Spending the first half of the day scaling Doi Inthanon, Thailand's tallest mountain, left me exhausted to say the least (admittedly I even hitched a lift for 10k of the journey, but the final 15k to the summit was enough!). I wanted to stay at high altitude and camp before the decent back to the city of Chiang Mai the following day. My search lead me down a dirt road to a small clearing the forest by the river Klang - at about two hours before dinner. Perhaps I was suffering from PTSD from the greweling ascent, but for some reason I felt a little empty – wandering just what I was doing sat there in the jungle on my own. I stayed for an hour or two in a trance-like state, occasionally glimpsing huge black and blue butterflies that would come and go every once in a while. I was gently sailing down the river of conciseness when suddenly my boat hit a rock - hunger - my belly rumbled as I came-to, just in time for dinner. The rice was bubbling away, when I heard a thud and a jeer, a jeep was approaching from the dirt road – uh oh!
The pickup pulled-up and out popped a dozen locals – whom I later found out to be actually from Korea. Luckily, one girl spoke English and I explained that I was intending to camp in this spot. They laughed and then started unpacking fishing equipment and whiskey – lots of whiskey. "Come catch fish?", they asked. I consulted myself for a second or two, and off I went on the path down to the river – leaving my stuff at the spot, my tent still un-pitched.
I laughed to myself that, after I had been sitting there for nearly two hours contemplating my existence, I had suddenly found myself river fishing and drinking neat whiskey with my twelve new Korean friends. The fish were extremly hard to catch. We were after Cyprinidae – a small river fish about two inches long and nifty as a bar of slippery soap. Success – Pitak (one of the gang) had netted a fish! A Mexican wave of cheers briefly shot through the group, when suddenly the heavens opened! Having not seen rain in months I was, at first, greatly enjoying the monsoon when I came to the realisation that all my stuff was open to the elements back up in the jungle. I hastily bagged my camera on the shore of the river and ran back up to the clearing. Soaked to the bone, I made a pathetic attempt to pitch the tent as I quietly wined in dread. My inflatable mattress was going to be a lilo in there. I ran back down to retrieve my camera and met the guys coming back up the path. One of them signaled to me "You come my home?" – relief.
Everyone pitched-in in un-piching my tent, frantically bundling me and my things into the back of the pickup. My smile was perpetual as I sat there in the back of the open Jeep, not even caring about the branches that would frequently slap my face as we sped through the moonlit monsoon.
I entered Pitak's house to the background of laughter, the Korean family seemed very happy to have a foreign guest. No one in this particular house spoke english, so there was a lot of smiling and hand gesturing. Pitak cooked the fish and I was lucky enough to be chosen to eat it! The evening was concluded by a huge dinner of thick white fish curry and rice.
As always, the cockerel chimed at 5:00am sharp and breakfast was served. I ate with the whole (extended) family. After a brief tour of the village, consisting of 19 houses - all inhabitants of which seemed to be part of the same Korean family, I was promptly dropped back at at the entrance to the dirt road, now gently lit with the morning sun. And I was left thinking; "What the hell just happened?!”