Spicy Time

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End May 30, 2013

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Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai Province,
Monday, December 24, 2012

Desperate to get away from the bustle of Chiang Mai, I made a connection with a couch surfer. He goes by SpicyWildPumpkin, he doesn't like smelly people or loud people, is into  self-sufficiency, was in the monk-hood for 8 years, has long hair, has started some schools, and runs some bungalows out in the mountains – looked like someone we might get along with.

We haven't been using Couch Surfing that much on this trip. Mostly because there hasn't been a lot of opportunity. Some surfers use it as their mainstay, we only look for surfers we think that we'll have things in common with and when we can stay long enough to get to know one another.

What a laid back guy! He spoke to our driver so we could get accurate directions to his place and when we arrived there was a key and a note with the WIFI password so we could make  ourselves at home. The real treat was that he was going out to the bungalows and we could some along. Some mountain air away from the pollution sounded perfect to me!

We arrived after an hour and a half drive late at night. All we really got to experience was the cool evening and bright stars. But the next morning when the sun rose there was a beautiful view of numerous mountain valleys overlooking a nearby town and rice paddies. We were perched on the side of the mountain looking down.

Samut hires local villagers to act as his staff whether it be guiding, house keeping or cooking. I loved the open hearth kitchen with several wood burning pots for cooking over. Small chunks of tree trunk work as cutting boards which you use while sitting on the floor. Eating is also done on the floor. Bamboo mats are rolled out and everyone gathers around the food prepared to eat. Northern Thai food is quite different from southern Thai, and cooking with people from a mountain village brought some surprises. I was so pleased to see banana flower again and this was prepared as part of a red curry with mackerel. We also ate bamboo shoots and something I had never heard of before. It's like coconut sprouts...hard to describe, but I think it's the part of the tree that sprouts out to make coconuts. Inside the stems are a soft type of 'meat' that was cooked up into a soup. I found it quite bitter, but loved that we were eating such interesting  things – probably can't even be found in the market, must be picked by hand.

We went for our own little 'jungle walk to villages'. Unlike any tour we could book in Chiang Mai, our guide was a puppy who adopted us while walking through the village. Locals passing us on motorbikes we later saw up at the bungalows. Spending some time cooking and talking with the local people is something I treasure much more than a guided walk. One lady did some weaving and I was very pleased to buy my souvenir from her rather than nameless people in a busy market.

We also did a bit of helping out. Samut has 2 bungalow sites. The first has been running for a few years and is quite beautiful and full of his gardens. The 2nd site is much higher up the  mountain, and has a much better view, but is much newer. The development is ongoing here (he just put locks on the bungalows the day we arrived). Lots of new gardens have been started, a pond to be dug with a overhanging relax area. He also has food gardens to provide for his workers and guests. We planted many varieties of pumpkin, long bean and basil. Instead of peat moss for new plants, he mixed rice husks in with the soil. These husks are used by farmers for bedding and lining the coops of chickens, so after a week they're full of nutrient rich fertilizer - perfect for growing!

During the evenings we would sit around with handmade beer can lamps made from beer cans and cooking oil while drinking some home made rice moonshine. Compared with some of the other rice wines and liquors we've tried, it was quite nice!

Loved getting out of the city and spending time with people again. Now for the torment of getting back to Bangkok, the biggest city in Thailand :S

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