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Looking for permie-help in Northern Thailand

Posts: 9
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Looking for help in Northern Thailand

Who we are
A couple in our thirties with a big dream: to develop our land into a wondrous garden of magic where people can enjoy a serene retreat into the jungle and eat off the trees as they wander the gardens.
Gina – Canadian, music teacher at an international school in Chiang Mai, percussionist, hiker, very new to permaculture, organized and caring
Chai – Thai, a trekking guide, a great cook, a creative person, a jungle man wonder, loving and kind

What we have
Almost two acres of land (on a slope) near a lovely waterfalls in the middle of the jungle about 40 minutes from Chiang Mai.
We have a little ‘house’ with electricity, which is currently all open (no walls), except for the simple bathroom. This means that when we sleep over, we sleep in a tent.

Who we are looking for
A couple, a couple of friends, a single person, a family, (other) who would enjoy living in the jungle (we go to the land only 1-2 days per week, so you would have the run of the place for most of the time), and with:
-some permaculture/PDC/farming experience, preferably in tropical climates, but we understand that you may be coming for the chance to experience tropical permaculture
-lots of physical and mental energy to put to use in various projects
-a willingness to experiment, work hard, collaborate, and be innovative
-an interest in creating food gardens and small edible forests, guilds, working with water systems, developing composts, creating a magical but practical landscape and sustainable system. (Possibly doing some natural building – but this may be much later on down the road; possibly creating a mini terraced rice field.)
- love and attention to maintain and develop the land
-And someone(s) who is open to living in a different culture (assuming you are not Thai!) and flexible in terms of living in a fabulous, but developing country in which things may work differently and not always efficiently as you are used to.

Why we are searching for someone
It occurred to me (Gina) that we have something pretty awesome to share with permaculturists and permie-travelers who want to experience Northern Thailand on a budget while at the same time want to develop their permaculture skills and deepen their knowledge. We can only spend one or two days per week on the land because we work in the city and as a result, we are finding it difficult to put in place our permaculture ideas on our own – and basically to establish any meaningful permaculture system. We could use the help, but just as importantly, someone(s) with whom we can share ideas and grow together.

Our eventual goal
To create a magical, permaculture-practicing retreat with guest houses and edible gardens.

The exchange
- A modest budget for small projects
- Housing for labor
This means that, once here, you would have to budget for food (as low as $4/day, if you eat local - and what you plant, you can eat) and local transportation (you can walk to the village but you may want to rent a scooter, approximately $5/day, or buy a bicycle). We can also arrange for you to go to Chiang Mai one or two times per month, and can pick you up at the Chiang Mai airport or bus/train station when you arrive.
For longer stays, you will need to do visa runs so that you can legally stay in the country (this is a fairly common practice and there are several companies that drive visa-runners to the boarder so that they can reenter Thailand).
Right now, we have a 2-person tent and basic bedding, plus mosquito net, but you may want to bring or buy something more comfortable in terms of mats and sleeping bag. We hope to eventually upgrade this arrangement for our guests, but this is what it is now.
Our ‘kitchen’ is still very basic – camp fire style, but as we continue to work on our house, this will grow too.
That covers the basics! Additional expenses depend on the purpose of your trip.

Additional (optional) benefits for you!
You can get involved with the local community. The village is part of several King’s projects and overall most villagers live very sustainably – and you can learn a lot about local herbs and plants through observation. If you are looking to build up some ESL teaching experience, the local school (of nine students and four teachers) would openly welcome you. There is a good chance that you will learn some basic Thai and be invited into homes to share meals and enjoy local food, depending on how you choose to cultivate your relationship with the village community.

There is a great Permaculture center that offers courses about 30 minutes away, called the Panya Project, as well as its Thai counterpart – PunPun. You may want to plan to take a course before or after spending time at our place or to simply touch base with an awesome group of people. (Panya is where Gina took her first permaculture course).

Time frame
There is no minimum or maximum time frame and there is no start or finish date. We are flexible and are looking for the right person(s) who would fit with our project and who would feel that they are also getting something valuable in return.

A couple of final, but important considerations that are non-negotiable (and out of our control)
-The village has a VERY strict no drugs policy (what you do outside of the village and off the land is your own business) and if/when drugs are found, the village will either send in the police or ask us to send you on your way, neither of which is an appealing scenario. And while our land is actually further up the road from the village and fairly isolated, some villagers may be in the nearby jungle at all times of the day and night, hunting and foraging, which is pretty cool.
-Please respect the local culture and people in the village (this should be very easy to do as everyone is kind, curious, and easy-going). Chai is originally from the village and can help you get acquainted.

If you are interested, please contact us. While this initial post is pretty long, we know you may have more questions, which we are happy to answer. We want to make sure that you have a full picture of what we have to offer before you commit to traveling all the way to Northern Thailand.

Oh, and three more info bits (which could be pros or cons, depending on you)
1) There is no wifi at the land or village, so you would have to go into town for access
2) The land is quite isolated, which you can really feel at night time. This might be a consideration and possibly a safety issue for single people. On weekends, there are sometimes groups that spend the day and night nearby the waterfalls and in the 3 nearby guest houses. That could be a great chance to meet Thais who are coming out to enjoy nature.
3) We are very new to permaculture and are in a transition state. That means that not everything that we have done is 100% permaculture, much of which has to do with our own limited education and/or using local resources. That said, we very much want to make a clear transition and are working toward that goal.

We suggest that you think about what you may want to get out of this exchange during your time with us (ex, “understanding herb spirals,” “developing water systems”, etc.) and we invite you to include these interests in your message. Don’t worry, you won’t be committed to this and neither will we! But, in addition to our projects, we would like to support and accommodate your interests as much as possible and then we can plan as best as possible. For example, major planting efforts are best done in the wet season, whereas natural building is best done during the dry season; some projects you would like to work on, we may not be able to budget for, etc… But this will get a dialogue started.

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Gina and Chai
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Based on what is standard here in the US, UK, etc, I think you need to offer potential farm help a bit better deal. I mean, the chance to live in a tent in rural Thailand, while paying for all living expenses, in exchange for working to develop your rustic property seems like a pretty poor deal for the helper.

Different general situations I am familiar with are room/board/stipend or apprenticeship-

Typically, in a room/board/stipend sitaution, you would need to offer the worker some amount of monetary compensation, so that they can live and work, and if frugal, put a little money in their pocket for when they head on their way. And they would need to be fed while working there. And they would need housing of some sort, of which an unsecured tent in the jungle seems below basic.

Alernately, in an apprentice context, you could be offering some type of education for the worker, so that they are actively being taught a set of skills while at your property.

It seems you are really just looking for free help with developing your place. Not very sustainable for the worker, IMO. For somebody to travel all the way to Thailand, and then still have to support themselves with food and other necessities, just for the chance to 'work hard' while you are back in the city, seems unrealistic. The very real security concerns that you commendably expressed up front doesnt make the deal any sweeter.

In your situation, I would be looking to hire a local person from the village, who has much lower monetary expectations, and a much stronger work ethic than most Westerners. Particularly where you husband is from that village, it seems that communication would be easy, and expectations more realistic.

Good luck with your project, but I think you need to adjust your expectations for outside labor help. Once you have an actual permaculture forest established, with adequate infrastructure, then outsiders might be willing to come and contribute on a volunteer basis. But if you want a paradise, you will have to build it yourself, or pay somebody fairly to make it a reality. This is my experience from 8 years of constant work building my own personal rural paradise. The dream has come true, but only through my own blood, sweat, and tears. YMMV.
Gina Ryan
Posts: 9
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Dear Adam,

Thank you for your reply and well wishes.

Before posting, I took the time to read through various postings on this forum and other forums to get an idea of the kinds of exchanges that exist, both from potential hosts and potential guests. From what I read, my offer of exchange falls within the range of what's out there (at least in my reading), albeit and admittedly on the low end for certain things (on the high end for others, which I will explain later). You make good points and these are all conditions that I am hoping to work toward. I posted what our situation currently is as accurately and transparently as I could, and noted that the exchange is negotiable. And investment brings investment - I would be much more willing to invest more in longer term, caring, dedicated visitors than someone wanting to pass through for a week. I didn't want to emphasize that point in my original post because it's the kind of thing that happens best organically (in my experience). On the plus side of this exchange, this is a place to experiment (without paying to) and there is possibly less labour time than the typical exchange to allow more free time for travelers to pursue other interests that brought them to Thailand in the first place. Again, all negotiable, all depending on the needs and interests of the other person(s).

I am sorry to say that I don't whole-heartedly agree with you, however, on the value or intentions of my offer of exchange. I have met travelers who have expressed interest in the kind of exchange that I am proposing (long before my post). I think that there are several possibilities of exchanges and permaculture experiences out there. Obviously people who aren't interested in this project because it doesn't make sense for them won't respond. There are others who may already be traveling in Northern Thailand who may be looking for something just like this. For others who may not already be traveling but want to see if they can transfer their temperate permaculture knowledge to the tropics without paying for a course, with a place in which they can experiment, and with free housing, that could also be interesting.

My intention is about sharing what I have, which includes a truly beautiful little home in a fascinating part of the world, and sharing the experience of figuring out how to create meaningfully on it. If right now that does not align with anything that fits anyone out there, no worries; I will continue to do my bit of work and learning. But not putting out this possibility into the world means that it definitely won't happen. And I have learned that what some judge as valueless can be incredibly valuable to others. But please don't misunderstand my intentions: I am not "just looking for free help with developing [my] place." I am looking for permies who see the value in this (for them) and with whom we can share ideas and experiences. For me, there is no rush as to when all of this happens; it is an experience. I love learning with others; it inspires and motivates me. And perhaps in the beginning, some guests may know more about permaculture and we will now more about Thailand; with each exchange we hope to grow with our visitors.

I agree with you Adam, that as my situation changes, as we grow, get stronger, bigger, better, and have more to offer, it will be important to update the information. For now, I am searching for people who might be interested in joining the (small) beginnings of the adventure.

Kind regards,
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