Hill country centre
Bryan Massingham’s account of his pursuit of “a long-held desire” to establish a first-class outdoor centre and the difficulties encountered on his journey, serve to reaffirm the wisdom of following one’s dream. The centre he and his wife Rose established 12 years ago has also been recently developed to accommodate individual travellers looking for somewhere to chill out in this beautiful hill country.
Over the years many have asked the inevitable question, ‘Why set up a student centre in the remote far north of Thailand?’ It’s a bit of a story, but in short, a long held desire to own and manage an outdoor centre, plus a mixture of circumstances and luck led to the set up. As a result, we have been here, in Thaton, Chiang Mai Province, for 12 years and during that time over 17 000 students, from 120 different schools and 23 countries, have passed through our doors. We must be doing something right!
Out and About
Having arrived in Hong Kong in 1982 as Head of Geography at Island School, one of the first things that struck me was the lack of fieldwork offered, and little research was needed to establish that there were no field study centres in Asia. I thus set about developing fieldwork in Hong Kong and also in China, which was a particularly interesting experience as China had only recently opened its doors to foreigners. ‘Circumstance’ (Tiananmen Square 1989) soon required me to explore alternatives and, in 1990, I took a group to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
Planting the Seed
Originally this was intended to be a ‘one-off’ whilst we waited to see what happened in China, but in fact the field studies proved to be more appropriate and far easier to organize. A few years later, I took a group further north to the small village of Thaton on the Myanmar border and, after several visits, our host, a fascinating Irishman, and I discussed the possibility of developing a student centre alongside a resort. Remarkably he found a rundown resort, which we leased, and spent a few years re-developing and adding a very basic student centre so we could open for business in late 2000. My wife and I took over the running in 2002, when our youngest left home for college.
The best way to describe the subsequent development is ‘organic growth’ – responding to the needs of international schools. Our initial offering was quite narrow, providing a limited range of outdoor activities and an equally limited range of geography fieldwork. Finance dictated this situation, as, in a classic ‘Catch 22’ dilemma, we were unable to employ a good number of instructors yet without these, we could not expand our offering. Of course, we knew that, at some stage, we would have to take a risk, but, in hindsight, it was fortunate that we did not do so immediately, as numerous events in those early years had a severe impact on our prospects of success.
Post script: hill station bolt hole?
If you are looking for an escape from the rigours of the classroom or the heat of the monsoons, Bryan and Rosie have upgraded Maekok River to make it the perfect place to escape to if you want to relax, undertake a little gentle exploring . . . . . or reccie the next field trip. There have to be a few little rewards for all that hard work!! Click on the Trip Advisor logo for the latest review.