I was planning to catch a bus to Pai to attend an annual reggae festival, but after waiting 4 hours at the “bus station” (it’s not a bus station if you have to frantically flag down your bus on the side of the road, is it?) and being told by some old ladies (in mutually agreed upon sign language), that I had missed the last bus, I had no choice but to shack up in the little town of ihonestlyhavenoidea. It was just one of those days. I grabbed some beers, fried chicken, and chocolate, and hunkered down in my room, where I stalked you all on facebook and enjoyed a much a needed shower (not at the same time).
While I was reveling in my little one-woman party, I got a call from Samart, (aka Spicy Joe) a couchsurfer I had contacted and spoken with a few weeks earlier. He invited me to his bungalows, pointing out, “the reggae festival will be too hectic… and who likes reggae music anyway?” Well, I do, but since I was alone, I saw it as chance to be in good company and gain some local perspective.
I rose at dawn and grabbed a tuk tuk pointed towards Chiang Mai. (Sidenote: I was freezing the whole way because, in one of my trademark, lackadaisical moves, I left my only long sleeved shirt in Bangkok). When I arrived, Samart greeted me casually and welcomed me into his home. Samart is a long haired, laid back, multilingual, former monk with a passionate love of the word “spicy” (you like spicy women, don’t you? he would later ask me…) He is the ultimate traveler, trek leader, and all-around-adventurer, as well as one of the most active participants in couchsurfing that I’ve met in my travels. His walls were covered with letters, cards, and photos from travelers he has hosted and guided on treks, many of which included phrases like “best time of my life.” At one point I asked him, “isn’t the revolving door of people and the constant goodbyes emotionally difficult for you?” He responded simply, “yes, it is,” and gazed off into the distance.
Also staying with Samart was a couple from California, Christine and Steve …. They are app developers traveling around the world for “2 or 3 years,” and their backpacks for this epic journey were the size of a carry on suitcase. I wish I had taken a photo. Samart made us a scrumptious breakfast (he even read my mind and brought me coffee—did I mention he is a freelance mindreader?), and afterwards, we (Samart, his driver, and a Slovakian couple) hopped into the van and headed towards the bungalows. On the way, we stopped at a market where Samart wanted to “pick up a few things.” Apparently, “a few things” means a giant knife, a dozen baby ducks, some fish, and the cutest puppy in the entire world.
This is where my love story begins. When you travel, you always wonder in the back of your mind, “will I fall in love on this crazy adventure?” Well, I did. His name is Snoop, (I named him) and well, he is a dog, he is a Snoop Doggy Dog, but that’s a minor detail. We’re in love, and I miss him terribly. My arms feel empty without him.
When we arrived at the bungalows, I knew I had made the right decision. These are not just bungalows, but an official backpacker destination called Spicy Joe Ecovilla and Bungalows. Built by hand from the ground up (mostly out of bamboo), this beautiful ecolodge and organic farm sizzles out earthly and spiritual magic. There were a handful of volunteers staying there, among them a couple from the UK and a woman from New Hampshire. We all bonded and chatted about our experiences at home, and in our travels. We collected rocks at the river to mix with sand and cement to create stone pathways around the bungalows. When we were utterly filthy, we headed to the waterfalls for an evening shower and swim. It was deserted. Chilly, but just perfect. I count this—standing under a seemingly secret rushing waterfall—as one many moments on this trip that have felt surreal.
The next afternoon, after more cement projects (including a lopsided BBQ…how’s that coming Samart?), we went on a lovely tubing adventure. I brought my cheap underwater camera, which I will probably forget to develop for 3 years. Of course I went the wrong way and finished last, but it’s not a race! We spent the evenings drinking Thai Whiskey and a special potent plum alcohol the Slovakian couple provided. We cooked, ate, played games (one of the games involved knowledge of European country capitals, at which I was dismal), and of course I spent copious amounts of time with my love, Snoop. I even convinced Snoop to do some Yoga Tune Up work so I could show off his little yoga physique and skills to my friend/yoga teacher Ariel Kiley.
Upon returning to Chiang Mai, we had one last hooray together at Samart’s favorite Thai BQQ buffet. It was a massive, bustling place, and we selected fresh raw meat and fish to cook on our little BBQ. On the way home, we blasted some classic rock and roll, and sung out the window. I enjoyed my time with Samart and the little piece of bungalow heaven he has created immensely. I am confident our paths (and mine and Snoop’s path!) will cross again. If you have stumbled upon this blog while researching South East Asia, and you are interested in one-of-a-kind accommodation, volunteer experience, tours and treks, I highly recommend, Samart. Check out Next Step Thailand for more information, and to book, contact Samart directly at spicywildpumpkin at gmail.com.
Though I wanted to stay longer, it was time to head to to Phuket to shoot my first destination wedding… and afterwards, cross the boarder into Laos. Stay tuned.
trying before buying…
fried crickets which are actually quite delicious
welcome to spicy joe’s ecovilla
the best bar in town
um, obviously i love this man
wifi is everywhere…
building a BBQ
one of the dozen baby ducks got sick… it couldn’t hold it’s little head up.
i tried to keep it warm in my shirt….
snoop tried to keep it warm too! but it just didn’t make it. rest in peace little duck. (and yes, i’m obsessed with this picture).
he loved yoga tune up balls!
snoop did too!
trying to install solar panels…
Thanks for reading!