While making our way down from Doi Inthanon National Park in Thailand, I asked my local guide/driver if we could stop for a drink before making the one-and-a half-hour journey back to Chiang Mai. I was feeling a bit tired from our visit to Doi Inthanon that morning. Furthermore, I was still recovering from the shock of going to the temple’s public toilet! Never before have I had to take off my shoes and socks, walk barefoot into a dark cubicle and step on the very wet, dirt-covered floor to have a “bio” break. To make things worse, the toilet was fashioned in the traditional style where you have no choice but to squat!
But I digress as usual. The driver offered to take me to a place that not only served good coffee but boasted of beautiful scenery as well. This meant that dinner would be delayed and would I mind?
Would I mind? I asked if we could stop for drink and he throws in a view as well! Dinner could certainly wait!
This proposition made me feel better immediately. It took a good 20 minutes to drive down the winding road to get to the base of the mountain. In the meantime, my fatigue had miraculously disappeared. I could not wait to see what was in store for me. The limousine finally exited off the main road and we arrived at Ban Mae Klang Luang.
Mae Klang Luang is a small but unique village that is promoted as an ecotourism destination. What this means is that this eco-village is great for indulging in activities like photography, bird-watching, nature trekking or as a short getaway from life in the city. All ecotourism activities in the village are run and managed by an ethnic hill tribe known as Karen. The Karen are of Burmese origin who migrated to Thailand in the 18th Century.
After a short climb up a dirt road, we stopped at a small clearing near the top of the hill. The view in front of me was a beautiful panorama of lush paddy fields growing in the valley below, and extending across the gentle, terraced hill slopes. Each rice field was separated by a traditional drainage system, harmonising a beautiful, carved landscape between man and nature.
On the way up to get a better view of the rice fields across the valley, our car drove past a minivan parked next to a little store. From the body language of its passengers, it looked like the driver had accidentally left his keys inside the locked vehicle. The minivan was still there when we emerged from the dirt road some 30 minutes later. I asked my driver if he knew of any mechanic nearby who could assist in putting the passengers out of their misery. He reassured me that there was a town ten minutes away and told me not to worry as the Thais have a solution for everything!
It was then time to go for coffee! The “coffee shop” turned out to be a bamboo shelter built on a gentle hill slope away from the other Karen dwellings.
So there we were. Six European bikers, four Asians and two Americans seated round a long wooden table to savour the taste of freshly ground, piping hot Arabica coffee.
It was the best Arabica coffee I have ever tasted, even up to this day!