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Baan San Fan 2012

10 May 2012 16,540 views 18 Comments

on the road

It never fails to make an impression on me, when I’m somewhere in the world and it’s familiar: knowing the best taco place in LA airport, knowing an underground jazz club down a side street in Paris, knowing which coffee shops serve soy along the Great Ocean Road, knowing how much a taxi should really cost in Rio, knowing exactly where I want the bus to stop in the middle of what seems nowhere in Thailand. Where I want it to stop is just past the sign for the school because that’s about fifty yards short of my destination, Baan San Fan. I was back again.
This time it really had been all about the journey: from Home & Life, while waiting for the bus, I’d ended up hitch hiking, getting a ride with three generations all the way to Takua Pa (thank you, thank you), a mini-mooch around the market and then this local bus to Bang Wan. While I walked the fifty yards Kloy went past on his motorbike and nearly tumbled off when he realised who it was, he sped off to announce my arrival. Jan ran up the drive to meet me, closely followed by Gai and June. That lit me up.


I could see there were a few different things to investigate already – new children, and, were these new tablecloths.? For now though it was chat chat with Gai and introductions with Ileana, a charming French girl. It’s the first time I’ve been here with another volunteer and it was cool, we couldn’t get our words out quick enough. Ileana was telling me about the children, what she’s been doing, seeing, eating, and she wanted to know what things used to be like, what’s changed. And we were interested in each others’ stories about where we’d been, where we were going, what was happeniiiiing.
Gai was jumping in here and there but mostly my arrival required some new dinner dishes so she was getting wok-happy, which made me very happy. More of the children popped in, hugs all round, and Sam was there too; wonderful Sam, coming in from working in the garden and with the chickens of course. Dinner was rice, eggs, stir fried flowers and lots more chatting :)


Ah yes, some things had changed, and those first few hours were overwhelming as I tried to take in all the new news…
Some of the children have moved: Bew has gone back to her family, unfortunately I wasn’t getting the impression that it was a welcomed moved. May, the smaller May, is now at university in Chiang Mai (the north of Thailand). I’m delighted about this, she’s a really smart, bright girl with lots of promise so this is a great result. May, the bigger May, has moved back to Bang Wan. She was working at a hotel in Phuket previously and is now married, expecting her first baby and helping at Baan San Fan everyday. She never wanted to leave…
There are lots of new faces: Keotew and Taiwen (sp?) are two small children who have recently arrived. They’re the youngest of five siblings from Surat Thani (about two hours away) and I understand that they’ve been adapting fantastically to having food, clothes, schooling and playmates. They’re both super cute and quick – they learn games and words really fast – but they also have these little wild sides that come out occasionally.
The man who works in the garage now has a wife and she’s about six/ seven months pregnant. That’s really cool, I think it’s nice for the children to be around these ‘typical’ families. There’s a few other fellas kicking around, look like they’re in their twenties, Gai tells me they’re her nephews, from Bangkok & Chang Mai. There’s been a lot to do around Baan San Fan (the power got kicked out a few weeks ago, then the internet) so they’ve been helping out. As the children are getting older I also think it’s nice for them to have these older friends to spend time playing with.


Ileana has been here for two and a half weeks, and three more days left. She’s clearly loved by the family and has been having an awesome time. The children have been on holidays from school so she’s had lots of one-on-one time, not to mention 17ish days of Gai’s food. We talked about the food extensively. I’m so glad to meet someone else so enthusiastic about that, ha, it’s not just me. We talked heaps about Baan San Fan too, Ile was keen to know the stories of what had come before, little histories of the children, how the land & buildings have developed, when other volunteers have been here. Ile is a great girl: smart, interesting, gorgeous nature, and we got along brilliantly so things were easy and natural from the start. She’s also French-ly chic, even in sweaty Thailand.

Gai told me a lot about other volunteers that have visited recently and more that are expected, she said that this blog has made a difference. I’m just really glad that they’re having lots of valuable people visit. And the fortunes of Baan San Fan do look to be in good shape.. although I understand the funding has stopped, things look good around here and the children look incredibly incredibly well. It makes me so happy to see them all. Wicked Diving are buying more soap and products than ever before which is perfect, a few more clients like that wouldn’t go amiss. Gai is very sweet and talks a lot about how we got the Wicked Diving deal off the ground when I was here the first time, it’s true, that was a massive coup at the time and I’m delighted it’s still alive & kicking today.

and the biggest surprise of all

“I waited to tell you when you got here” Gai tells me, “tomorrow fifteen volunteers arrive from America.” Ile and Gai are looking for my response, I’m smiling. “And I want you to look after them please.” Now I’m sweating. This is massive news, this many people have never stayed before and my head is reeling with questions & reactions. They’re coming from a university in Florida, Sam & Gai are going to collect them from the airport when they land at 1am tomorrow morning, and that they’re staying for eight days. Ile tells me that for the last few days it’s been non stop planning – they’ve bought beds, linen, crockery, cutlery, food food food. Baan San Fan spending money on anything other than the children directly always worries me but I’m saying nowt for now, I know everyone needs a bed!
So let’s get to this ‘look after’ situation a bit more please.. Gai says over and over that she’s glad I’ve arrived (my details were perhaps a bit sketchy, and even this afternoon I did ponder staying at Home & Life for one night..), and Ile also looks relieved. They want me to speak to the team in the morning, help organise them and clear up a couple of questions about sight-seeing and jobs. Blissful yoga training feels rather far behind me now, it’s time for holiday-rep-Luce to step up!
By the time we go to bed I’m all a fluster, it’s been a huge day. Visiting and starting to work with Home & Life was enough for one day. Catching rides with armed police and total strangers was additionally amusing. Seeing how Baan San Fan is blossoming and how well the children are was heart swelling. Hearing that my blog may have contributed to that was a big deal. Meeting Ile was a joy. Finding out about the arrival of the big team and the things Gai wants me to do.. waaa, it’s all too much! This was meant to be the coasting part of my trip after the hard work of a 200 hour training programme!
Ile and I sit up talking, she is very patient, understanding and encouraging as I explain why I’m feeling a bit bonkers. We stay up for a long time…

new dawn

Y’know when you’re little, on Christmas day you wake up excited and creep around a bit, that was Ile and I this morning! We didn’t know if the team had arrived (we’d certainly not heard anything) and if they had we didn’t know what would happen next. So we just carried on as normal, Ile went to feed the chickens with Sam and I did some beautiful sunrise yoga under the fan. Showers, dressed, over to the kitchen house and we hung out drinking coffee waiting…

first 24 hours all over again

Spending today with the American team was like reliving my first day again too, and I very much enjoyed being reminded what an amazing place Baan San Fan is. The team trickled over to the kitchen house, we did introductions, had coffees, and sent various mini-groups for tours around the gareden with Sam and then each other. They were jet lagged and/ or time confused, and definitely adjusting to the heat and the i-have-no-idea-what’s-happenin-next situation but they were all smiles, greetings and openness. Gai made a newbies-friendly breakfast (rice, pork patties, eggs, plain vegetables, ketchup on the side!) which I thought was wonderful of her. We were variously getting to know each other, the lowdown looks like this: there’s fifteen people here from the Volunteer Centre at Tampa University, Florida. Mostly the Volunteer Centre works with local projects or projects throughout the States but occasionally they make an international trip. It’s the start of their summer holidays and for almost all of them it’s their first time in Asia. I have nothing but respect for them coming to remote little Bang Wan as their first time in this exotic, challenging, monster continent, respect respect.


Towards the end of breakfast Gai had me start the ‘meeting’. Argh, I’m nervous about this, I dunno what I’m doing..er “morning all…” I take them through some housekeeping points about Baan San Fan, some more stuff about Thailand, a few thoughts about day-to-day routines and some suggestions for bigger projects. There’s a few questions, one being, “are you the Lucy James, from the blog?” That’s pretty funny, yessir, that’s me.
Lauren, Heather, Tim, Chris and I speak some more so that I can help organise their time here – yes they want to do some sightseeing trips but only if the children can come too. More respect, good on ’em.
The children are at school this morning so no-one’s quite sure what to do; know that feeling. Up to this point I’ve been sprinkling suggestions, but now I ask if they just want to be told what to do, YES please! Ha ha. Ile and I get everyone a bit more organised and then head out ourselves; Ile wants to see the school. We walk along the main road – instead of through the rubber trees – chatting all the way, exchanging travel anecdotes & tips and reflecting on the morning. We’re both really impressed by the team, their energy and attitude (especially after 36 hours of travelling) is admirable.
At school we meet one of the teachers, explain that we’re with Baan San Fan and she shows us around and asks if/ when we can return. This is magic for Ile and it’s agreed she’ll return tomorrow to do ‘activities’ since it’s the start of term and proper lessons aren’t on yet. Sounds perfect.

hot hot hot

We walk and talk in the sweaty late morning heat. Man, I don’t think I’ve ever been this hot, definitely not in Thailand, maybe in the Gambia years ago, but it’s humid too and that’s just destroying me. Back at home Gai’s got some super sweet, ice cold juice on the go, the Americans are lapping it up already, good call, I’m in. Then lunch, everyone seems to be settling in ok, there’s a few questions and bits’n’bobs but I reckon they’re trucking along nicely.
I adios myself to sit next to a fan and do some work/ writing, everyone else gets occupied as the children come home from school and pretty soon there’s a footie tournament happening in the field. Later Sam suggests taking everyone to the waterfall, a suggestion that is greeted with much enthusiasm, great idea. Everyone piles into the truck, like literally all over the truck, and there’s a back up old car because Kloy can drive now too.
Ile and I stay at home, playing with the two new little kids and hanging with Gai. All is good and happy. Gai has been working really hard, is clearly exhausted, but pleased to know that things are going well and the Americans are settled in. Something rather lovely comes up in conversation, she tells me that now they have the beds and other household goods she hopes to have more children come to Baan San Fan. She needs to make sure there’s enough food for money but that’s the last hurdle. I am delighted to hear this and share it with the American team who are also really chuffed.
They’ve done well for their first day for sure: buildings have been cleaned, suncream applied, children played with, waterfall muchly appreciated, food tried’n’tested, ideas planted. Gai makes wicked wicked curry for dinner, she’s upping the chilli with each meal, ha ha. We sweat our way through the tastiness and also slap & wriggle through the bug storm that’s pouring on all of us. It’s ridiculous, all these different sized buzzing little buggers ruining our evening, GO away.


It might be all change but home is still home, right. And I do feel right at home, lounging around with Ile, pottering around the garden & kitchen, ‘sawatdeekaa’ing around the village. I am loving spending time with Sam and Gai, chatting, reminiscing, joking, they just make me want to be a better person, they’re so inspiring. The children are great, tumbling around, I remember when they liked sitting together doing colouring with me, now it’s the odd high-five and lots of comments about how fat I am, “Pi Lucy, how many babies.?” It’s such a joy to see them all looking so strong, healthy, energetic, happy; they’re shining. The whole place is looking abundant: the plants are massive (time of year.?), there are honestly hundreds of chickens (I’m scared by them now, I remember when they were little too!), the ponds look gorgeous, and the frogs are out of control. Some things haven’t changed, the bugs are still copious (shame) and Gai’s cooking is still rockstar, aroy mak.

Before arriving I hadn’t decided how long to stay so I’ll just see how the next few days go. At the moment I kinda feel like I might slip away and leave everyone to their own awesomeness, it’s their time now..



hello new friends

everything’s grown! chickens and palm

who needs words when you’ve got a ball

around the juicy garden


  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Ubud-Sanur-Phuket-Phang Nga said:

    […] never got a local bus before around here. i’m glad i’m going a short distance • tell them i want Bang Wan. they look at me like i’m mental • we get to Bang Wan and they’re checking i want to get off, ha ha, yes please • last bit of the journey is the walk up the road to Baan San Fan… […]

  • Sairsha Veasey said:

    Hey Lucy

    It’s been so lovely reading your blog as I’m going to be a female backpacker next year doing my first lot of big travelling and sppending 2 weeks at the orphanage. Obviously a bit nervous but sooooo excited especially after reading this.

    How long did you spend there the first time you went? Is there lots to do? :-) xx

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    hi Sarisha,

    thanks for reading and getting in touch, and CONGRATULATIONS on deciding to do some travelling and share your time with Baan San Fan. you will have a wonderful time for sure.

    my first time was december 2010, i was there for two weeks, then july 2011 for about 9 days. sorry to refer you but here are the blog links to those two visits as well, hopefully answer more of your questions.

    dec 2010:
    Volunteering at Baan San Fan, Bang Wan, Thailand

    jul 2011:
    Baan San Fan 2011

    there’s lots to do, get in touch closer to the time and we can talk more specifics if you’d like.


  • Tim Harding said:

    Lucy, you helped to make the experience for the University of Tampa group even more special. With out your orientation, we might not have gotten off the ground quite as quickly with the projects. You will definitely see a change when you next visit. We laid concrete in front of the kitchen and garage. The is obviously more work to be done, but then that is always going to be the case. Thanks for all that you contributed to make our time such a great experience.

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Koh Tao, Thailand said:

    […] or locals very friendly. Now, admittedly I’d just come from yoga-love Bali and cuddle-love Bang Wan but all the same, a few more smiles wouldn’t have gone amiss. I was disappointed. Hear me […]

  • Malia said:

    Hey Lucy

    I Think its cool that you are writting about your experiences!
    Do you know what vaccines you should get, if you
    Are going to Baan San fan ? (we are in Thailand for 5 weeks)

    And have you tried being there in july and august?.
    Do you know something about the weather in those months? :)

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    hi Malia, thanks for reading :)

    For Thailand, I think you need to be up to date with Hep A, Hep B, Tetanus, Typhoid. And, depending where else you’re going you should take malaria precaution. I don’t take malaria tablets if i’m not going any further north than Bangkok (so don’t need them at BSF) but it’s up to you.

    I was there in July last year, you can read here if you want:
    Baan San Fan 2011

    My experience was: July wasnn’t as hot as other times but it rained more. It’s all a bit academic – I take the same stuff regardless because you dry quickly!

    Let me know any other questions. Have fun getting ready for your trip and ENJOY.

  • Malia said:

    Hi Lucy

    Thank you for the information! :)


  • Mary said:

    Hi Lucy!

    My husband and I are traveling to Koh Samui next month. I would love to spend a few days at Bann San Fan if we can. I am so touched by the work being done and the home that is provided to these beautiful children. Do you think we could get to BSF from Koh Samui? Ferry to Surat Thani and then a bus? Any advice? Thank you!


  • Mary said:

    Sorry to post again! It looks like we would need to fly from Samui to Phuket. I’ll wait to hear back from the couple as Baan San Fan. Thanks again.

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    hi Mary.

    First of all *big sigh of envy* because you’re going to Koh Samui, it’s a beautiful island.
    A few thoughts, and I hope they might be useful.. Surat Thani is definitely a major transport hub. There are a lot of bus and travel agents, the ports are nearby and you can find any service you want (e.g. if you wanted to go private). Most public services are limited to timetables that don’t make any sense to the western mind (just being honest); last time I was there, I spent 8-9 hours killing time in a coffee shop!
    Yes, you could fly to Phuket and travel from there (Phuket to Baan San Fan is really easy) but I would – just me – find that a bit unnecessary, just plan the Samui-Thani-Baan San bit as well as you can and be cool about the whole thing :)

    Feel free to ask more or email me. In the meantime…

    I wrote a bit about Koh Samui in this post: South Thailand Islands
    I wrote a bit about getting to Koh Tao (near Koh Samui) from Baan San Fan in this post: Koh Tao, Thailand

    Stay in touch, and have a wonderful time, Lucy

  • Mary said:

    Thank you so much Lucy! I will email you tomorrow if that’s ok. We are going in September. You’re right, we will just go from Samui to Thani to Baan San Fan. I have so many questions and want to bring things for the kids and Gai and Sam so I’ll email you about it. Thank you so much, what a great resource you are and it’s so helpful to their work too.

  • Romeo said:

    Hi Lucy!

    My name is Romeo, I’m 25 years old and I’m from Paris.
    I found out about Baan San-Fan and your blog just today and I’m pretty decided to go and be try to be part of the family!

    Here’s a few questions for you:
    What would be your number one tip for the stay at Baan San-Fan?
    What do you think I should bring to the kids there?
    Are you planning to go again?

    Thank you for your inspiring posts!
    Have a good day!

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    hi Romeo,
    Thanks for getting in touch and thanks for reading. Brilliant decision to go to Baan San Fan. And you’re right, you’ll be welcomed like family.

    There’s lots that you can read on here, in case you missed these posts, here are some with lots of details:
    my most recent trip
    a round up from the first time I stayed
    You can also find more on my other site – http://www.fullybloom.org

    But to answer your questions…
    – My most practical tip is to take lots of insect repellant
    – My joint number one tip is to get in touch with Baan San Fan before you go and start talking to them about what projects you can work on when you’re there. That way you can start to plan and think about how to make the most of your time there. (I can help you more if you want.)
    – Don’t bring anything from home (!) I always encourage buying locally to help the local economy (and packing). In fact the best thing to do, I think, is wait til you’re there, and you’ve met the family and you can see what they want or need.
    – I would love to be going to Baan San Fan again, my plans are a bit tricky this year so I’m not sure if I can, which makes me sad. I’m staying in touch with them though and I’ll be back one day.

    Sorry to have taken a while to respond. I hope this helps and do let me know if there’s anything else.

    All the best.
    A bientot.

  • Cheree said:

    Hi Lucy

    We are spending some time at Baan San Fan in September/October this year. This is our first visit. I was just wanting any valuable advise or information so we can prepare the children for our volunteer/family stay. We have three children aged 15,14 and 12 coming with us as well. Can you suggest any preparation we would need to help assist with their experience or advice to get them ready for their time at the Orphanage. We have been reading your posts and cant wait to get there.

    Kind Regards Cheree

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    hi Cheree,
    that’s a really interesting question… you had me thinking :)
    15, 14, 12.. your children will be the same age as a lot of the children at Baan San Fan. honestly, i would be getting your children to practice playing games between them and their friends where they can’t speak to each other, as that will likely be the biggest hurdle. football is a pretty universal language, so is frisbee and snap and colouring. but it would be good to explore more…
    if your children play any musical instruments, think about taking them (if practical) or about recording something onto YouTube to show the other children when you get there. they would love that.
    from a practical side, i say it ALL the time, but take every last piece of protection you can think of for mosquitoes because they are the most unforgiving i have ever encountered.
    not sure how your children will go with Thai food (expect you’ve considered that already) but you might want to get them used to the idea of rice with chilli chicken for breakfast!
    have an amazing time, please share some photos, and take a look at baan san fan on facebook for other volunteer contacts too if you want.

  • Antoinette said:

    Hi Lucy,

    My name is Antoinette and I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I’m heading to Baan San Fan in October for 7 days.

    I just loooved reading about all of your adventures. You’ve inspired me to take a few more steps outside my comfort zone I think! This is my first solo trip so not too sure I will have the confidence to hitch hike just yet LOL

    Thanks for all the tips. I’m very excited about my upcoming trip – it is definitely going to be life changing xx

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    Hi Antoinette,
    Thanks so much for your comment. I’m excited for you about your trip, and brilliant news that you are including Baan San Fan in your adventure.
    Yes, the hitchhiking may be a step too far :) but do enjoy everything else.
    Stay in touch and let us know how it goes.
    Very best xLucy

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