… in the jungle. Here is the outside view:
And a view from my “deck”:
Andy and his girlfriend, Tukta (and Little Bear, one of their dogs), picked me up from the airport in Chiang Mai after a long series of flights: excluding the hours spent during layover, I travelled over three hours to Toronto from St. John’s, 15 hours to Taipei, about four hours to Bangkok, and just over an hour from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, arriving in the early evening on Wednesday, May 7th. I met Michelle (from California) at Taoyuan airport, while we were awaiting our flight to Bangkok. She was about to begin her adventure of teaching English for a year in central Thailand. We had a great conversation and I’m hoping I might be able to visit her during my travels!
I have never been able to sleep on planes, and this lengthy trip was no exception. As you can imagine, I was exhausted upon arrival. We drove over a half hour north of the city and came to the base of the Hill Camp (Doi Modt), which is elevated at around 3600 feet. I was handed a headlamp to navigate the darkness and began to hike up the hill with some sort of mysterious energy reserve. It had just rained heavily, making the path slippery and muddy. After about 15 minutes of walking, I was greeted by the camp dogs (nine of them, I believe), my clothes covered in mud at this point. This is Moo:
Moo about to accompany me down the hill for a jog/walk (I won’t lie, I didn’t really make a significant effort to run my ass up the steep hill):
The basics of the camp were explained to me by Andy, and I learned that I’d be the only trainee for a few days. There are several Thais who live up here (a few of them members of the neighbouring Lahu tribe) and help with cooking, building, and maintenance. I always found it amusing to hear the hourly “jingle” (some popular commercial tune, like Row, Row, Row Your Boat) emanating from the temple in the village, nicknamed “Techno Monk” by Andy.
The water is naturally pure and there is a cool breeze that runs through the hills, causing the temperature to be over five degrees cooler than the city. The place is basically a food paradise (Garden of Eden?). Papaya, mango, and banana grow rampant in this area, and the camp is also growing coffee (spectacular) and herbs (lemongrass, turmeric, and other unique Thai herbs). The honey comes from the jungle. The meals I’ve been eating are absolutely AMAZING. I loved Thai food before coming here, so I’m a happy camper (despite developing a bit of traveler’s sickness these past few days).
Andy is also a health nut who loves to read and we spent lots of time sharing and comparing notes on this subject area. I can’t believe the shape he’s in at 55 years old; he’d easily wipe the floor with guys half his age! Andy’s training philosophy is founded on a number of sources, including the regimens of Pavel Tsatsouline and “Convict Conditioning.” I’ve been reading and practicing some of the breathing, muscle tension, and joint flexibility exercises based on the principles of these training regimens and have already noticed quick progress. Andy has also added his own spin to come up with Muay Thai-specific exercises. Pad work with him was extremely productive, as he pointed out my bad habits :). The pace I opted for was not intense, since I had to deal with jet lag and not sleeping very well for the majority of my nights at the camp. I was dirty, au naturel, and covered in insect bites most of the time (AfterBite is my #1 beauty accessory), but I very much appreciated the stark contrast with my usual way of living! Unfortunately, the sickness for the last few days of my week there deterred me from training, and so I took it pretty easy.
Here is the training area:
Another operation at the camp is a partnership with a herbalist in the city who makes her own natural products. They’re weaving baskets out of bamboo for her products, and also growing herbs as ingredients for them. I was mesmerized watching the three young Thai men wield machetes to delicately slice the bamboo, and then nimbly intertwine it into beautiful baskets! My fingers would be gone, pronto, and all I’d have to show for it would be a sloppily constructed basket.
I arrived in Chiang Mai yesterday after my week at the Hill Camp and I admit I’m enjoying the comfort of my air-conditioned room. I’ve settled into a cute hotel next to the camp for the time being, and I will begin training in a few days. I don’t feel the need to rush. I’m hoping to overcome my symptoms first, but, if not, I’ll go for it anyway. I could easily fatten up given my food lusting, but I won’t let myself go too much (my thigh gap will be my guide) ;). I seem to get a decent amount of exercise chasing the damned Wi-Fi signal! I’ve explored the nearby area and there’s loads I want to do during my time here (probably two weeks). The famous Night Bazaar is one of them!