When traveling slowly, you discover more of the finer details of a place, it’s people, and of course, it’s food. People-watch from a cozy cafe, walk mindfully through local markets, and if possible, cruise the countryside to see the way people grow the food you are eating every day.
That’s what I did while staying in Pai, Thailand, a small town just a few hours north of Chiang Mai. One day after riding around on a scooter through the countryside and past beautifully cared for farms, we were hiking around one of the main waterfalls outside of town.
On a very skinny trail, we ran into another backpacker. After some small talk, she instructed us to head down a road that we hadn’t used before in search of a sign that said Roselle Juice on our way back to town. Enthused by promises of a refreshing and unique drink, we headed out.
We found the subtle wooden sign, parked our scooter alongside a few others and walked up to a Thai man with a welcoming expression on his face. With some help from a few visuals written for English speakers, I realized that the juice was made from the Roselle flower, which is a species of hibiscus. All day, we’d been seeing this unique flower on the side of the roads.
I ordered the juice and he motioned for us to sit at a picnic table under a canopy which was in view of the farm including a very large split in the earth.
Before we thought much about that, the man brought over a huge spread of food! We just stared as he set down a heaping bowl of bananas, tamarinds, sweet potatoes, banana chips, peanuts, papaya, and passionfruit on the table followed by our Roselle juice, a small bowl of Roselle jam, and even a Roselle liqueur! At first, I felt silly, thinking I had accidentally ordered all of this but after talking to the only other group of people there and flipping through the guest book, we all came to the conclusion that this was the norm.
The split in the earth that we had noticed before came from an earthquake in 2008. As a result of his bad fortune, he decided to let his financial fate rest in a slightly different service. All of the food was an offering. Visitors were welcome and encouraged to walk around the farm which was still beautiful despite the large split in the middle of it that continued to grow wider every year.
There were hammocks strung up; so, after eating all of the food you desired, a blissful food coma could ensue. There was no rushing. Just relaxing. And an energy that continued to dive into me, deeper and deeper until I felt like hugging this man. Just for being one of the most amazing humans I’d ever met without even sharing more than a couple of words.
When you left, there was a donation box for you to contribute whatever you desired. I watched the amounts that people donated and the expression of the man which remained humble and appreciative with whatever amount people slipped into the box. He was just happy to be able to continue growing food and sharing it with others. This was the most authentic and heart-warming food experience that I’ve ever had.
If you find yourself in Pai, try a stay at the Reverie Siam Resort. The resort’s beautiful location lends to a perfect backdrop for the Silhouette Bar & Restaurant’s refined menu featuring both Mediterranean and Thai inspired flavors. The panoramic views of the unspoiled jungles of Pai, are just the icing on the cake for this culinary oasis.
Check out these great prices on cooking classes in Chiang Mai.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kellie Mogg is a traveler, blogger, humanitarian, fire dancer, environmentalist, van-dweller, jeweler, and festival enthusiast originally from Oklahoma. Her goal is to encourage conscious travel with the mindset that we are one global community. It is her mission to travel for her freedom and to feed the wanderlust of her heart but also to immerse herself in the true nature of our fellow humans.