I truly believe travel brings people closer together.  It opens up your mind, eyes and heart to a different way of life. Working with local communities in Thailand, I often feel that these communities we work with are unique, vibrant and have a strong tradition worth sustaining. Early in June, I visited and experienced the “Cowboy” life of eastern Oregon, USA, in a town called Paulina. The town consists of one general store, which also serves as a post office. It is a place where some traditions have stood the test of time and people still value their ways of life.

At GI Ranch, l learned about the cattle industry, life of cowboys and nature of that area. I was so fascinated by how most of the people in Paulina never left and they were still doing things as their forefathers did. They are passionate about their tradition and protecting their land. It was an eye opener for me. Everyone there goes around with a rifle; it’s their way of life. It was a bit nerve racking for me at first because we were taught to think that when you saw a rifle around,  it was not safe. But for the cowboys, it’s a sense of safety. I spent many hours discussing this issue with them and the one thing I realized was that this was a part of their tradition and beliefs, like the Hill Tribe to their opium. It made me question our beliefs, values and ways of life. These are warm-hearted, gentle and passionate people with different ways of seeing the world. The question that goes through my mind is probably similar to what our guests at our lodges have. Questions like “ how can they live on dirt floor and how a family of 6 can share the same room?”

The cowboys, as they call themselves, know so much about the nature that surrounds them; animals, soil, vegetation. Most importantly, they understand the impact and changes that have taken place over the years. At GI Ranch, they raise cattle to the global market. The cows eat only natural grass. They are healthy and not injected with antibiotic or hormones. The grass maintained in the best condition. It is done by monitoring the soil and water conditions and alternating gazing plots. There’s a whole science behind it. Draught can reap havoc to the quality of the grass and the overall well-being of the animals. The management of the ranch relies on advices from scientists and specialists as they often talk about the misunderstanding of the environment and how it was treated during the 1950’s.

With over half a million acres, the ranch operates a few lodges dotted around the land. I visited their fishing lodge and watched their unique way of fly-fishing. Fish that are caught have to be released back to the lake. Our fishing guides knew where the fish were. They were so patient at teaching us the art of fly-fishing. It was great fun and almost everyone caught something. When nature is healthy, so are the fish.

An experience in Paulina reassured me that what we are doing at Asian Oasis is relevant. It taught me that people were looking for experiences when they travel. Certainly, they want to relax and eat well. At the same time, they also enjoy meeting people and experiencing new adventures. With different values and philosophy, we are all doing the same things at our hill tribe lodges by sharing our experiences of people and nature.

We cooked Thai food for Cowboys and they loved it.