Spicy Villa Eco lodge

Trip Start Feb 17, 2012
Trip End Aug 25, 2012

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Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Friday, April 6, 2012

Early the next morning, we were picked up and set off for our 3 day adventure in the Mae Wang countryside, an hour southwest of Chiang Mai. Spicy Villa Eco lodge was a find from www.airbnb.com which has proved to be a valuable website for our travels. I had my eye on the eco bungalows for a few months but decided not to book anything in advance and shop around when in Chiang Mai. After some research into the standardized elephant and hill tribe treks on offer with busloads of tourists being herded along the same routes like sheep we opted for Spicy Villa, which seemed to offer a different experience, and contacted the owner Samart aka Joe.

After an hour's drive we reached the bungalows which were nestled on the side of a hill overlooking rice paddies and picture perfect countryside.  We relaxed on the bamboo deck with the rest of the guests and enjoyed some wonderful lemongrass tea from Spicy Villa’s organic farm. The atmosphere was chilled out and friendly with guests coming and going each engaged in their own activities: cycling, trekking, bamboo rafting, elephant riding were all on offer all you had to do was ask and enjoy! Food was prepared communally on a fire wok on the bamboo deck with fresh ingredients sourced locally or grown organically at the Spicy Villa farm. Samart was a great cook and after a delicious lunch we set off for our first activity: bamboo rafting.

Bamboo rafting consisted of cruising along at a mostly leisurely pace down a small river enjoying the scenery whilst the locals splashed water at us, this being the run-up to Songkran the Thai new year water festival. At times there were little rapids in the water or rocky obstacles which provided some excitement and Marios impressed me with his excellent bamboo steering skills, then again I spent most of the time sat in the middle of the bamboo to make sure I didn’t lose my balance and fall.  It was a really fun experience but it couldn’t quite compete with our next activity, elephant riding/ bathing/ diving!

We were taken to a small elephant camp where we were introduced to the elephants and their Mahouts (trainers/handlers) and before we knew it we were riding the elephants bare (no saddle) down to the river. Once at the river the elephants began to bathe themselves, and us, diving trunk first into the water and shaking themselves around so that we had to struggle to stay on their backs. We then rode a bit further uphill which was great and downhill sliding down nearly falling off over the elephant’s head my feet digging into her ears while the Mahout held onto me from behind.  It was an exhilarating experience all the while conscious of the fact that our elephant despite being a kind and serene animal still possessed the awesome power to accidentally or not crush us at any given moment.

Back at the bungalows everyone pitched in to prepare dinner which was a delicious meal of Thai flavoured roasted aubergines, tom kha gai (chicken) plenty of rice and spicy Thai pancakes created by Samart.  Plenty of moonshine to wash it down, some music and good company made for a great end to an excellent day.

The next day the four of us together with Kataryna and Lenka 2 Slovakian girls set off early for our waterfall and hill tribe trek with Nouk, who is a local as our guide. The sun was strong so we wore our pointy Vietnamese farmer hats and set off uphill towards the first waterfall. Once there, lunch was prepared with some local people from the village. Everyone helped to prepare the food. Rice, aubergines and pork, all cooked in bamboo. After relaxing for a while at the scenic spot we were invited to Nouk’s Karen village where we spent some time with the locals going about their everyday life, we also visited the village school which was quite interesting. Next we continued walking along an uphill trail which led to another waterfall but the stay there was short as we could see dark clouds approaching. Making our way as fast as we could uphill again we tried to beat the rainfall but we were caught a few kilometres away from shelter and going downhill on a very wet mountain. About an hour or so later we were safe and sound back at the spicy villa and drinking heavy Slovakian homemade spirits, some slibovica courtesy of Kataryna’s grandfather, to warm us up.

Two more days of minimal activity were had at the Spicy Villa, doing some drinking with the people there and lazing about whilst the others literally built 2 new roofs to replace the old rotting ones from the communal area hut and from one of the bungalows. Getting some 'hammock time’, drinking Chang, eating chopped up squirrel with lots of chillies and listening to our host singing ‘I shot the tourists’ was a really pleasant way to pass the time with some good company and will undoubtedly remain with us as one of the most memorable days in Thailand and indeed SE Asia.

After that we returned to Chiang Mai, back to Thana Guesthouse, sharing a room with Mike and JJ only to discover at around 10pm that there were bedbugs in most of the beds there! Imminent room changing and checking all our items one by one to make sure we didn’t carry anything with us.

Next morning Mike and JJ flew out to Phuket right into the eye of a potential tsunami which fortunately never arrived, after a very strong earthquake in Indonesia. Next for us, on to Pai.

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