Eye on Eco Tourism
Wilai Sirila and her Dutch husband Peter started their farm in 2007. The idea came after Wilai was invited as a keynote speaker at the Ratchabat University Loei to speak about international and sustainable tourism. One of the audiences stood up and said that it requires a huge amount of investment in order to create a tourist attraction in the international market; therefore, it is impossible for them, grass-root class people who do not have much money, to do it. However, Wilai replied that it is not necessary to have a lot of money. Currently, what many foreign tourists love to see are the basic and local things we have, such as nature and our Thai traditional culture. It is even possible to set up a project without electricity. This was how Wilai and Peter came up with the idea of Sirila Farm, a tent camp resort without electricity.
The first thing they did was clean up the 35.000 sqm land that basically looked like a jungle. Then they hired a company to drill a hole of 35 meters deep into the ground so they could pump up their own water. The idea was to let things grow that are not yet planted in this area, so that the farmers can come and have a look and give them some other ideas like growing rice or sugarcane. In the meantime they tried out many things and some became very successful like cashew nuts, macadamia nuts, coffee, cherries, date palms and many more. They tried to plant things that do not need big investments so that farmers can come and have a look and get some advice about how to grow and maintain these trees. So far it became successful.
Besides that, they wanted to invite western tourists as well. So, they built a restaurant, toilet, kitchen etc. mainly made from natural materials. Even though this is not really a newly discovered market because there are already some other farms in other parts of Thailand, Sirila Farm is still different from them in many aspects. Sirila Farm has special and distinctive characteristics because nobody has done the exact same thing before. This project has turned out to be very successful and has satisfied customers since the introduction stage. They try to match life with very limited installed electricity with comfort as much accessible. In 2014 they built some comfortable safari tents which made it possible to stay here for a few nights. The tents are a real good combination with the concept of the farm. And the students…yes, they came and discovered what we were doing and were interested to co-operate in different projects.
Guests feedback! No one knew what to expect when they arrived. So, when customers arrived in the middle of nowhere, and really, in the middle of nowhere, in a land surrounded by mountains, they said "Wow, how is this possible"? Many called it "a little paradise". They were also amazed about the quality of food. Some customers mentioned that "We learned something here, we don’t need materialistic things, we can also be happy in a basic way" as well as “I will remember this night at the farm for the rest of my life” - Experience is everything.