During my stay in Chiang Mai, I met fellow CouchSurfer, Samart, also known as “Spicy Joe”!
Samart lives in the center of Chiang Mai and is the founder of Next Step Thailand (NST); a local tour company that specializes in jungle treks. Aside from hosting travelers in the center of Chiang Mai, Samart owns land outside of the city. He offers travelers a chance to experience Thailand like a countryside local by providing an authentic jungle trek (licensed tour guides help you catch and cook your own food, make cups out of bamboo, etc.) and you’re guaranteed a bed at his bungalow (OR you can reserve a space sans trek on AirBnB). Believe me, it’s the real deal.
Being the city girl that I am, I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard the term bungalow (at that time the website was not up so I went into this blind haha)… the only feasible definition I crafted in my mind was “a resort outside of the city…” which sounded accurate enough to get me into the wilderness.
Highly recommended by other travelers as an authentic Thai experience, I made the hour+ (75 minute) commute, but was not even close to understanding life outside of the city until now.
Living in Thailand has made me realize how much we have in America. Beds, cars, household tools, utensils, tables, hot water, air conditioning… basic amenities are their luxuries. See below.
Fresh markets are at least 45 minutes by motorbike/car from the local villages; some of villages will have small shops to pick up non-refrigerated snacks.
Or you could go fishing with a local and search for seaweed with a stick.
When it came to carpentry, there aren’t services to call (BTW, cell reception is terrible). So in order to build something like a floor, you’ll need to contact a neighbor, cut down bamboo from the jungle (with a knife, not a chainsaws) and tie it together with bamboo thread. Yes, I totally saw this in the making.
As for the kitchen… they do not have stoves or oven in the jungle; their burners are not controlled by a turn of a knob, they’re controlled by the amount of wood you put in or take out.
For the dining room/area, tables are optional… eat on the floor (with or without utensils).
MY CULTURE SHOCK: Locals are happy here. They’re content with what they have and they get what they need. Life is simple.
I stayed at a bungalow with western toilets (meaning it had a real toilet as opposed to a hole in the floor), showers (some with hot water), mattresses, and refrigeration… but this bungalow was made for tourists. Can you imagine what life is like on a daily basis for locals? They amaze me with their creativity and happiness; which brings me to the question: who’s richer? Them or Us?
More posts about my experience in the jungle, stay tuned!