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  • So, I arrive in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

    I wander the streets set up in a small cafe - The Blue Diamond - begin reading a backpacker magazine and find a short article on Mindful Farm in Samoeng just east of the city. Hmmm, sounds good 150B per night stay on a real farm with a former Buddhist Monk? Learn meditation, the simple life as Pi Nan (Pi Nan translates to former monk, its a form of respect) puts it upon my arrival. The rented Honda 125 ride is not the easiest! I strap my bag and go - only to get lost several times due to the inability to read road signs or the map. Maps in Thailand are horrible - it really depends which map you in the misfortune of locating?!

    After several failed attempts at asking for directions I finally locate a young woman who can speak english and assists me with the road and signs to guide me to Pang Term, the small village that Pi Nan grew up in as a hunter in his youth. His sister, brother are waiting in the village shop and they guide me to the farm. The farm is a series of small mud huts, all exposed due to two years of neglect and monsoon rains. Basically a tin roof remains over what we will call the kitchen area. No toilet yet, since the pump in the small stream is not working. More on this later.

    Sa Wat dee Kap

    I am Pi Nan

    Wow, this place is remote!? You were a hunter, before farmer?

    Yes, when I was very young, we killed anything. I hunted with my father. The Thais eat anything that moves. At one time this valley was filled with buffalo, cows, chicken, monkeys, and small tigers. Pi Nan holds up his hands to show the size, which matches a small cat.

    Small Tigers!? Tigers the size of cats - nice image. I let this one go, half laughing.

    Yes then I entered the Wat, or temple to become Monk.

    Ahhh, I see.

    This is where I learn to be compassionate and did not want to kill for my food any longer.
    I am like a Buddhist Cowboy.

    Hahaha, this is perfect, I think. The night is cool and warm all at once. I can sense the kindness, the openness, as we share a simple meal together (most of the food I cannot identify) with Pi Nan and his "Papa", a man in his mid seventies that is tirelessly splitting bamboo for the thatched roofs. We finish an amazing meal by the fire. All vegetarian and from his mothers farm. I offer up the milk and water I brought with me. I could not find bread that Pi Nan requested by email at the market. But there is plenty of rice - lots of sticky rice!

    I set up camp within one of the huts - with another volunteer, a sharp witted, quiet 20 year old Italian with a German accent named Dominic. He laughs when he sees the expression on my face upon my arrival - lets say I was a little road weary and shocked at the condition of the farm.

    After dinner I crash hard in the small hammock/tent thing I brought with me. Not knowing really what I had gotten myself into.
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