Last year, I met Samart (AKA spicy Joe) through couchsurfing, and he invited me to his bungalows a few hours from Chiang Mai.
Little did I know before I arrived, it was an entire operation of volunteering, eco lodges, farming, cooking, and culture exchange.
Click here to read about last year’s experience.
You can stay at Spicy Joe’s Ecolodge either as a guest or volunteer (volunteer is cooler, you eat and stay free in exchange for working 6 hours a day). Either way, you can do treks, hikes, rafting at an extremely affordable rate. And you won’t find a more authentic Thai experience. You can also learn to cook for much cheaper than the cooking classes offered in Chiang Mai.
As I remembered from last year, the closer we got, the more adventurous the journey became. At one point, we had to unload a bunch of salt bags from the truck to reduce weight to make it up a stretch of road. We also had to back up to the edge of a cliff in order to get a running start. I looked over at Erica and she was praying (maybe for the first time in her life) with her hands clenched looking up at the sky. I just laughed and didn’t look back.
We arrived past sundown, and because a water pipe had broken at the bungalows, the group was staying at a nearby waterfall. We navigated our way on foot with our stuff for about 10 minutes before we got to the huts. When we stepped in we were greeted by Samart and a small group of travelers, freshly rolled local tobacco (with turmeric for a sour kick) and of course food and puppies! (not served together). It was an extremely cold night of sleeping, but the sound of the rushing waterfall was amazing white noise for dozing off.
And in the morning, we woke up to this.
photos by travel photographer erica camille. follow me on facebook.