Podcast: Pun Pun – Sustainable organic farming

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In this podcast, I met up with Peggy and Jo – the two founders of Pun Pun. During the interview, we discussed their views on Sustainable living & farming, Earthen house building, how they started out, and the philosophy & vision driving their work.

Pun Pun (meaning ‘thousand varieties’) is an organic farm, seed-saving operation, and sustainable living and learning centre based about 50km North of Chiang Mai, Thailand in Mae Taeng district. The first I knew about Pun Pun was last year, when I heard about an amazing new organic vegetarian restaurant that had opened in the grounds of Wat Suan Dok temple. I visited it at the first opportunity, and quickly became a regular!

Pun Pun Organic farm - sustainable living in Thailand

Pun Pun offers a variety of workshops and training courses, from their 10 week internship program offering an in-depth, hands-on experience in organic gardening (including seed saving, earthen building, and community living) through to 3-5 day earthen building workshops, and sustainability study trips. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can contact them via their website – the details are below.

Peggy & Jo - Pun Pun restaurant, ThailandFurther information

www.punpunthailand.org – For further information on Pun Pun, including upcoming workshops and internships at Pun Pun farm. Map of how to get to Pun Pun restaurant.

You SabaiYou Sabai Home is located in Mae Taeng, next door to Pun Pun’s organic farm and sustainable living learning center outside a village in Mae Tang province, 50 km from Chiang Mai. They also build and live in simple earthen houses, close to nature.

You might also be interested in reading this article proving a rather interesting slant on the use of organic farming techniques in Africa – Green activists ‘are keeping Africa poor’.

Health reasons for being a vegetarian

If there is something all health experts can agree upon – it is that animal fat is NOT healthy. In fact the best thing you can do for your health is to become a vegetarian. A healthy vegetarian diet also protects you against numerous diseases, including: heart disease, cancer, and strokes.

Vegetarianism - Fruit and vegetables

The American Dietetic Association have declared that vegetarians have "lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer" and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be overweight. This of course doesn’t mean that you are necessarily skinny just because you are a vegetarian – but you are definitely healthier. Research has shown that vegetarians are 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and they have 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. Meat-eaters are furthermore nine times more likely to be overweight than vegans are.

The consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products has also been strongly linked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and male impotence. Scientists have also found that vegetarians have stronger immune systems than their meat-eaters and this means that they are less prone to everyday sicknesses like the flu. Vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters. Some may infer that it is not worth living longer if you can eat what you want – but there are more reasons than "merely" health to be a vegetarian (read: Global hunger: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed)

A good vegetarian diet is perfectly sufficient for you to get all the nutrients you need, and without all the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal products.

Highly recommended: On PETA’s website you can request a great, free vegetarian starter kit and they even send it for free (amazing!!!). I ordered one online for both of my sisters and my mum and they were delivered free of charge to their house: http://goveg.com/order.asp

Chiang Mai – the most vegetarian friendly city in Thailand

Vegetarian food in Chiang Mai

The best vegetarian guide for Chiang Mai is made by Ath (Phongsathon Kitchawet), who is a webdesigner, artist, photographer, writer and idealist.

When Ath moved to Chiang Mai in 2000, he found the Vegetarian Restaurant Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand map by David Freyer (15 March 2000). This map showed 39 vegetarian restaurants and 8 veggie-friendly restaurants, giving a total of 47 restaurants.

Chiang Mai Municipal city’s area is 40.216 square kilometer, so in 2000 the average was almost one restaurant per square kilometer…true heaven for vegetarians like myself.

Chiang Mai definitely has the most vegetarian restaurants in Thailand.

Surveying in September 2007 by Ath, there were more than 28 vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai City Municipality area. Less than 2000 because of closure or change from vegetarian to vegetarian-friendly (also meat) restaurant.

However, the Chiang Mai vegetarian scene is still vibrant, with more than 18 new vegetarian restaurants opening since 2000 (half the restaurants currently open) and the average is 1 restaurant per 1.43 km2, which is still high.

Chiang Mai’s broad cultural mix also plays a large role with Thai, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Muslim and western influences evident in Chiang Mai’s vegetarian restaurants.

Local culture seems to be less of an influence with some notable exceptions. The famous Northern Thai monk Khruba Sriwichai became a vegetarian in 1903. However this seems to have had only a limited effect on local people.

Even though there are more vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai than other Thai cities there is still only 1 vegetarian restaurant for every 5,356 people in the municipal area (population of 149,959, March 2006).When you consider the social, ethical and environmental factors, this is still very few.

Besides all of this very interesting information that Ath could give me, the website also has Thai language learning (with audio), a great map of vegetarian restaurants, and sight seeing information for Chiang Mai etc.

To visit the website – go to: http://www.geocities.com/chiangmaivegetarian/indexeng.htm

Pun Pun Organic Vegetarian restaurant, Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai

You may also be interested in the podcast interview I did with the owners of Pun Pun (Peggy & Jo), where we discuss some of their views on sustainable living & organic farming, and talk about the courses they offer on their Pun Pun Organic farm outside Chiang Mai.

If you live in Chiang Mai, or even Northern Thailand for that matter, you may well already have heard of Pun Pun restaurant. It’s one of those word-of-mouth epidemics that spreads so fast that before you can recommend it to someone, someone else has got there first! Pun Pun opened a few months ago in a small area towards the back of Wat Suan Dok, which itself is located about 2kms along Suthep Road to the West of Chiang Mai’s old town.

Pun Pun restaurant, Wat Suan Dok

Pun Pun was set up by a Thai/American couple and sells organic vegetarian food, grown at Pun Pun Organic farm in the countryside outside Chiang Mai.

So what’s the food like? Absolutely amazing. Even for a non-vegetarian like myself it beats most other restaurants I have been to in Chiang Mai. Almost all dishes are 35 Thai Baht – about $1 – and the fresh fruit shakes are about the same price (The Passion fruit is recommended!) .

Atmosphere-wise, set in the middle of the Wat Suan Dok grounds, monks are continuously slowly wandering past, and the backrgound sounds are often interspersed with the monks chanting nearby. Finally, the friendly, smiling staff makes it one of our favourit restaurants in Chiang mai!

More info for those that need it:

Pun Pun’s opening hours are 9-7pm. They have a delivery service that costs an extra 20 Baht ($0.60) on top of the menu – the phone number for this is 086 573 7049 – the delivery service only runs from 9am-5pm. To get to Pun Pun, head to Wat Suan Dok then walk down the road to the left of the main temple towards the back of the temple grounds, it is on your right near the back.
Pun Pun’s website – www.punpunthailand.org.

Map showing Pun Pun restaurant & Wat Suan Dok


View Pun Pun restaurant in a larger map