Chef James Douglas Noble has made quite a splash for himself here in Chiang Mai over the past few months since his restaurant Waiting for May opened its doors a few months ago. After uprooting from his highly acclaimed Pak Nam Farm in Hua Hin, where he had a bookings-only weekend restaurant, he moved his family, business and dreams to Chiang Mai in hopes of realising his lifelong vision.
“I had bought this land over twenty years ago,” he said as we stood under large trees he planted decades ago, somewhere in the middle of his 500-rai property in Sansai, gazing towards the horizon, where his property ended at the foothills of distant mountains.
Noble’s first wife died tragically many years ago and over the ensuing 20 years he remarried a Thai woman, May, whose name inspired the eponymous restaurant, while working his way helming numerous world kitchens, from Cambridge to Mustique, Maldives to Pranburi.
In a pretty ballsy move, the pair are soon to open their vast farm, Ori9ins, an homage to his late wife, to the public, though the farm is far more ambitious than a typical agro tourism destination.
On first entering the zero waste farm, you slowly walk past an ever-growing row of green houses, each of which will feature the name of a hotel or restaurant in Bangkok and, hopefully soon beyond, which will be using his farm for retained farming, fresh produce to be sent out daily. Visitors will be able to walk, or hire off-road electric scooters, to explore the farm, stopping off to take in the aromas of the Pharm Farm, a name Noble giggles with glee at his coining. The Pharm Farm is an idea which Noble hopes to extrapolate, a farm which focuses on medicinal plants.
Next is the incredibly ambitious Amazing Maize Maze – we get another grin here – which will be a corn maze for visitors to get lost in – “Don’t worry, we will give everyone a balloon they can release for help.”
Nature trails, rickety wooden bridges across ponds, charming walks under canopies of trees planted just for this occasion decades ago, and even a wedding destination area, invite visitors to stroll and explore.
“We will have little cafes and eateries dotted throughout,” explained Noble, “so you can stop for a beer, a glass of wine, a snack of sai-ua hotdog or laab burrito, perhaps a corn ice-cream.
Noble says that Ori9ins will open in early December and he hopes it will attract daily visitors who will come to spend the whole day there.
“We will have a mud run for kids – safe clean mud with nothing sharp or dangerous – as well as other activities children should enjoy. We even have our love lock bridge where we hope lovers will come and pledge their love and we have partnered with Banyan Tree to offer unique guest experiences,” he explained, saying that there will be standalone pod accommodations, with their own solar panels and grey waste water treatments, which visitors will be able to stay in. Excitingly guests will be shown a map prior to arrival so they can choose themselves exactly where they want their pod to be placed for the duration of their stay.
As we wait for Ori9ins, make sure you check out Waiting for May, the popup restaurant in town where Noble says he waits daily for his wife May to deliver the farm’s produce. With a white menu, which basically means no menu, diners get to explore Noble’s daily creativity as he plays with the freshest produce from his farm.