living in the thailand jungle: spicy villa.

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Spicy Villa was one of two places we booked in advance of leaving the US. As we sat on our plush couch in the comforts of home, a rustic jungle bungalow sounded just like the type of adventure we where looking for. Eco-friendly, limited power, an authentic experience with a true hillside tribe village. We’re in!

Well, authentic was what we got. After we climbed 2.5 hours in a rocky Jeep, we’d arrived at our bungalow paradise – and quickly realized that we were essentially going to be camping for the next four nights (ps: I’d originally booked a week, but while we were in Bangkok, Ting suggested we knock it down to 4-nights and “extend if we love it.”). The open-aired bamboo hut was as basic as they come: mattress on the floor, mis-matched blankets, mosquito next – that’s all. Not even a light.
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our hut: “the morning glory” which happens to be my birth flower
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if you walk down these super steep wooden steps, you can find the bathroom.
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my personal favorite part: the toilet paper holder is a rusty nail.
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We gave each other the, “here we go” looks, grabbed our lights and went to wander the village. It was a quick tour that led us back to the main community area to raid the cooler of beer. Then, as the sun went down we realized that it was going to be chilly in the jungle. Time to layer up.

I could go on and on about our time at Spicy Villa – it has us laughing and cursing simultaneously, but without a doubt it was one of the most memorable parts of journey thus far. Unlike most travelers, we had the chance to stay in a real village with actual “Karen Hilltribe” people. In fact, we were paired with a private “guide” for our stay and we loved him. Jungle Juy is our age and grew up in the jungle. His mother had him in the rice patty field and not privy to bacteria issues, she cut the umbilical cord with her work knife causing Jungle to have “bubble skin,” what we’re assuming is an outie belly button. Jungle Juy’s english was good enough that we could ask him a ton of questions. We learned about life in the village, his thoughts on city living (he’s left a few times and hates the noise and city life), a ton about being resourceful in nature  – bugs, plants that are edible/poisonous, good building materials (don’t even bother trying to make a roof with banana tree leaves) and animals. We learned that they’d only seen one cobra snake this year (it was Jan. 12, not reassuring), that men eat tarantula soup because the all-black spider gives them power, when to know if you’ve been bit by a poisonous snake or a harmless one, that they’ll feed cattle marijuna to make them graze more. You know, the essentials.

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me with Jungle Juy.
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spicy villa was created by, “Joe” who grew up in the hillside tribe and then went off to the city. it’s a great sense of pride to the people and is providing jobs, food, money, schooling, a clinic and volunteers to the Karen people.P1170200

We helped Jungle Juy cook each of our organic meals that were made using the farm’s fresh veggies and natural sweeteners and spices. Some things were redundant because well, when you’re 2-hours from a market, you use what you got. Everything was delicious (except the coffee). There were only a few other guests while we were there (including one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met: a 75-pound Deanna from Lithuania who’s been couch surfing (aka doesn’t pay for anything) alone for months – including 3-months solo in India) but also two awesome fellow USA backpackers Ben & Christine who have spent the past 2-years in Australia. Each night, we’d all bundle up, gather around the fire and eat our dinner followed by a cup of hot tea (one night a giant ant got into my tea and I didn’t realize it until I BIT down on the ant) and then some homemade village moonshine (rice whiskey, but it’s more like cheap vodka) with honey. We’d talk about our travels, listen to music (Jungle Juy loves Bob Marley, Oasis & The Beatles) and laugh at Jungle Juy’s funny sayings… when you’re drunk, you “walk like a snake.” stuff like that.
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really need to learn to like black coffee, but i’m really struggling.
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One day, Jungle Juy took us on a private 3-hour trek through the Jungle. We stopped and visited the school, we went to a woman’s house and saw her weaving textiles. We bought a bracket from a tribal woman who lived by the waterfall. Danny and Ben tied a bunch of bamboo together with shreds of old bicycle tires and we went rafting. The village is an eye-opening experience. Stray animals, cattle, kids and huts made of natural elements tucked into the rice patty fields. Makes you realize how simple life really could be.
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Jungle Juy taught ting to pole vault over the water using a bamboo.
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the bracelet maker.
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puppy & a pig. BFFS.
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jungle guy picking up all kinds of bugs & plants.
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the village school.
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looming on her porch.
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And then, you get sick and realize that you’re going to have to survive in the jungle. The first night we arrived was 24-hours after Danny’s stomach bug at cooking class. After a meal with Jungle Juy, we called it a night and got cozied into our bed. Lying there for a few minutes, my stomach started to rumble and I told D I wasn’t feeling well, “you’re fine. just relax and fall asleep.” Nope… I wasn’t fine. I got the bug.

I’m not sure we could ever really describe the experience and thank Buddah Danny was there to reassure me that I wasn’t going to die in the jungle. He lived, and so would I. He got the open-aired bathroom and I got the ultimate vomit obstacle course. The minute my stomach was rumbling, I had to do the following steps: get out of my sleep cocoon, find a flashlight, get out from under the bed’s mosquito net, try not to clothesline myself getting to the door on the net’s string tying it to the wall, unlock the door, jump dow 1.5-foot drop, and then puke off the side of the bungalow. graphic? sorry. it gets better(?)… worse(?).

After the first one, you’re hoping that you’ve got it all out so I went back to bed. As we’re lying in our open-aired bungalow we hear growling from an animal… and then a fight. Holy National Geographic. There were wild dogs/wolves/animals fighting over my vomit under the bungalow. This is too much.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t done, so I made Danny do the obstacle course with me and use a flashlight to “shoo” away the animals as I was doing my business. And just in case the animals got really excited, Danny built a barricade at the top of our stairs. This went on all night long. By morning, we where exhausted, but I was feeling better. I slept the entire day, Danny read in the “relaxing hut” and we were already laughing at the insane Nat Geo night we’d had.
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So, yeah. It was good times at Spicy Villa. I’m being serious – we did enjoy our time there and realized that the best thing to do in any situation is try and surrender to it. To be a chameleon. Don’t try to make it something it’s not and just go with it. Be an insider vs. an outsider. You’ll be back to your comfortable life before you know it, so when in the jungle….

We made a video to remember some of the funny things about our time at Spicy. I’ll be posting it as soon as Thailand WiFi can handle it ;)

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