It was the beginning of May 2019 and I was on my way across the Thai Peninsula to the amazingly beautiful Eco-Logic, an eco tourist resort in the unique rainforest area of PakSong in Amphoe Phato, south east of Ranong. In case you’re not sure what ecotourism is, it’s tourism that respects and enjoys the local environment, its culture and creates jobs locally. Staying at ecotourist resorts is often expensive but Eco-Logic has a budget to suit most people, whether travelling alone, with family or friends or in a group. Eco-Logic has a difference though, a big difference, which makes visiting this unique, and magical resort an experience not to be missed.
Let me tell you about my journey…
Article written by Andrea Arnold.
I had hired a taxi to get to Eco-Logic from Ranong but you can get a bus there as well. All the locals know where it is. The weather was just beginning to break from the dry season and in the distance the hills were misty with the evidence of the monsoon rains to come. It was beautiful.
I arrived at Eco-Logic on a Sunday just as a shower started. It was definitely a wow moment as I stepped out onto the reception area. which overlooked a meandering river valley passing through a vista of rainforest. The view was breathtaking.
Ingrid van der Staaten and Roos (Rosalie) Tieges set up Eco-Logic resort specifically to fund a brilliant charity called the Thai Child Development Foundation which owns 16 acres of land in Paksong. They are cleverly providing funds for the Foundation from 100% of Eco-Logic’s profits while running the most amazing relaxing holiday resort for tourists. At the same time they are ensuring there is minimal impact on the rainforest where they are situated. Ingrid and Rosalie take care of the admin but Eco-Logic and the Thai Child Development Foundation (TCDF) is staffed throughout by local people. More of this later…
Ton (pronounced Tun) met me and took me to the reception where a young lady named Tiaen greeted me and tied a bracelet of white cotton thread on my wrist. She explained that this is the Thai way to give good luck and signify purity and that she was my host for the day. Ton bought me a delicious herbal tea made with refreshing Pandan leaves. The tea varies from day-to-day and the next day it was Mulberry leaf tea.
Ton is a teacher at TCDFs special school for disabled Thai children as well as a host for Eco-Logic and would later take me around Eco-Logics grounds.
Before that I was shown to the most exquisite room, with a leaf artwork on the wall made by a former guest. (There is a project for creatives called, the Artist in Residence program, for those who give their talents to the charity). It was simple but elegant, with a four poster bed, desk, closet and a neat little patio at the back with a shower, washbasin and toilet. At the front was a covered verandah with a seating area and hammock overlooking the river valley and gardens. Although it was basic and in keeping with an eco-philosophy, practicalities had not been forgotten.
I fell in love immediately!
Solar panels are the way forward and they are working on this. Mosquito nets and burners are also provided, although I didn’t get bitten, maybe I’m lucky. Everything is provided, even handmade organic body wash and shampoo made by TCDF young adults with disabilities, and if you are missing anything you only have to ask. The reception has its own generator so there is never a shortage of facilities. As well as all this, each room has a kettle, cups, cutlery, and bottled water in glass bottles — no plastic here! (You can use plastic bottles as long as you recycle them, it all adds to the charity’s funds). There is a daily cleaning service, towels and linens are generally changed every three days. Each room has a lamp with a battery charged light bulb as well as torches, candles and lighters just in case there’s a power failure. After all it is the rainforest and power lines can be brought down by fallen trees.
The accommodation at Eco-Logic includes 3 modern bungalows, which have just been refurbished, private river rooms like mine, family rooms, dormitory rooms and even tents for the more adventurous. In short everyone and every budget is catered for. They are especially geared up for fun family holidays and there is plenty to do at Eco-Logic as you will see.
Three lovely ladies arrived on the same day as me, Mo from Holland, Marcia from Israel and Topaz from Canada. Ton gave us a tour of the buildings and grounds that make up Eco-Logic and the facilities for the Foundation. While we were walking round, it became clear just what a clever concept Ingrid and Rosalie have put together — environmental tourism which raises funds for disabled children and helps the community. Thai people run the charity and local people can supplement their farming income as well as providing a market for local business.
The first stop on our tour were the catfish ponds. They are made from three sections of large, decorated concrete pipes. As the catfish get bigger they are transferred through the different ponds until they get to a size when they can be harvested and sold or used in the restaurant. Catfish is a very healthy food, low in sodium and high in protein, vitamins and minerals. It also tastes delicious!
The clever bit here is that the water from the fish ponds is filtered through the clay balls providing nutrition for the plants, cleaning the water in the process, which then returns as clean water for the fish, producing a never ending cycle of minimum water usage with minimum maintenance. The plants are changed regularly depending on the season but we saw passionfruit, loofahs and cucumbers growing. The fish ponds led on to the aquaponic garden where plants are grown in troughs of water and small clay balls. No soil required.
Then we moved on to the recycling bank. Anyone from the local community can bring their recycling here. There is no other waste pickup in the area so most of the local people burn it, which is not environmentally friendly. People collect points by the weight of their rubbish. They clean and pack it, bring it to TCDF to have it weighed by the staff who fill in a personal record book and it gets put into the correct bins. With the points collected they can buy educational items for the children (even bicycles when they save enough!), and TCDF raises money by selling the rubbish to recycling firms who collect it.
Situated close to the recycling bank are stables for the foundation’s two ponies, Tony and Cartoon, who are ridden by all the children, (but only children) including visitor’s children.
They are kept very clean and the manure is composted for the plants and vegetable garden, which Ton took us to see next.
The organic vegetable garden is managed by the gardener, a lovely lady called Pee Sun. Most of the Eco-Logic and TCDF staff food is grown here. Pee Sun manages it beautifully and we could see rows of eggplants, peppers, beans, long beans, cucumbers, gourds and morning glory to mention a few. The Foundation students and the local children are taught here about growing food and they also help to tend the plants, but I think picking the veg is what they enjoy most!
Across the road we had a peek at the mushroom farm. The mushrooms are organic, like all the produce, and supply Eco-Logic as well as being sold — 8 kilos a week is produced. The variety looked like oyster mushrooms - very delicious. They are grown in bags of substrate which have holes in them through which the mushrooms emerge.
Not far away is the chicken farm where the students also help. The chickens provide eggs for the Eco-Logic restaurant and the community.
By the way, all the food is cooked on natural biogas produced from food leftovers and natural waste from the farm. And all the growing and raising of produce forms part of TCDF’s occupational training programme to help prepare the special need students to be independent and have a useful life. For instance, one student has been funded a mushroom farm at his own home and sells his produce at market. Another helps the cook and is paid the going rate for her work which is also the case for the student who does your laundry. TCDF funded a washing machine so she could do the laundry at home and get paid for it. And yet another has a fish pond at home supplying fresh fish in the local market.
So much to see here! We took a look at the well maintained plant nursery where all the new seedling trees and plants are propagated before being planted out. Then we passed the TCDF centre, a double story building with four classrooms on top and an activity area underneath.
Outside there’s a play area that’s in the process of being upgraded and guest children can use it too. Passed this, by the river, is a small eco village of clay houses, I mentioned earlier, known as DinDang (meaning red soil).
The houses are lived in by staff and their families and also for teaching courses on environmental and eco construction using natural and eco friendly building materials. And there was a big surprise for me — the delicious coffee served in the restaurant that is grown on the land is dried, roasted and ground here too. Heaven!
Near the shallow river, which has a pebble beach, there is a hardcourt area and a sports field. Above this, up the hill, is a well appointed yoga studio and an equipment store.
There are helmets and life vests for trips as well as loads of sports equipment. I missed out on table tennis, next time I won’t!
Our tour has taken us through meandering pathways and lush vegetation so you only catch a glimpse of what is around the next corner.
Along the way we came across little beds of pineapples growing, unexpected flowers, hidden hammocks and relaxing seating areas with fireplaces and candles for evening chillouts to watch the sunset across the rainforest. Perfect!
Ton has been a mine of information and we arrive back at reception now relaxed and ready to chill on the comfy verandah chairs before dinner. I chose a book from the library and a homemade flower lemonade from the drinks menu.
There are so many lovely drinks like bubbly basil splash, fresh coconut, fruit yoghurt lassies and Thai green tea it was a hard choice to make. You can help yourself to herbal tea which is always ‘on tap’ or rather ‘on brew’. The mulberry tea was beautifully delicate although the teas available vary according to the season.
There’s a childrens playroom, an arts and crafts and games table, lockers for use during the day and, as you would imagine (or not, in the middle of a rainforest) WiFi. Outside the restaurant is a play area for children that includes a paddling pool. As well as the library there is a massage room which I definitely ‘clocked’ for future reference, a small shop where they sell products made on site such as their own special coffee, handmade herbal shampoo and body soap, printed t-shirts, a small array of local clothing, small gift products made in the local community, oils and different types of tiger balm (the ginger one is really effective if you get any insect bites).
I had opted to have the ‘eat & greet’ meals featuring local dishes the cook prepares from ingredients that the TCDF students collect each day and they were delicious. There are many tables to sit at but my new found friends and I all congregated on the big table in the middle. Ingrid told me that is invariably what their guests seem to do. And while we were getting to know each other we decided to take a Thai lesson with Ton the next day. My first day and it felt good to be in this little piece of paradise…
I decided to go to the sunrise yoga session next morning (6.30-7.30) before breakfast. So lovely to do it looking out over the river valley in the fresh air. Definitely to be recommended. Bee is an excellent instructor and a beautiful, calm lady. She came to Eco-Logic to work after deciding an office job in Bangkok was not for her, so learnt yoga and meditation and changed her life. You will hear more about Bee as she took us on some adventures during the week! Bee takes the Foundation students for yoga and meditation as well and guests are welcome to join in, if they wish.
Breakfast next and the food at Eco-Logic is something quite special. Both Thai and Western dishes are made with love (no MSG or monosodium glutamate) and it tastes like that. Everything is carefully prepared and presented. It is ‘slow’ food made to order. All the dishes are available with vegetarian and vegan options and detox days are available if you would like them. Food for kids is on the menu too, as are sweet snacks, hearty snacks and salads. The cook will prepare a special ‘Thai style pinto package’ delivered to the pebble beach by the river or to your porch if you’re going for a walk and picnics for days out.
My favourite breakfast was very simple - muesli, fresh fruit in season (banana, pineapple) and lots of the smooth homemade bio yogurt.
(Since I’ve come back home to the UK I’ve had to search the shops hard for a similar yogurt. The supermarkets don’t have it, but eventually I found a local farm one.) You can order anything from the Eco-Logic menu (and probably off the menu as well) between 08.00 and 20.00. And with your freshly brewed, handpicked Paksong coffee, a delicious cake or snack freshly prepared in the bakery is so good.
My new friends and I are having a Thai lesson with Ton this morning after a dip in the river. Later we are going on a hike with Bee through the forest to a local waterfall. We are being joined by a French family of five from Singapore. Mum and Dad, two children and a toddler (baby facilities are available too, including bed, seat, bath, and booster seat as well as a babysitting service). It sounds like it’s going to be a great day.
The Thai lesson was hilarious, we all had a ball. And hopefully we have learnt something about Thai culture which Ton was keen to explain to us, as well as a few phrases to help us get by. He thoughtfully provided everyone with much needed crib sheets to remind us all of our newly learned Thai.
After Ton’s lesson we began our walk down the road to the rainforest led by Bee.
The weather was lovely, not too hot as there was a little rain in the night. We had plenty of time to chat and learn about each other and at the forest we checked out the trees and bird sounds (most of the time you can’t see them).
None of us were experts but it was very enjoyable. We eventually reached the waterfall around two hours later — We actually overshot it and had to backtrack down the road a bit, but we checked the way with a couple of locals and all was well. Still, we felt we really deserved our dip in the waterfall and the kids were in, in a flash. All of us had a brilliant time in the water and it was very refreshing after our trek.
At lunchtime Bee went to collect our picnic from the jeep which had arrived ready to take us back later in the afternoon. It was presented wrapped and tied up with banana leaves and looked appetising before it was even revealed — it was a Thai rice meal — and very yummy.
Eventually we tore ourselves away from the waterfall, kids protesting, and walked back down the riverbank to pile into the jeep back to Eco-Logic.
Mo drew an illustrative map of our journey which was very creative, and a lovely momento of our trip.
By the way Ingrid and Roselie are very happy to provide accommodation and food if you would like to organise a special group event or holiday such as workshops, seminars and team building using the facilities at Eco-Logic. The individual bungalows can also be rented out for longer stays and be available for either you or your friends or family to have a break from the stresses of modern life. And they also have a creative programme for people wanting to work on their own individual projects. Just contact either Ingrid or Rosalie and find out what they can arrange.
Early evening most of us opted for yoga and meditation before dinner. I have to admit that I was not that keen on yoga having tried it a few times in the UK, but it felt different in the open air and I really got into the zone during my sessions with Bee. It was a sociable evening, playing some games with the children early on before dinner and then (for me anyway) sampling a couple of cocktails made by another Ton - Ton no. 2, a cocktail guru who also hosts at EcoLogic and can do magic tricks as well! We tried out the most amazing banoffee pie made by the bakery for desert — nothing like the shop bought variety.
On Wednesday morning, Marcia and I volunteered to help Pee Sun (she’s a lot of fun), with the vegetable garden. We cleared one of the rows and planted Morning Glory seeds.
After that we all went foraging for wild food in the forest and garden with the help of Ton 2 (who made the amazing cocktails the night before). We gathered edible ferns, which are cooked with rice, banana leaves and stems.
Marcia then had a massage and I decided to watch Topaz having a cookery lesson with Moon, the chef, hoping to pick up a few pointers. It was amazing — she cooked three courses, massaman curry, fried rice and egg with tofu and sweet and sour vegetables
We had a great afternoon learning about Thai cookery and all the different vegetables and spices in it. We ate her dishes for dinner that evening, along with the rice dish made with the edible ferns that we collected earlier, with our banquet laid out on fresh banana leaves. Bliss!
There is so much to do at Eco-Logic, depending on the weather. River rafting with plenty of time to look around, swim and try steering; days out to the amazing shallow water beaches on the Andaman sea nearby; snorkelling trips with snorkel masks and life vests provided along with picnic lunches and transport; hiking; visiting the local fresh markets famous for Thai smiles and hospitality (take your own bags and say no to the plastic ones); taking part in cultural events (Eco-Logic often get invitations to local weddings and other events and guests are welcome to attend too; lessons in Muay Thai with Kroo Noi, professional Thai boxing champion who teaches the local kids; walking shopping trips to the colourful central market in Ranong with Thai dancing, live music and activities for children. And more.
The next day after yoga and a dip in the river we each planted a tree in Eco-Logic’s grounds.
I planted a papaya however TCDF/Eco-Logic have planted hundreds of different indigenous and fruit trees over the years. They also have cleared some land above Eco-Logic (roughly 8 acres) for an orchard and other horticultural use to be organised and worked by the community. The lovely daughter of the French family painted a beautiful stone the day before and she placed it next to her tree. After this the family went river rafting.
Ingrid made a special ‘Paksong Crazy Chocolate Cake’ for Tiaen’s birthday (Eco-Logics other host). She had been away for a few days and just got back. It was the BEST — and vegan. You’ll just have to visit Eco-Logic to get the recipe!
At last I had the massage I had set my eyes on when I arrived, choosing a traditional Thai massage. But I could have had an aromatherapy massage, a smooth skin body scrub or a manicure or pedicure or even a combination of all of these! What a great way to spend a chilled afternoon… just time to get down to the evening yoga and meditation session.
On Friday mornings, it’s possible to join in with the TCDF students on a farm picking and collection session which involved a lot of laughter.
Then we took a trip with Bee to experience the Raksa Warin Hot Springs in Khuan Kaeng Hot Spring Forest Park, a National Park about 40 minutes from Eco-Logic in the town of Bo Nam Ron. First we went to see ‘mummy’ ‘daddy’ and ‘baby’ hot springs, very popular attractions, before heading down by the river.
There was also a large open-walled building with a concrete floor which was heated by the spring water. We all laid down on the floor and had a nice warm rest. After that we bought the most amazing ice-cream with all sorts of extra add ons and sprinkles to be had - Walls eat your heart out. We crossed over the river on a small rope bridge and Bee found a little place tucked down on the other side to have a picnic.
After lunch we moved on to the main course - a spa, or more correctly, many spas, further up the river, still in the National Park, where the temperature was different in each one. One was 30° a couple were 35° more at 40° and the hottest of them was 44° that day.
It was a very popular place. The river by the spas was warm too and when we sat on the bank with our feet in the water small fish came up and nimbled the hard skin off. Crazy, a natural beauty treatment for free.
On the way back we stopped at a local temple complex in the Namtok Ngao National Park which was even set up for the digital age — you can ‘like’ it on facebook!
We climbed up a series of steps, with our yoga mats to the top of a high hill behind the temple.
We had a peaceful yoga session with Bee at the top near a statue of Buddha.
The view was spectacular, from the rainforest with its waterfalls to right across to the Andaman Sea, it all felt very mindful and spiritual.
Back down at the bottom of the steps we fed some huge, colourful carp in a large lake by the temple in the dusk. Needless to say, I didn’t do the evening yoga session when we got back, I just chilled with a cocktail, haha!
On Saturday we all spent some time with the TCDF students and local children joining in first with a yoga session and following that, an English lesson. Everyone got a bit excited in the yoga lesson as Bee made up a few special moves involving animals like elephants, cats and snakes. Fortunately we had a few minutes of calm meditation before the English lesson which included colouring and making models of the earth and eventually ended up with musical chairs, so we all got very excited again.
The TCDF students are delightful and positive. They are supported in their learning aims to reach their best possible individual potential by the TCDF daily manager Gun and her team, making use of local knowledge, projects and institutions. Their support for underprivileged children will last for as long as it takes, but also no longer than it takes so they achieve the independence they deserve.
Medical care is provided in conjunction with an educational programme and the centre also acts as a creative learning hub for the local village youths. Seeing how the students interacted with us, complete strangers, I know they are doing a first class job.
This was the journey I had at Eco-Logic. I had an amazing time and a return visit is in my plans as I have left undone many of the experiences and trips I could have done. It was just not possible in the short time I was there to do everything, but I aim to put some of that right next time. I’m sure that if you were to visit Eco-Logic, you too would have an amazing journey, your own journey to remember. And just by staying at this magical place and having your wonderful holiday, not only are you giving yourself the best kind of love, you are helping to fund a charitable cause (that is fully registered), the students of TCDF, the local community of Paksong and their unique environment.
Everyone, as they say, is a winner.
It’s easy to get to Eco-Logic even though this beautiful place is surrounded by rainforest. From Bangkok (Don Muang airport) you can get a plane or train to Ranong or Surat Thani. From here there are buses to Paksong where Eco-Logic can pick you up (or you can get a taxi as I did) There are also buses from Bangkok and Phuket. The long distance buses are comfortable and very economical. On my departure from Eco-Logic I took the night bus from Ranong to Bangkok leaving Ranong at 7pm and arriving in Bangkok at 5am the next morning. It was much more civilised than flying and more eco friendly too. We were provided with snacks, a blanket and plenty of leg room with reclining seats. I went online to www.12go.asia to book my travel tickets across Thailand and I found it reliable and simple to use.