Excited, we decide to stay an extra two nights. Then reality sets in. The heat is unrelenting and oppressive. We spend our days lying around, too lethargic to do anything. A songthaew ride to the desolate main drag feels like a big adventure. We go to the famous cave. It’s hot and littered with bat shit. The stench is terrible. We hire a guide, as you’re supposed to do.

Our tour goes roughly like this: “This rock looks like a lion. Want to take a picture? No? Ok. This rock looks like an elephant. This one looks like a papaya. Are you sure you don’t want to take some pictures? Here’s a rock that looks like an elephant ear…” The magnificent rocks of Chiang Dao. I start to think maybe I’m afraid of caves. The suffocating, damp heat. The smell. The sense of being trapped underground.

We finish our cave-visit by 9am. Outside the cave sad looking dogs wander around and people sell coffees from corrugated tin shacks. In the road we pass, chickens. Every house has chickens. For all it’s wealth, America’s food system is kind of a dessert. The eggs here are far better.

The heat continues into the night. Covered in sweat and too uncomfortable to eat anything but fried rice, dinner is a chore. I want to flee to somewhere cold like Norway or Antarctica. Remembering my hatred of Connecticut summers, I wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea.

And yet…we walk back in the silent darkness, the heat finally breaking. The moon is as bright as it’s ever been. The forest edge is alive with fireflies.