The Panya Project

Grass, some cut, some not

Somewhere north of Chaing Mai, lost in the complex networks of roads, back roads, canals and rice paddies there is a place called the Panya Project. The Panya Project started about 3 years ago, it is about 10 acres of 5 year old mango plantation. Over the past three years, this mono-culture plantation has been transformed into a small community in which people come here to spend some time, plant some veggies, harvest some fruit and have a good time.

After the grass has been cut

The main part of the mango plantation is about to undergo a major transformation though. That is where Tanya and I fit in. We are long term volunteers, here to help plant thousand of trees in amongst the mango trees. We are turning this difficult to maintain one fruit crop into a multicrop forest of food. Instead of one season in which you can harvest fruit, fruit will be available all year. Two swales and a dam (or a reservoir, the Aussies like to call them dams), are on site to help keep this place green in the dry times of the year (however it is not currently working perfectly yet).

The sunseting from our mud brick hut

Moving into our place at Panya

Baby trees (aka seedlings), waiting to be planted out in the food forest

The rainy season is a time for plants to grow. In the past 1.5 months grass and vine have taken over the site. The job over the past week has been preparing the site so that we can plant some trees. This has involved cutting grass with a brush cutter, pulling vines off of trees, weeding the veggie gardens, maintaining the nursery and much more. It is amazing the transformation that has taken place, now the plantation looks like a well maintained orchard, but at several man days of work already put in (and it would have to be done every three weeks), finding a new system to use this land would be best. The food forest should be able to maintain itself much better then the mono-culture that is there now.

Posted from Ban Pao, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Chiang Mai

For those of you that have been check often, I thank you. We have been lazy these past few days, not seeing too many sights in Chiang Mai, and as a result, not blogging too much. I’m sorry to report that it will probably be more of the same in the coming months. We will be heading up to the Panya Project on Saturday. We will be spending about 2 months there volunteering at the permaculture project. I expect that the posts will slow down even more. We will be coming back to Canada at the end of September, which means we are on the final leg of our journey.

Enough of that though, Chiang Mai is great. This city is pretty small, somewhat historic and filled with good food and many temples. Since we have been here we have seen a handful of Buddhist temples (they all look pretty similar to me now), went to the Sunday night market, rented a tandem bicycle, got our visas extended, I had a 24 hour bout of food poisoning, and Tanya has been going to some yoga classes.

The food here has been great, from traditional Thai food to modern pizza, you can have many tasty meals here. One of my favorites have been the ripe mango on sticky rice. The mango is sweet and ripe (they don’t taste like this back home), and the rice is slightly salty, slightly sticky. It’s a great combination, combine that with an orange juice and a coffee, it is a great way to start the morning (only 1 Canadian dollar, perfect). There is lots of other food in this town as well, too many to name, all are cheap and tasty though.

Mango and Sticky Rice

The Sunday night market is not an event to be missed. A couple of intersecting streets, about 1km long each all provide thousands of people with something to do on Sunday night. Hundreds of stands lite by bright compact fluorescent lights sell all sorts of stuff. From trinkets to t-shirts there are stalls selling almost anything. The real treasure is the food however. For 10 bhat (25 cents) you can get a big spring roll, or Pad Thai, or fresh juice or any other number of great fare. The food is spicy and the atmosphere is electric. It was great fun, and after walking the market Tanya and I wondering why our grocery/big box/small box stores give us such an un-inspiring bland experience.

Tandem Bicycle

One day we found a tandem bicycle that you can rent. If you remember, we rented a really old, poorly made one in Da Lat, Vietnam. The one here was much nicer then the one in Da Lat. We rented it and headed out of town. We first had to get out of the city though and that was somewhat stressful. Although Thailand traffic isn’t the worst traffic around (like India or Vietnam), maneuvering a tandem makes everything a little more challenging. We did get out of town and it was great, the scenery was filled with green fields, a brown river and smiling faces. As many people would wave, smile or honk their horn at us, we felt that same feeling we felt back in India. It was great, and it really made us start to miss our cycle touring days. By the looks on the faces of the local Thia’s we passed, they don’t see tourists very often, never mind two on the same bike, pedaling in perfect sync. To me, that is what makes traveling great, making someone smile.

After a tiring 3.5 hour ride we headed back. We walked back to our hotel, tired and stiff (we haven’t been doing much exercise lately). Renting bikes are great, seeing the rural area is great, doing both at the same time is perfect. After spending the last couple of month backpacking, I know that having your own two wheeled mode of transportation is the best. You get off the main track, you see things other don’t and you have a great time. Although our trip isn’t done yet, I feel I have learned a great deal in the past 8 months: bicycles are fun, rural areas are nice (especially in the morning), having some meaning to your traveling makes things much more rewarding and 99.9% of the time, people are nice and helpful.

Posted from Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Thailand

Thailand

We have now arrived in Thailand. We got here a couple days ago. Before coming here I didn’t know what to think of this place. Most people who backpack SE Asia come here. I know there are a lot of beaches and that the food is delicious.

These patterns were on all the doors of the Wat

When you have been on the road for 8 months, things don’t really shock you as much. Nor are you as impressed as much. One thing that was amazing was how nice this place is for backpackers. There is a couple of streets lined with cheap t-shirts, cheap food, cheap beer, cheap CDs, cheap books and cheap fake driver’s licenses. The streets are full of street food. You can get a really good cheap meal just about anywhere, and there are all sorts of meat being shown for display on the side of the road. The streets are a little dirty (but not as bad as some places), the traffic is nice to pedestrians, and there are a fraction of the motorcycles there were in Vietnam.

Buddha Statues

Nearby our area is the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho. One day we went to see all three. However the price of the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha where a little to expensive for us. One thing that really bothers us is how much palaces charge to see them. It is not like the royal family really needs the money. I think the problem lies with the fact that people will pay it. As long as people are willing to pay to go in, a couple of cheap backpackers are not really going to make much of a difference.

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Big sleeping Buddha

After the trip to the gates of the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha we headed to the Wat Pho. The Wat Pho is a pretty big complex, the entrance price was reasonable and we enjoyed ourselves. In the days since that we haven’t been doing to much. Just killing time before we start our internship at the Panya Project, you will get more on that later. Tomorrow we will be in Chang Mai (northern Thailand).

Posted from Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand
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Ha Long Bay

Tanya gazing at the scenery

After much debate we decided to go on a 2 day boat ride on Ha Long Bay.  Ha Long Bay is a World Heritage Site in Northern Veitnam and is about 1,500 square kilometres in size.  The bay has thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes.  Arguable the most popular attraction in Vietnam for both Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese tourists is a boat trip around the bay.  You can take either a 1,2, or 3 day excursion and you sleep on the boat.  We decided on two days and being the low season we where able to bargain down the cost one of the nicer boats on offer (there are literally hundreds to choose from).

In Surprize Cave

At dusk

In the bay, there are over 500 boats

Mystical, maybe a bit too much so

Fishing boats, the lights help attract the fish

After a 4 hour mini-bus journey we arrived at Halong City and jumped on the boat.  We were not dissapointed.  The boat was really clean and nice (we heard stories of rust buckets and rats) and had the second most comfortable bed I’ve slept in.  The meals went on and on, upward of nearly 10 courses  (we tried to count but lost track thanks to the bottle of wine and good company) of tasty Veitnamese (mostly fresh seafood) at dinner.  Other than that you just lounge around on the upper deck, enjoy the incredble scenery, and chat with the others on the boat.  We did stop at a “surprise cave” which was lit up with tacky strobe lighting but was also pretty amazing because it was so incredibly huge!    And we did some kayaking around the karsts and a floating village.  All in all is was a great trip (the pictures don’t do it justice at all though)!

The limestone islands covered in greenery

Posted from Vietnam
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Streets of Hanoi

We walked on the streets of the old town of Hanoi. We saw a few sights (temples, churches), nothing too crazy or different from the usual sights. Hanoi does have an interesting street setup. The names of streets are named after the guilds that used to line them. After reading about this in the guide book, I had visions of streets lined with goods of one kind. Modern times bring modern changes, and this part of town has largely been devoted to tourist (many cafes, bars and tour offices). There were some similarities among the streets though, below I will share with you the different streets (or at least what I would have named the streets due to their merchandise) and some of the sights that we saw.

Posted from Hanoi, Hanoi, Vietnam
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