Our project is located in the foothills of the Cardamom Mountains, on the northern side of a small mountain belonging to the Rattan Vine Mountain Nature Reserve (ขสป.คลองเครือหวาย), in Pong Nam Ron, Chanthaburi province (also called “The Durian Province”). Behind our garden the jungle stretches until well into Cambodia, which is about 40 km away. We’re on the northern side of a 640m-high mountain – with about 300m ASL the highest settlement around – with an amazing view.
James C. Scott (author of The Art of Not Being Governed – An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia) has called the mountain range that stretches from eastern India, through Burma, Laos, and Thailand, down into Cambodia “Zomia” (meaning “highlander” in several Tibet-Burman languages; Zo = ‘remote’, ‘living in the hills’, Mi = ‘people’. Mi-zo and Zo-mi are terms used throughout Southeast Asia to designate remote hill people and the geographical niche they inhabit) and we like the term, since it does not reaffirm and validate the existence of (mostly imaginary) nation-state and it describes a geographical feature, not a territory gained through conquest, genocide, and war within borders that cut through ethnicities and places.
The Southeast of Thailand has everything one can desire: thick jungle, beautiful waterfalls, and majestic mountains, making it a great place to live. The climate is at least warm (if not hot) all year long (although the nights can get quite cold in January), and there is a long monsoon season, which means more rainfall than f.e. in the northeast of the country – you can grow vegetables all year long.
While officially categorized as “tropical savanna climate” or “tropical wet and dry climate” (“Aw” and “As” in the Köppen climate classification categories) because of the pronounced dry season, we are actually somewhere in the middle between Aw/As and Af (tropical rainforest climate), since all fruit that can be grown in Af climate zones can also be grown here – best example is Durian.
Our district – Pong Nam Ron – is special in this regard, because the valley acts as a channel for rain clouds, and the mountains tend to catch most lower rain clouds, so that we get a good amount of rain here and it’s never too dry.
Right in the neighboring district Soi Dao (without mountains) the climate is extremely different. There you’ll find deciduous forests that loose all leaves in dry season, allowing intense Longan and Mango cultivation, while the climate is too dry for Durian.