They say good times fly pass quick in life.
As I sit to write about this journey that's been one of the best in my globetrotting so far, I think of how true it is.
My mother used to tell me that people living in the remotest places in the world come with wisdom that is alien to us. She would tell me stories about how people in the countryside have a depth in character and unparalleled integrity, no matter which part of the world. I am not sure how she knew about this, but being a city dweller made me long for this wisdom and experiences.
During my travels in India and around the world in the past years, I came very close to witness this way of life in villages that she would tell me. And although I couldn't entirely understand what her words meant, I saw how it was different.
Thailand Village Academy brought me to amazing Thailand again, a country that's very close to my heart. But little did I know that this trip would be nothing like how I had explored this country before.
Because on this trip, I became a PART of village life in Nathon. It changed everything to me. I finally get what my mom meant all along.
People of Nathon village embraced with me their open arms and welcomed me not just into their communities but into their hearts and their ways of life.
The kindness, warmth and hospitality of people in Ban Nathon swept me off my feet, from the moment we arrived amidst a grand traditional welcome. They considered me not as some foreigner on an excursion but as a daughter. No, it was not some superficial gestures to make me feel comfortable. Their generous love reflected in their eyes and genuine smiles were infectious.
The transition from being total strangers to feeling like home happened very swiftly, and before I could even know, I felt happy among these people. They treated me as one of their own wherever I went - The homestay, neighbouring houses, weaving villages, farms or anywhere. A Sawadeekha with a broad smile was an energiser. I eventually realized that these virtues are ingrained in them, which made me fall in love with these people.
It is a part of their way of life, which speaks volumes about their character. They treat each other with the same respect, warmth and kindness. Women and men hug and greet each other on roads, cook, dine and drink together often, visit each other homes, exchange skills, food, work together in farms, celebrate occasions and have fun like one big family. People from different ethnic groups live in these villages in harmony with zero conflict and negativity. They are incredibly proud of their identity and fiercely protect and nurture it every day.
In this age of the internet, virality and superficial social life, witnessing these things about the people of Nathon humbled me, increasing my respect towards them multifold.
The wisdom of these people made me understand how you don't need much to sustain, and nature always has enough for us to live and let live.
People of Tai Guan, Phutai and Tai Kaleong ethnic groups possess unique wisdom that's been passed on from their ancestors in every walk of life. The entire village has been practising organic farming long before it became a 'fad' or a cool thing. They cultivate according to their needs using natural fertilizers and bio charcoal.
We have a saying in the Sanskrit language in India which goes 'Annadaatha Sukhibhava' - 'Anna' referring to rice, 'Daatha' meaning producer of rice, 'Sukhibhava' - Bless him with happiness and prosperity. So this line means to bless those who give us food - A phrase in our culture used to respect our farmers. I got a chance for the first time to plant rice seedlings with farmers in this remote village of Nathon, which made me witness these things hands-on. I uttered this blessing to these locals with immense zeal.
Through secondary occupations like cloth and bamboo weaving and smithing, people have been using their wisdom to sustain in other ways without relying on just agriculture or fishing. It felt incredibly impressive to know that all the households know bamboo weaving, passed on from their ancestors. I met Ms Lamduan, one of the women who has adopted new theory agriculture in her organic farm, and impressed by her passion.
All the temptation of technologies hasn't distracted them from making use of traditional methods. When it's so easy for them to switch to commercial ways these days, this unique way of life of their shows their love for their practices and respect to nature.
The unique culture and traditions of these ethnic groups showed me how folklores and legends are an indispensable part of our lives passed on from generations.
They have been reviving weaving to preserve their traditional attires from fading away and not just to make an income. They impart their culture, language and traditions in schools and homes to the youth, imbibing them with their ways of life.
Whether it's a skill or a traditional attire, people of Nathon have been protecting their identity, and this is what I admire about them. And for travellers looking to experience the other side of Thailand, Nathon has many things to offer including rafting, weaving tours, and visiting organic farms. It is also a place to relax amidst nature for tourists.
For the first time, I farmed, fished, spun some threads, rafted, made bouquets, offered alms to monks, danced in public for a parade, danced on a boat, lied down in the middle of the river on a plank, dressed up in Thai costume, dined amidst lush rice fields and met so many lovely people at once - All of these firsts will be what I will take away from Nathon.
I sincerely wish and hope that Ban Nathon continues to be what it is - full of life, passion, warmth and hospitality, living their ways of living with integrity, kindness and wisdom.
Now as I look back, all of it feels like a dream - one long, happy dream with loads of happy memories — Kob Khun Ka Ban Nathon, for a trip home away from home.