Dazed & Deluged in Doi Saket

     After four days spent zipping around Chiang Mai on motorbikes, feasting on fantastical amounts of Thai food (Pad Thai and Pad See Ew at least once a day), and experiencing pure bliss at Doi Inthanon Elephant Sanctuary, it was time to say goodbye to the Viva Chiang Mai Treehouse compound and head to a "suburb" of Chiang Mai, Doi Saket. Located about 45 minutes away tucked against the Thai hillsides and surrounded by rice fields, Doi Saket was a genuine getaway. It was peaceful, quiet, and utterly enchanting. 
    Days in Chiang Mai were busy and full whereas days in Doi Saket were relaxing and melancholy. A private villa complete with a cook, pool, and view overlooking the rice fields and Thai hillsides was all our own thanks to tourist desertion during monsoon season; even a palatial estate was affordable for backpackers.

Our first day at the Rice & Zen Boutique in Doi Saket Raphael and I were greeted by a tropical monsoon of epic proportions. Booming thunder, flashing lightning, and pouring rain were in store for us overlooking Doi Saket's rice fields and the rolling hills beyond. The villa--normally running at capacity with 10-12 guests--was all ours thanks to monsoon season's effect on tourism. Divine providence or fate? Ah, who gives a shit, we were going to soak up (literally) every second of our stay at the "private" villa.
     Under the falling rain, we splashed around in the pool lounging in admiration of the mercurial monsoon weather. Earlier that day we'd ridden our motorcycles out to Doi Saket under the blazing Thai sunshine, and after we'd arrived the sun decided to hide behind the cover of the rainclouds. After unpacking, we decided to splash down in the villa pool and stepped outside only to be greeted by a booming thunderstorm rolling over the Thai hills not too far away. It certainly checks out why the villa was empty. Monsoon scene was as mercurial as it gets, from sunshine and cloudless skies to rolling thunderstorms in a manner of minutes. It was incredibly awe-inspiring, unlike anything we'd experienced at home in California, home to cloudless and sunlit skies. The background setting to this all was as lush as it gets; rice patties stretching off into the distant, dense hills, hills shrouding the wild Thai jungle.
The rest of the day I spent comfortably in a silky blue bathrobe, lounging on a chaise-lounge outside, but not in the rain, leisurely journaling the details about my time at Doi Inthanon elephant sanctuary, ongoings in Old Town Chiang Mai, and my inner monologues all the while—a full day of decompression.

     The next day started magically. I was refreshed and relaxed--the last time I truly felt as such was after Raphael and I visited an onsen, a Japanese bath house, in Kobe--and roamed towards the main house. Outside on the deck sat Michael, the host and owner of the Rice & Zen Boutique, sipping a coffee and beaming as he admired the view. "Good morning Damien! How are you this fine and not so rainy morning?!" he jovially stated. I told him exactly what I just told you: I felt reborn, hadn't felt this reinvigorated since the onsen in Kobe. "Well" he continued, "are you hungry? Maya (the villa chef) is up and would love to prepare you and Raphael a breakfast, cooked to order, if you like." 
This can't be real life. How the hell could I wake up in Chiang Mai Thailand, in a villa, with a stunning panoramic view of the lush rice fields and rolling hills, with a free made-to-order breakfast, and I'm here with my brother? 
     
If I was blown away then, I was at a loss of words when the breakfast arrived. Gourmet applewood smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, endless coffee, and an assortment of local tropical fruits: papaya, mango, lychee, and pitaya.  I must be in a lucid dream. After breakfast the day continued the upward climb. Thai massages, a lunchtime gorge, motorcycle rides around the roads through the rice fields, and plenty of lounging by the pool spilling my secrets and musings into my journal.

     The next morning we took off early for our flight to Luang Prabang, Laos, but not before we indulged in another hedonistic gorge of chef Maya's insanely delicious breakfast. More eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, and even some patongo--Thai donuts. Hot damn this was the life! Why were we leaving?