A newsy update

man fishing with a hand net in the sea, as the sun rises

Taking some time out!

Unusually for the time of year, I am not out in my garden getting things ready for the spring and doing those jobs that I just can’t find time for in the busy summer months, because I am in Thailand, visiting my Dad and exploring this beautiful country.

sunset over rice fields and water
sunset over the rice fields

This is a huge treat. Like many freelancers, I frequently work a seven day week and rarely have a day off. As some of you will know, the past three years have been very full-on and at times deeply stressful: covid (we all shared that experience), the unexpected end of a long term relationship, followed by the shock of losing my main job, serious illness of people close to me, moving house and setting up a new garden and new business in a completely new country (beautiful Cymru). I have barely caught my breath!

Listen to your body (and your friends!)

man standing in his garden
Dad in his garden

I have known for some time that I needed a break: time to rest, re-focus and re-energise: for my physical and mental wellbeing. My body has been telling me this. My friends have been telling me this.

So when I was finally able book a flight to visit Dad, who recently celebrated his eightieth birthday, I seized the opportunity to extend my visit to four weeks. The longest I have ever been abroad. Plenty of time to rest, read, have massages, enjoy good food, walk, explore and dream.

And make plans for the year ahead!

Getting here takes a long time, but once you’re in Thailand living expenses day to day are much cheaper than back home.

It’s not all relaxation

Obviously I can’t just take four weeks off work, I’ve got bills to pay and writing commitments. One advantage of freelance work is I can do much of it anywhere, as long as there is decent wifi. I am writing this at a table on my hotel balcony, overlooking the sea in Hua Hin.

I am still working, writing, research etc which is absolutely fine. It is sunny and warm. I don’t have any housework, cooking, shopping or other chores to do. It’s marvellous.

Thai projects

Whilst I’m out here projects I am researching include how growers here deal with extended periods of dry weather (it is unlikely to rain here until May) and followed by a season of very heavy rain.

And of course exploring Thai cuisine further, especially street food.

It’s cold back home

My sons Theo and Ruairi are back home in Wales, looking after our homestead. After the icy cold weather of mid-December, when it was so cold that our pipes froze and we were without water for three days, I am glad that the boys are there keeping an eye on things.

They’re also making sure the bird feeders are kept topped up. And sending me photos of my garden – quite a contrast with Dad’s garden in Thailand!

In December, like many gardeners in the UK, the extended deeply cold weather (it was -12C in the polytunnel) killed some of the usually winter hardy brassicas. I’ve been hearing similar stories across the UK, including from many market gardeners.  I have decided not to ask how the remaining plants are faring, there’s not a lot I can do about it here and will find out soon enough when I get home.

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Doi Saket, near Chiang Mai

two young women in traditional Thai dress running beside an ancient red brick wall with flying pigeons
young women running through a flock of pigeons, Ching Mai

Dad has lived near Doi Saket for around ten years. Before then he lived in Singapore, and before that California. He loves the sunshine! Dad ran a beautiful boutique resort in the same village, deciding to sell that in 2019, and moved to his present home in 2020.

A big treat for me has been having the swimming pool to myself. It’s a lovely salt pool, no nasty chemicals, and a joy to cool off in.

Having visited this area before, I’ve done a lot of the “must see” tourist things, and so on this trip I’ve been enjoying the sheer luxury of spending time relaxing, as well as enjoying some fabulous excursions.

Dad’s garden, Doi Saket. The cat is Katy. She completely disapproved of me when I arrived but after two days allowed me to stroke her.

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Gorgeous Thai Gardens

Close to Dad’s home is the impressive Kings Project, the initiative of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. A huge agricultural project which extends from mountain tops to the river valleys, and was created in 1969. I’ll be writing a blog about this amazing place when I’m home.

Other gardens visited include Queen Skirikit Botanical Garden, Tweechol Botanic Garden and this incredibly flower meadow, right in the heart of Chiang Mai university.

I’ll write blogs about these when I’m home too.

Delicious Thai Cuisine

blue butterfly pea flower
blue butterfly pea flower

Thai food is world famous for its flavour, colour and fantastic ingredients. It is so delicious. Thai food is one of the reasons why I try to grow so many varieties of aubergines – some of the aubergines (eggplants) traditionally used in Thai meals are not widely available in the UK, except in some international grocery stores, so growing my own long green and round green aubergines is about the only way of cooking with these at home.

Every year I try to grow Thai pea eggplant – so far it has not been very successful but I persevere. I also try to grow Blue Butterfly Pea flower, which I have more success with but it is not anything like as prolific as it is here in a hot, sunny climate.

Happy in Hua Hin

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I decided to spend a week beside the sea between visiting Dad and spending a few days in Bangkok, before flying home. One of Dad’s friends recommended the hotel where I am staying, Anantalisa Villa By The Sea, and I am so glad they did because it is gorgeous. Friendly staff, great food, a beautiful beach which isn’t over-run with people and a lovely room with a balcony. On the first evening I was invited to a party hosted by the hotel owner, where I chatted with people from across the world.

There are lots of small beach cafes nearby too. Great for coffee, meals and a cold beer overlooking the sea as the sun goes down….

When you’re travelling alone, as I am now, staying somewhere friendly with good facilities makes for a much more relaxing experience.

Bangkok bound

Steph beside a water fallOn Sunday I am heading by road to Bangkok for a few days. I last visited this city when I was 19 or 20, so it will have changed quite a bit! I have some photos of that trip at home, and will have to look for them when I am back.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone I am sure that I arranged my return flight so as to be ready for the mid-February start of sowing!

I am especially looking forward to the food markets and street food.

Why I’m not carbon off-setting

Thailand is a very long way from Wales. Flying from London Heathrow to Chiang Mai is a distance of around 5,600 miles (not including the drive from home to Heathrow) and takes over 16 hours – flight to Bangkok, and then a shorter one to Chiang Mai. Of course there is the ecological cost of flying to consider. Flying pumps approx 90 tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere per hour.  In order for Dad and I to meet in person, one of us has to get on a plane. It’s cold in Britain and warm in Thailand – not a difficult choice to make!

I need to acknowledge the consequences of taking this trip, and can not justify it by saying “oh I’ll off-set it by planting trees, or buying carbon credits”. When I am back home I will be planting trees – new ones for my garden, planned anyway – but I am not going to pretend that this will somehow cancel out the trip. One problem with carbon offsetting businesses is that they can make people think that their flight isn’t having an environmental consequence, but that is an illusion.

Have you looked into how buying carbon shares etc works? It’s the strangest thing, is it greenwashing?

Some carbon offsetting companies are having a devastating impact in many places including Wales. These businesses are buying up farmland, in some areas driving up prices which means that the farms will no longer be affordable for those who want to work the land and grow our food. I was hearing about a farm in Ceredigion which is for sale, clearly at a price that is aimed at big business carbon offsetting – taking land which has been farmed for centuries out of food production. No farmer could afford the inflated price.

These large scale projects are harming local communities, as well as taking land which can grow food out of production. It’s not an ecologically sound policy to create situations where we need to import more food and increase food miles.

Now I am all for growing trees, and rewilding is part of my project in my Welsh homestead, but re-wilding and re-foresting needs to be done sensitively and with a focus on biodiversity, rather than big businesses just looking to make big profits. Or governments box-ticking their eco-credentials.


1 thought on “A newsy update”

  1. You’re right about the carbon offsetting Steph..biggest load of codswallop ever from a government..Posting some great photos…like the saying goes…”it looks tough but somebodies got to do it” enjoy the rest of your holiday and thanks for all the posts..

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