ECO-TOURISM: THE REAL THING
Updated: Sep 21
PHU CHAISAI 'MOUNTAIN OF CLEAR HEART', CHIANG RAI, NORTHERN THAILAND
Of the 36 Biodiversity hotspots in the world, who knew that the region of Indo-Burma is one of the most heavily populated? Up at Phu Chaisai Mountain Resort in Chiang Rai, we were fortunate enough to quite literally stare across the vast expanse of this region, comprising of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and even part of Southern China (although the latter is not visible to the eye).
According to the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Update (CEPF), native wildlife in the region is at risk from increased human presence, both from tourism and from those humans engaging in illegal hunting, logging and agriculture. The pressure that these ‘activities’ impose upon natural habitats is immense, affecting not only wildlife but also local populations who rely on natural ecosystems, like rice paddies and fish from the rivers in order to survive. Quite literally millions of people, as well as wildlife, are directly dependent on the sensitive environmental equanimity, biodiversity and local climate that currently exists here.
So, why am I telling you this? Because as a tourist to the region, I had a responsibility to undertake sustainable or “eco” tourism, and as a possible future tourist to the region – so do you. Upon researching accommodation options in the area, we settled upon the Mountain Resort of Phu Chaisai, which promised ‘mindful living with nature’ in a magical mountain setting. Sounds lovely right?
What we in fact discovered was so much more than this...lovely yes, but the adjective is a bit feeble. I prefer to use the word REVOLUTIONARY, which comes with a big dollop of irony given that much of the ‘revolution’ was simply in living exactly as I’m sure nature always intended we would – alongside it, harmoniously. If Phu Chaisai is an example of the world coming full-circle then I implore everyone to jump on the merry go-round! Whilst wi-fi was accessible in common areas, there was otherwise minimal technology on the 200 rai property…no TV in the rooms or radios or clocks or indeed any other outlet for the unadulterated propaganda which masquerades as ‘news’ these days.
Electricity usage was kept to a minimum, even the toast at breakfast was cooked on coals (the waft of charcoal early in the morning is strangely alluring) yet despite the disappearance of these so called ‘mod-cons’, we lacked for nothing. To be so utterly immersed in nature is rare these days: up in the restaurant sala, you can sit and simply watch the animal world go about its business, reassuringly oblivious to us humans as we crunch away on a locally grown capsicum…..there is a strong sense that here we are the guests in their world, not they the guests in ours.
In and amongst this nature nirvana, you will often find M.L. Sudavdee Kriangkrai, affectionately known as Mhom Da by the local villagers, wandering the resort scattering seeds as she goes. Mhom Da is Thailand’s leading Interior Designer and the creator of Phu Chaisai, who we were fortunate enough to dine with on our first night. The accolade is not one you would ever know (such is her humility) but what she will gladly share with you is her enchantment with nature and her passion for protecting it. All building materials at the resort are made from renewable sources such as bamboo & rattan, all soft furnishings are made from indigenous cotton, all produce for food & beverage is organic & chemical free and comes either from the estate or nearby farms, and all systems which support the day-to-day running of the resort follow best sustainable practice.
Mhom Da created Phu Chaisai long before eco-resorts even existed or eco-tourism was considered “trendy”. When you create from the heart, from a place of peace and love, the outcome is one of intrinsic beauty. Beauty is everywhere at Phu Chasai: in the flowers & the flora, the insects & the birds, the landscape and its produce, the mountains & the mists, the sounds & the smells and, of course, in the smiles & eyes of the people who call these mountains their home. Whilst I advocate and support sustainable tourism wherever we all may travel, this a region which deserves special attention and if you are making the trip to Chiang Rai, it has to be Phu Chaisai.