is an online version of The Cob Builders Handbook.

Building a house is obviously hard job. And a great deal of time is spent just making the adobe bricks. But while it sounds long and tedious work, I’m sure it would be very rewarding to know that you built your own house from scratch.

And like I said, you can design it however you want. You can make fun windows. You can incorporate glass bottles to provide insulation.

You can add some designs.

You can play with color and texture.

Here is a two story house being built.

And here are some of the finished houses on the property.

This one was not made of cob, but still cute.

They also made a kiln out of cob.

After we were finished being all muddy for the day, the You Sabai guys took us to a huge reservoir for a swim. The water was freezing, but really really refreshing! What an amazing place to live.

And since it was already getting late at that point, Miguel and I stayed the night in their treehouse.

That night, we ate a lovely vegetarian dinner with the people at Pun Pun and we watched an amazing sunset over the mountains. I’m really glad we managed to find this place.

If anyone is looking for a sustainable living internship, I would definitely recommend giving these guys a call!

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  1. Stephen

     /  November 20, 2010

    I really enjoyed reading about your experience at Pun Pun. I will add this project to our volunteer pages: https://www.volunteerworkthailand.org/volunteer-thailand.php

    If you know of any other volunteer opportunities please pass them on and I will add them to our website.

    Take care


  2. Thailandee

     /  February 19, 2014

    This places seem nice but what king of volunteer work is it ? Wwoofing or you have to pay for stay ?

    Thanks for your answer !

  3. Sorry for the delayed response.

    We paid for our stay (just stayed one night and ate dinner with the regular people who generally stay for an extended period of time), so it functioned as a guesthouse for us. Most people though stay for a volunteer internship type situation. They learn about natural building and get to build a house. I’m sure their websites have more info. about how one might go about doing that.

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