If you ask a Maldivian how politics is around the country, chances are they’ll tell you, “I don’t like politics”, especially from young women.
We are barely through the first few days of 2018 and we are already seeing the political climate getting intense and polarized, and that’s getting uncomfortable. This year’s presidential election — and we are looking at a plethora of jaw-dropping headlines, dramatic debates, dizzying poll statistics, hundreds of ugly roadside posters and banners, scandals, controversies and negative publicity — which will of course be stressful. At every turn — whether switching on the tv, scrolling through Twitter feeds, or overhearing chit-chat at a coffee shop — the tense, all-consuming election will have us fatigued. To help flee the chaos, I have done the difficult work for you to escape the election. But where to?
Before we proceed, this article is in no way intended to discourage Maldivian voters from exercising their voting rights and civic duties. As citizens of the Republic of Maldives, no matter how much some of us hate politics, all eligible voters have equal rights to vote without fear or intimidation, undue influence and with free will and to elect a head of state who should assume the powers of governance, vested with the power and authority to transform our lives and the lives of many others. Some of us may feel our votes don’t matter or count, and when we really think about it, it’s wrong! However, this article is for those teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy stubborn ones who still don’t want to cast their votes and plans to get out of the country during the elections. Many hotels and resorts around the world offer election escape packages that tune out news channels, swap television, phone access and morning paper with relaxing massages to strategically cut political coverage during their guests’ stay. While many Maldivian resorts cater the “No news, no shoe” experience, none of the resorts across the country offer election escape packages for the local population. That’s when I had the thought of writing this post!
But why Northern Thailand? Hold your horses, boys and girls! There’s a common saying that “the grass is greener on the other side”. It took me a lot more effort to provide an alternative over the current political climate in Maldives, considering the environment, the duration of stay, costs related to air travel, visa, accommodation and food, the spirit of peace and harmony, and many other amazing reasons, all of which sums up for life, liberty, and the pursuit of “getting away from all the chaos”.
Nestled in a peaceful valley near Samoeng, 75 kilometers north-west of Chiang Mai, lies a Thai organic farm haven. It is no ordinary raise-money-for-a-good-cause kind of effort, but more of a contribution to Mother Earth aiming to create a more sustainable, peaceful environment and future. The farm is managed by its owner, Pi Nan and his wife Norika. They started the farm in 2011, the same year they had their daughter, Nobara. They began hosting volunteers at their organic farm, and since then they have had more than 2,000 like-minded people visiting from all around the globe seeking inner peace, and to getaway from the torrid pace of city life, even if only for a little while.
Accommodation options at Pi Nan’s farm are very basic, it ranges from partially open mud huts to a few fully enclosed cabins that cost 200 THB ($6) a night per person, and the price includes three healthy vegan meals everyday. It is more of a camp and there are no guesthouses, older people may find sleeping arrangements uncomfortable at the farm. A typical schedule every day at the farm could be:
06:30 – Wake up!
07:00 – Yoga, preparation of breakfast and cleaning the common area
08:00 – Breakfast
09:00 – Morning work
12:00 – Lunch break
15:00 – Afternoon work / Skill sharing / cooking dinner
18:00 – Dinner
20:00 – Group Meditation
However, this schedule may change depending on weather conditions and work priorities.
Living in what amounts to a big happy family, visitors and volunteers at the farm help both Pi Nan and Norika to grow over 50 different varieties of delicious, healthy, and organic produce. Since organic farming is more time-consuming and require more attention compared to conventional farming, help and support from volunteers has always been overwhelming, and in return for their hard work, Pi Nan shares mud brick building techniques, natural building skills and vegetarian cooking methods with his fellow volunteers. The couple has created a vibrant community where life is celebrated among the locals and travelers, they meet, foster cultural exchange and mutual respect. There are also communal activities, such as yoga, festivals, weddings, harvesting peanuts on neighbor farms, and conducting English classes for the village children. The only way to reach the village is by getting on a local bus that operates once a day from Warorot Market in Chiang Mai at 11.15 am, and the journey could take 3-4 hours. The farm has Wi-Fi access, and volunteers are advised to concentrate their mind on the present moment, free from worries of the past and the future.
The farm on Google Maps
While the Election Commission of Maldives has still not decided on a date to hold the Maldives Presidential Election 2018, let’s assume it takes place between late October and early November. An average return air-fare with Thai AirAsia is around $285 on wards from Malé to Chiang Mai via Bangkok, excluding baggage fees, meal and insurance, and you will have to purchase all four sectors separately to take advantage of the lower fares. Maldivian nationals visiting Thailand are eligible for 15 days tourist visa and can be obtained on arrival through approved Immigration checkpoints. However, it is still cheaper to obtain it through the Royal Thai Consulate in Malé prior your arrival to Thailand, and the visa fees are $40 per Maldivian passport. It is also suggested that you extend your Thailand tourist visa upon arriving Bangkok before departing to Chiang Mai, this shouldn’t cost anything more than 1,900 THB ($60) for an additional 30-day extension. Please note that this itinerary and election escape getaway may not be suitable for Business class travelers and for those who do not like doing things outside their comfort zone.
If you start saving $125 a month from today, you can take advantage of this 45-day healthy retreat at Pi Nan and Norika’s farm, all for less than $800.
Election Escape Travel Budget Breakdown (45 Days)
|TRAVEL EXPENSE||COST (USD$)
|Lodging (including food)||287|
|Misc (internet, gifts, extra gear, etc)||30|
How to contact Pi Nan and Norika?
Address: 123 Moo 4 Pang Term Village
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article is in no way intended to be legal advice and should be construed strictly as opinion based.