The bumpy road progresses from paved to dirt in a death-defying incline up a one-lane mountain. With each passing minute my obsession grows over the lack of seat-belts, as my hands grasp my backpack for comfort.
In front of me, the petite Nok is at the wheel while her husband, Noi, attempts to keep their four-legged friend, Mr. Kao, at bay while he sticks his neck out the window to catch the zipping breeze. (Kao means white in Thai- a name appropriate for his coloring).
Next to me in the car, and perhaps looking a tad green due to his fear of heights, sits Ian, a fellow traveler who has just spent two months volunteering at an Akha Village.
After what feels like a ride on the longest roller coaster ever invented, we arrive at Bamboo Nest, the five-bungalow inn, built and lovingly run by Nok and Noi, and my home for the next few days. One look at the view from my bungalow of the rolling landscape covered in lush green foliage with a large clearing for a half dozen cows to graze, and all the fear of the past hour subsides.
Surely, this is heaven.
Dusk creeps over the horizon, casting a rose-colored haze over the grounds while Nok cooks up a dinner fit for kings.
With no internet, grandiose plans of writing from sun up till sun down emerge, along with frolics to the nearby waterfall, and lazy hours swaying to and fro in the cocoon of a hammock on my bamboo porch.
Though the food is delicious, the views sublime, and the tranquility welcomed, it is my early morning conversation with Noi that remains so special for me.
Although Noi never once stops bustling about his chores (in fact I never once see him sit during my stay), his words and zest for life make me pause with wonder.
Among my favorite Noi-isms:
I believe 20% of what a person says. And if they are drinking? Maybe 5%.
I’m happy because I know today, but not tomorrow.
On Quality of life:
I have one dog, one cat, one lady. This is all I need.
I’m sorry to make you sad. Everything changes. You cannot predict the future.
You are a good age to be writing because you have experience. Many people do not.
And much too soon, it’s time to climb into the backseat of the truck, backpack once again in my clutches, and head back from whence we came.
This time, the ride is silent, with only our thoughts to keep us distracted from the vertical drop below.
A feeling of bittersweet melancholy overtakes me as I think about these few days and the paths I’ve crossed to get here.
Sometimes in our lives and travels, we meet people who, though our time together may be brief, affect us at our core and cause us to think anew.
Whether we meet again is of little importance.
That we met at all is nothing short of miraculous.
Have you ever met someone that forever altered your story, perhaps without even knowing it at the time?