A room with a view
The Lion Club Rattanakosin School in Chiang Maiis mixing school-stays with education
In a remote area of Chiang Mai, a school welcomes tourists to stay and experience the peaceful life in the mountains.
It is 8km off the road that leads to Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest peak. After travelling on a dirt track that snakes through mountains and valleys covered with rice paddies, I reach the primary school.
The Lion Club Rattanakosin School in Mae Wang district of Chiang Mai has opened its door to tourists as part of the Mae Wang Sustainable School Stay project. The school offers accommodation and meals from its farm.
I drive past a field where children play football. The school's backyard holds three small cabins with private terraces and breathtaking mountain views. This is my home for the night.
I am lead to an area to check-in, and a teacher takes me to my room. It is an A-frame cabin, which opens wide to the valley that is filled with sounds from a waterfall.
After classes, students learn about farming.
All the cabins come with clean beds and mosquito nets, with a private bathroom. The school's kitchen is communal and guests are encouraged to cook.
"I initiated this project for the kids. Our school does not have enough teachers and the children's literacy was every low. Around 50% of students could not read," said director Pornsarun Multi.
Initially, the school only had four teachers for 72 students in eight classes, from kindergarten to grade 6. An additional three teachers were required, and 15,000 baht per month was needed for them.
Though the school receives donations, they were not regular. Since the school is situated on a tourist trekking route, Pornsarun came up with the "school-stay" idea. With support from the private sector, she managed to build three cabins, which serve foreign donors and volunteers who visit the school to make donations and participate in lessons.
The school-stay project is part of the curriculum, as well. Students are trained to offer services from check-in, making the beds, cleaning the rooms, to guiding tourists to nearby attractions. This helps them communicate in English and improve their language skills.
I stroll into the school's farm where students are busy watering vegetables and feeding fish. Food supplies from the farm helps with the school's meals, and adds to the education value.
I am then guided to a nearby waterfall by a few students. The waterfall has a water curtain that hides a shallow cave behind it. Next door to the school is a village where visitors can explore the Karen way of life. There is also an elephant camp nearby.
"I hope this project will produce enough funds to run the school and improve the children's knowledge. At the year end, the students will go through a test and we will know if the project has worked or not," said Pornsarun.
School director Pornsarun Multi welcomes tourists as part of her project.
The Lion Club Rattanakosin School is 8km off the 1013 Road in Mae Wang district of Chiang Mai. Call 081-413-4860 or visit www.facebook.com/maewangschoolstay
Rooms cost 600 baht per night with breakfast. Reservations are recommended.