Leave the bustle behind and you'll enjoy what takes root

Bangkok dwellers tired of the clamour of life in the capital could find unexpected pleasures by taking up the simple pleasures of cultivating a small plot of land to call your own

These days many people are leaving Bangkok for the provinces. There are several reasons for this. Retirees head out of the city because they want to live where life is simpler and expenses lower. Others who are still working, uncertain about the situation in Bangkok, buy land in the countryside for the future.

THE GREEN MILES: A growing number of young city workers are looking to the countryside for a quieter pace of life and because of uncertainties in Bangkok.

There are also those who are drawn to the idea of farming. Many of them were originally from the provinces, went to Bangkok to work, discovered that they did not like it there, and returned home. But perhaps more interesting are the ones who were born and raised in Bangkok and decided to leave. These are often young men and women with good jobs who buy land in less built-up areas and then begin farming at the subsistence level in accordance with His Majesty the King's sufficiency economy philosophy.

They may combine fruit and vegetable farming with kitchen gardening and also raise fish and chickens. Chemical-free, organic methods of cultivation are used, and since the farming is done at a subsistence level, they consume most of what they produce, selling anything they do not use. This kind of farming is the goal of many younger city dwellers who will eventually retire when they feel its appropriate.

Phanphimon Boonyaphinyo, finance manager at Eason Paint, has made this decision. She is a single woman of 36 who has lived in Bangkok all her life, a city native through and through who lives in a high-priced condo but leaves Bangkok whenever she has a day off to visit her property in Phetchaburi's Nong Ya Plong district.

On her farm there she grows coconuts, bananas and mangos as well as kitchen garden plants such as limes, long beans, chillies and lemongrass. She exchanges her brand-name Bangkok work clothes for inexpensive farming wear, rubber boots and cloth hat, then changes back again when it is time to return to the office.

She said that her life in Bangkok used to be a routine of going to work in the morning, returning home in the evening, and roaming the shopping malls on weekends. Her job wasn't a problem, she enjoyed it, but she knew that her health was not good. She suspected that her diet had something to do with it and began eating chemical-free vegetables, which were expensive and hard to find.

She wondered if working hard to make plenty of money to spend on expensive produce the right way to live? Why not grow it herself? As someone who worked in finance, she felt that making a profit from financial transactions was like buying and selling products, rather than actually making something. She preferred the idea of producing something herself.

Since her health was a problem, she decided that she would work to improve it as a gift to herself. She turned to the King's recommendations, with his theory of kaset baeb phaw phieng, or subsistence farming. Using this approach, a small plot of land can yield enough food to eat and sell and provide a way of living that is satisfying, simple, economical and close to nature.

There was an abundance of relevant information on the internet, and a wide network of others interested in the subject. She began with a year-long search for a suitable piece of land, and once she had bought it, she set to work.

Ms Phanphimon was lucky that her land had once been used for farming, so that she did not have to begin from scratch.

"I have to admit that it was hard work," she said. "Hoes and shovels are hard on hands that are more used to a computer mouse. But I learned many valuable lessons from local people, who offered suggestions."

She said that when she started there was an blind spot in her way of thinking, which was based on the orderly approach to getting things done that city living demands. The villagers also thought in an orderly way, but one suited to a completely different kind of environment. It grew from village life-shaped perceptions that provided ways to solve certain problems.

Her city-bred ignorance of certain considerations led to trouble at first. For example, when she burned some wood scraps that she had swept up, she didn't consider the direction in which the wind was blowing. When strong gusts came up the fire flared up almost as high as the coconut trees and startled her. She didn't know how to extinguish it, as she only had one bucket and was alone.

But she didn't give up, and after some time she grew to love the work. Her mother and different relatives who had initially objected to her plan to farm and live in a different province changed their minds and started making frequent visits. Although their stays were short, they began to understand the attraction of the lifestyle and to enjoy it. There were always things to do and plenty of opportunity for exercise close to nature.

It wasn't only close relatives who came to visit. People Ms Phanphimon knew started getting interested in subsistence farming. A lot was being written about it on social networks, including some information that Ms Phanphimon posted herself. More and more young people from Bangkok began showing up on land near her property, including architects and other professionals. Some were men who became so absorbed in getting things going there that they did everything themselves, including building houses and sinking pilings, discovering and extending their own capabilities.

Ms Phanphimon's experience is one example of a young person finding herself and then setting to work building the life she wanted. She did not waste time or let an opportunity pass. Many others are now following her example or discovering similar possibilities on their own. It is a trend that promises good things for the people who embrace it, and for the country overall.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Suthon Sukphisit
Position: Writer