November 17th - 23rd, 2019
the spirit of sabai sabai
In 2015, Tim and I had just put our life savings down on the deposit to rent a castle in the French countryside for a week. We had a vision for a Moveable Feast that would combine all the best parts of travel: sharing beautiful spaces around the world with our fellow curious travelers, bring the most talented folks along to share their skills, and learn to live and travel a little more deeply and wisely. The idea centered on having a chef with us to unpack the fine details of a culture’s cuisine. Our staff was all lined up. We sent the deposit to France thinking “if this doesn’t work, we’ll drink champagne at a castle by ourselves and laugh about it when we’re 95. But we have to chase after the things that are tapping on our shoulder.”
Then our chef got pregnant. She would have a newborn during the trip. She had to back out.
As Tim and I scrambled to imagine what we would do to replace her, we took a ten day motorcycle ride around the northern Thai jungles, sleeping at random farms on the side of the road and eating street food as we pulled our Moveable Feast vision together. One night, dusk was settling upon us, our wifi-less phones were nearly dead, and we hadn’t found a place to sleep. I wanted to turn back to the nearest town, Tim insisted that there was a farm he knew down a long dirt road, impassable by cars. So we forged on.
We found the farm, and the farmer welcomed us to his dinner table that night. And who else was sitting at the table but a gangly chef from Milwaukee, Johnny, who had burned out on working 100 hour weeks in top restaurants and had moved to Asia to explore the flavors and history and food culture. The three of us drank Thai whiskey and shared cigarettes late into the night, laughing about the world and discussing our food philosophies. We became fast friends, but more importantly, had found the perfect fit for Moveable Feast. The universe responds. Johnny remains, to this day, one of the most incredible chefs we’ve ever met (and we live in the food paradise of Seattle). His creativity, passion and ability to not only create perfect dishes from any given place but put his own spin on them never fail to amaze us.
So why Chiang Mai? Because it’s where this all began, in a way. Chiang Mai balances modern art and architecture with a decidedly and firmly Thai personality. It offers the best of Thailand’s internationalism and access to endless flavors and ideas, but remains deeply rooted in its Thai character and personality. It’s a hotbed of ingenuity and creativity— the New York energy of ideas with the SoCal pace of life. Hard work and vibrant creativity are balanced with the open-hearted peacefulness that comes from knowing it will all get done, whether in this life or another.
Whatever you’re hoping to get out of it, Chiang Mai is both, and all of it, and makes it all look easy.
Every MFR location holds a special place in our lives and growth, but Chiang Mai is the intersection for all three of us. It holds a potent magic and invites you to create new ideas, new lives, new adventures and keep saying yes to the things that pull you toward them. We’ve spent several years, between the three of us, living in and exploring the food scene and culture of this little treasure in Northern Thailand, and have maybe never been so excited to share a place with our guests.
We are also thrilled to have our special guest this year join us in curating the most perfect experiences possible. Also from Seattle, Alana Morgan has spent eight years living in the heart of Chiang Mai and writing about it for her own site as well as other outlets like Lonely Planet, National Geographic and Design*Sponge. She can show you the newest cafe that just opened up last week and tell the story of how Chiang Mai was founded 700 years ago. Alana will be our fourth team member as we share with you the deeply hidden treasures that would take you years to discover on your own, introduce the concepts that you’d be hard-pressed to get an explanation for on any other trip, and bop around town like we’ve lived all there for years. There’s no other way to say it: Alana is a TREASURE and we are so lucky she’ll be joining the team.
“I remember the moment I first realized I've been living my whole life in black and white. It was like discovering a color I never knew existed before. A whole new crayon box full of colors, that was it for me. From then on, there was no putting the pieces back together. No going home. Things were different now. Asia had ruined me for my old life.”
-- Anthony Bourdain on Thailand
"As soon as I got the email outlining details for flights, I knew you were organized. The consistent follow up was reassuring. When I got my surprise and delight in the form of a book and booze, I KNEW it was going to be amazing. I guess my doubts were alleviated before I arrived, but then I got nervous waiting for my bags, thinking “what have I done?!”. Then everyone cheered for me for as I walked out of baggage claim. The people that you channeled to come on this adventure were such a welcoming committee.
Making pasta and learning about photography were two of my favorite parts of the trip. I love learning, but I also love learning along with people and from excellent teachers. Making pasta that we then ate a couple hours later was really special. Learning photography and then being able to practice the rest of the trip, along with answers to any questions, was so helpful.
I have already been telling my friends to consider it. I only tell people the truth, though, don't worry. The time, care, and love put into EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of this trip was evident in our activities, meals, and environment. MFR allowed me to experience a place in a way I never have.
When such time, care, and love is put into something so intentionally, it shows. From drinks and meals, accommodation and activities, learning and playing, this retreat was a wonderfully curated blend of magic. "
MOVEABLE FEAST 2018
We’ll start with this: a bland hotel room that could be anywhere in the world once you close the curtains is just not our style. We aim for the highest, loveliest accommodations in any given location— but more importantly, ones that truly speak to the history and culture they sprang from. We toured dozens of locations in Northern Thailand and almost gave up on finding anything worthy of our Feasters— until Alana introduced us to the Villa.
A beautifully curated collection of 100 year old teak houses in the traditional Thai architectural style, painstakingly collected from all over Thailand and reassembled on a jungle property. A sprawling pool with local sculptures as your lifeguards. Cozy libraries, curated bars, room to relax in your own private villa or in any one of the multiple art-filled rooms. The villa overlooks the mountains and nearly touches the city, though it feels like the world is miles away from this hidden hideaway in one of our favorite jungly neighborhoods in Chiang Mai.
We’re all about the high/low juxtaposition, and the balance of high-end Japanese toilets against ancient teakwood floors is really our cup of locally grown tea. You’ll wake up in the same room as a Thai family once did a century ago, but you’ll be in luxury sheets and have hot water in your clawfoot tub. It’s ok to contain multitudes when you travel, and having a deeply historic adventure doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice comfort.
Close enough to the city for impromptu adventures, but removed from the bustle. Every guest (or pair of guests) will have their own private home, because honestly, YOLO. We want spaces that make us almost cry in astonishment when we walk in, and nowhere has astounded us quite like the Villa. We can’t wait to welcome you to this private paradise.
"This trip taught me that some expenses just don't matter when adventure is on the horizon. And also, The MF team took such good care of us! From the food to the accommodations, to the yoga and the excursions, the magic they gave us was more than worth it. And as for meeting new people, they made it easy on us. The group was fantastic, and I was able to have alone time when I felt like I needed it (sans judgement).
My favorite Moveable Feast moment was our dinner in white. Not because of how we dressed or even the food (which were both highly competitive in my list of memories). But it was the moment I realized I had gained some true new friends. We had gone on this whirlwind together and we were damn grateful for each other and the time we had. It was the connection that is going to live in my heart forever."
MOVEABLE FEAST 2017
"Have you eaten?"
Or as the common northern Thai greeting asks— “kinkhao law ru yang?”
While most of us cut our teeth on the classic pad thai, the flavor profiles and combinations in Northern Thailand beg for westerners to branch out STAT. Particularly in the north, Thai food boasts a complex mix of flavors from neighboring countries and traditions— it’s a wild ride, baby. We could eat here for months and still feel like there was a little something more to discover. Unfortunately, finding genuine northern Thai food can be a bit difficult, even in the center of Chiang Mai— and once you do, how do you know what to order?
Don’t worry. We got you.
If you’re anything like us, you probably travel for the food— so let’s not waste a single meal. Between custom-designed meals from Johnny and street food introductions to take the intimidation factor out of the equation, we’ll send you on a culinary adventure that will introduce you to new dishes, help you rediscover old favorites, and probably make you search for a return ticket before you even leave Thailand.
(Oh, and if you’ve never had khao soi, prepare to have your mind completely blown and your world changed forever.)
“Thai food ain’t about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it’s got to have a smooth surface but it doesn’t matter what’s happening underneath. Simplicity isn’t the dictum here, at all.”
— David Thompson
"This was the first time traveling that I hadn't put a fair amount of time/effort into at least a loose plan and it created kind of a nervous excitement. I wouldn't exactly call it a concern because I knew that Tim and Laura wouldn't lead me astray, but it was an unfamiliar feeling for sure. The moment that we arrived in Sicily and the group collectively cheered on the one remaining retreater as she came to the terminal sold it for me. I just felt immediately at ease with the amazing group of people who came on the trip.
The abbey was absolutely stunning and seeing the MFR team set up just outside with cocktails waiting and looking fabulous as always was the perfect start to the amazing week. It was really like the best start to a mix tape: start big and just keep going bigger! The introductions of local food and drink culture with almost every meal was perfect. We have incorporated a fair amount of Amaro (in addition to Fernet) into our routine. The surprise came from the people though. If I were to try to write about all of my favorite experiences, I would just be writing a detailed log of the entire trip, but the people who gravitated to Tim and Laura that ended up on this trip were truly incredible. I feel enriched by the interactions with every single person we met.
It was exciting and relaxing to have the itinerary taken care of. There was the perfect amount of flexibility, optional down time, and excursions. So it was a huge benefit to be able to just get your butt to the destination and roll with the punches. The second was how much work the MFR team puts into the background. MFR did so much to capture local history, food, flavors, wine, spirits, and culture. The third would be the people. The number of people on the trip was perfect: not too small and not overwhelming. You had the chance to really connect with amazing people but also were able to take alone time and reflect.
This was truly a unique and wonderful experience and I can't say enough positive things about the MFR crew!"
MOVEABLE FEAST 2018
Our first week in Thailand, we were welcomed to a wedding in a Karen hill tribe about an hour outside of Chiang Mai, where the celebration tradition is to make huge garbage bags full of home-brewed rice whiskey (a local specialty), decant it into used rum bottles, and drink tiny cups of it all day (in between locally pulled espresso shots, of course). While we won’t make you drink a garbage bag full of rice whiskey, lao khao is the perfect example of an acquired taste that you won’t find in an average Chiang Mai bar, despite being an extremely Thai flavor. No trip to Thailand is complete without at least trying to appreciate it, amongst the other local liquors— some of which you might not discover on your first or even second visit to Chiang Mai. Because of strict import laws and taxes, it’s much easier to drink Thai booze than imported, which means that nearly everything you’ll consume will have been brewed in Thailand. We’ve been creating custom MFR cocktails with locally-brewed alcohols, some of which we didn’t discover until our third trip to Thailand, and we can’t wait to share the creative bounty with you during happy hour.
Thai culture, like the rest of Asia, tends to be extremely respectful of fellow citizens and drinking has a rulebook all its own. Sharing a bottle on a night out, refraining from public consumption, and being mindful about your company are all trademarks of Thai drinking culture. We’ll indulge freely, but dealing with a terrible hangover in a tropical country is no way to live the good life, so we encourage you to not to booze like you're at the infamous Full Moon Party. You'll thank us in the morning."
PS. We’ve got plenty for the purists, too— light Thai beers go with every dish! Heat and tradition means you drink it with ice (it’ll seem strange at first— but by the time you head home, it’ll feel odd to NOT drink your beer with ice cubes). Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to properly share an ice bucket with a table full of new friends.
"At first, I was hesitant re: meeting up with a bunch of strangers in another country (what if they are scary weirdos?!) and whether the price tag was worth it...
But then I arrived at a train station to be picked up by a group of attractive, hilarious, kindly souls who felt like old friends. Once we arrived a la chateau, I was greeted with the freshest damn oysters and crisp champers- I basically felt like I had been transported to the Provence of the 1920s- it was all very Woody Allen and Midnight in Paris. My soul nearly burst.
The locations, the philosophy of MF, the photo workshops, the food- it was a unique trip because everything was carefully selected- a perfect terrarium for us to be placed in and experience how good life is when you collectively give a shit about the little things. "
MOVEABLE FEAST 2016
Okay, let’s get one thing straight… Moveable Feast ain’t no lecture hall. Yeah, we want to cover a few things that might make life more beautiful but never will you be checking your watch to see when class ends. This is us designing the trip we personally wanted, and we don’t like boring shit!
One of those untranslatable phrases that other languages offer us, sabai sabai is our goal for this trip and everyday life afterwards. The Thai word “sabai” translates directly to “happy,” but it encompasses a broader state of relaxation and comfort in all aspects of life, an internal tranquility that the Thai people have mastered. It is used as an adjective: for example, “sabai jai” means “well heart,” a phrase used to express contentment or gratitude. Sabai is a deep undercurrent in the Thai vision for a complete and well-rounded life.
Being busy to the point of stress has become an unspoken value in American culture. If we’re busy, we’re valuable. In Thailand, the line between work and relaxation is a little more blurry— they aren’t polar opposites, and can be shared in the same time and space. Maintaining a peaceful, buoyant spirit is the best way to live a good life. That open-handed approach to life and our role in the world feels much more aligned to us than the endless grind that doesn’t bring joy or peacefulness to the deepest parts of our souls.
Like New York, New York— sometimes something is so good you have to name it twice. Hence the double emphasis on sabai sabai: deep in my soul all is well, no matter the twists and turns life takes, no matter my current circumstances. Sabai Sabai joins flaner (Provence), sobremesa (Yucatan), and futtitini (Sicily) as this year’s Moveable Feast philosophy to pack with us no matter where we roam.
Besides our overarching theme, there’ll be yoga every morning to help reduce your mental monkeys and set the tone for the day. We’ll have a few workshops on how to improve your travel photography, even if all you have is an iPhone. There will be a cooking class or two to teach you some Thai food basics. We’ll make you a happy hour whiskey cocktail, teach you how to shoot on manual mode, and get deep about the concepts that make Thailand, Thailand. We want to share the things we love so much about this place, but we also don’t like to be babysat while traveling, so there will be plenty of opportunity for choose-your-own-adventure style romps around town.
There is so much to see and do in Chiang Mai, we might as well all move there for a few years. But if that’s not an option, we’ve created the week that we wish someone else would have shown us when we first showed up.
We promise, you’re never gonna follow us around while we hold a flag over our head. These ain’t big group tours because nobody’s got time for that. After nearly a decade collectively in Chiang Mai, we've found the city's hidden gems and will take you to all our favorite spots the guidebooks would never tell you about. Expect unfrequented (yet twice as beautiful) wats without the usual farangs, secret jungle boutiques, and off the beaten path riverside coffeeshops serving beans from practically their backyard.
"I planned on this trip being a once in a lifetime "treat yo-self" trip, but after the first day of being with the group at the hacienda, I knew that I would be saving up so that I can go on another moveable feast retreat the following year. Hearing about the amazingness of the previous year and the trust that everyone else had in Tim and Laura (and the team) putting it all together got me more and more excited for everything that was to happen on that retreat and got me thinking about future trips as well.
Oh. My. Goodness. The FOOD! I was literally in a constant state of food ecstasy.
And I loved being around people with different and exciting backgrounds but who all have the same goal of finding peace, eating good food, being in good company, and spending the week letting someone else take the reigns and life lead the way. "
MOVEABLE FEAST 2017
coffee tour in town
wander the night market
happy hour and stars
“Life, a visitor feels, has not been wasted on the Thais.”
-- Bernard Kalb
Luxury Accommodations in the Villa
Daily Yoga Classes
More inspiration than you can fit in a million suitcases
(all rooms are priced for double occupancy)
ROYAL LANNA (SOLO)
100-year-old thai teak house
two ultra luxe xl twin beds
omg the antiques
please select this option if you're flying solo!
$3,950 (per person)
100-year-old thai teak house
super comfy king bed
most spacious rooms
access to private pool
$4,150 (per person)
100-year-old thai teak house
super comfy king bed
private sitting area
omg the antiques
$3,950 (per person)
(25% retainer holds your spot)
Where is it again?
The villa is just a hop skip and songthao ride from the Chiang Mai airport (but don’t worry— we’ll be waiting for you when you land). We recommend flying directly into Chiang Mai, but for a more adventurous option, you can land in Bangkok and take the overnight train into Chiang Mai. It’s 12 hours of countryside viewing and old-fashioned train travel that we’ve done multiple times, just for fun.
Whoah, is that really where we’ll be staying?
Is it safe there?
We feel safer in Thailand than almost anywhere else in the world. It’s a beautiful place with one of the lowest crime rates in the world, where Laura and Alana are fine to walk on the street at night by themselves, and where you share sidewalks with monks. In short, we’d rather be in Thailand than anywhere in the States when it comes to safety.
What’s the weather like?
We picked November because it’s the best of all worlds: after the monsoon season, before the stifling heat, and just right all day long. Expect high 70s to mid 80s during the day, high 60s at night, and plenty of fresh air. You’ll be able to sunbathe in a pool comfortably during the day and go without a jacket at night. Boom, just the way we like it.
So are we going to lay on the beach or what?
Glad you asked! If you’re looking for beaches, northern Thailand isn’t for you. We avoid the beaches in Thailand like the plague, BUT how does a pool or two float your boat? Without sunburned 21 year olds trying to sell you cocaine?
Can I drink as much as I want?
All your food and liquor is included, and we like a good party (ask us about the last night at every retreat when the liquor cabinet gets cleared), but this isn’t the Carnival cruise line, people. We’re more about tasting all the local liquors with intention, and getting a little tipsy is all part of a great vacation. That said, dealing with a terrible hangover in a tropical country is no way to live the good life, so we encourage you to not to booze like you're at the infamous Full Moon Party. You'll thank us in the morning.
I want to travel with a few friends, is there space for us?
YEP—we’ve got spots for you and your crew of besties. Email us for specific room info so we can guide you to the right space for you!
I have food allergies/am a strict vegan/have a very special diet of only apples that have fallen from the tree on the new moon. Is this the trip for me?
Minor allergies are probably fine—just send us a note ahead of time so we can run them by our chef and be sure we can accommodate them. If you have a strict diet that requires extremely specific guidelines, this may not be the trip for you, as many of our meals will be family style and extremely local cuisine. But we firmly believe that Thailand has something for everyone, so if you have specific menu questions, we’re happy to answer them!
Do you guys do payment plans?
(mark an x here for us.)
(unless you sent something weird)