welcome to the jungle

I never thought I would get stung by a jungle bee. Nor did I ever think about how bad that would hurt. A tiny little pinch ended up morphing into a hugely swollen red bump on my thigh that itched forEVER. Between that and all the other little mozzy nibbles, my legs were coated in red polka-dots, each begging for the relieving scratch of my fingernails.

All itchiness aside, my eleven day stunt volunteering in the jungle of northern Thailand at Samart Sridosa’s Spicy Villas was everything I needed it to be and nothing I expected it to be.

After a couple of nightmarish bus experiences, I finally arrived in Chiang Mai late one night. Alone. Dropped at the bus stop. The other tourists quickly dispersed, and I was left to haggle with the sole tuk-tuk driver around. It is damn hard to haggle when you have no alternative. Plans with a friend I was meeting fell through, so I was left to some last-minute damage control. I resorted to a website I found (ah, the wonders of Google), and arranged a pick-up to volunteer at these eco lodges the next morning.

Bright and early the next day, I jumped in a van and was taken out of the city. We drove through neon green blurs of rice fields with little straw hats and huts poking out. I was finally transported to the Thailand I had heard so much about.

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We moseyed along the narrow streets, weaving through the hills from village to village. Abruptly, we turned off and headed up narrow dirt roads (roads? They looked more like hiking trails) and through mud puddles big enough to swim in.

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I felt oddly comfortable riding alone in this can with a man I’ve only exchanged maybe a dozen words with. The muddy mountain path brought us to a driveway of sorts, which presented a large clearing littered with a few modest bungalows. Vegetable gardens everywhere framed the view from the mountain. Tranquility, peace, nature and strangers. It was the beginning to a most memorable experience. I think I did and learned more in those eleven days than I did in all my travels.

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