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Homestay at Dokmai Garden

December 20, 2010

One fine morning I wake up in California to fly to a country that I had never been before, couldn’t speak the language, and knew no one.

It was the beginning of my backpacking adventure, and it promised me a year of lifetime experiences.

The manliest hole I ever had to dig.

Although I’ve always lived in a city, I loved nature. Working on a botanical garden, however, was different from camping or trekking. I sawed and defoliated 10 ft+ bamboos. I dug a 2ft hole in ridiculously hard clay. I cut and pruned thorny branches that pricked while insects buzzed around my head.

And I was loving every minute of it.

Actually, many of the tasks I did were much easier, but the hard ones were the ones I relished. They scratched the primal urge to have man conquer nature. It was detoxifying, it was cathartic. Every breath filled my lungs with fresh, smog-free air. Every axe strike resonated through my arms to my head–the belief that the city’s sedentary lifestyle debilitated the way we should be living.

I would bellow out loud and pound my chest if I could. But I won’t.

With this and a healthy diet of home-cooked traditional Thai meals, I can say that I haven’t felt this in-shape in years.

My birthday watermelon

But Eric and Ket have offered me more than just a sculptured bod of a studly Greek adonis (this is me after ten days).

They offered me a home and a family. I was very touched when they insisted on celebrating my birthday with me; making me Thai hotpot and a birthday watermelon for the occasion.

Even little Mika made sure I felt at home. He greets me every day with a ‘good morning’, and offers to move his tricycle out of the way when I need to use the moped. Barely 3, I am amazed that English is his third language.

Eric’s collection of plants is astounding. From stinging nettles that paralyze your hand just by touching its leaves, to natural citronella that repels mosquitoes, to miracle berries that turn sour foods sweet, I’ve gained a newfound respect for plants and their amazing properties.

While I may not share Eric’s enthusiasm for recognizing every plant by their scientific names, I am convinced that I will keep a garden in the future–a little corner of nature to relax to whenever my urbanized life gets too stressful.

However, probably to Eric’s chagrin, I will be sure to keep a few mimosa pudicas in my garden.

Thank you Eric and Ketsanee, for the wonderful two weeks. Not only have I learned gardening techniques and plant properties, but I’ve also gained a greater appreciation for nature.

A bougainvillea hybrid, showing off its spectacular mix of co-dominant color gradience.


(Frank, currently attending Yale University, maintains a blog about his trip around the world at

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