My mind is calm here. We wake up and sit by the river that flows beside our homestay at Ban Laem, Suphanburi. Every day is breakfast with a view. The days are filled with a variety of activities – an attempt to learn the local way of life. The days often end with a bicycle ride among the rice fields. Just one look at the various shades of green is good enough to soothe any restless soul.
This state of mind is not new to me. It occurs almost every time I travel to a village or a mountain or a small island. However, I have often wondered if I could actually live in these places, if I could call them home.
Being born and brought up in big cities, despite the chaos and the stress, I am perhaps a bit too accustomed to the conveniences and choices the city life offers. For example: On a Saturday night, I might randomly want to catch a movie or grab some late-night ice-cream. On a Sunday morning, I might want to try a new and hip cafe for brunch.
Now compare this with a village life and you can see my point. It’s great to be part of a small tight community. Almost every village I have visited have one thing in common: the sense of community. Evenings are usually spent in chatting with one another, sometimes over a few drinks. While this is truly wonderful, I have often wondered if I would start missing cafe hopping, random visits to the theatre, and the other choices that I have grown up with.
After spending 5 days at Ban Laem village, as I pack my bags, I feel a strong sense of longing. I don’t want to leave. Of course, this is a natural feeling for most travelers but this time, it’s more than that. As days passed by, this place began to feel like home. The cheerful people whose language I didn’t understand began to seem like family. We learnt their way of life, one day at a time and they took care of us, like family would.
Over the last 5 days, we have learnt how to make a variety of Traditional Thai dishes (including endless desserts), how to make broom stick from coconut trees, how to make colourful incense sticks, and how to make household items from aquatic plants.
We also visited a range of organic farms, picked out vegetables and duck eggs for lunch, cleaned the river, collected water hyacinth stem from the river and made household items with them, and offered food to the monks at various temples. We had so much to do that we rarely had a moment to breathe. And yet, every time I am on a boat cruising on the waters of Suphanburi river, my mind is strangely at peace. The fresh wind refreshes my soul. My mind is devoid of thoughts, something that never happens during my city life, no matter how hard I tried.
I think I am beginning to like the farm life. And if I were to choose a village, Ban Laem would definitely be on the top of my list. It’s close enough to a big city (Bangkok), in case I really crave any city life conveniences, and yet far enough to be removed from the chaos of Bangkok. What’s more, the village, without realizing it, has taught be a lot about leading a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. It has equipped me with a variety of life skills which I never imagined I would learn. It has reminded me of the value of human connections.
Here, every day, we work hard, but the work is different. Unlike my life back in Singapore, here we actually grow and collect the raw materials for our food and then cook our own food. We make other items that we would require during our daily life. There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from being self-sufficient. Perhaps, that’s what I will miss the most about Ban Laem.
Perhaps, one day, I can actually consider the big step of moving my life to a small village? Until then, I continue to learn valuable lessons from each trip and hopefully incorporating some of them into my daily city life.