It was another rough day in the travel writing business: wine-tasting at 11am, who would choose to do that? But, conscientious as ever, there I was with the others at the PB Valley winery, slurping and sloshing - though not spitting. Well, there was no bucket supplied, so what else were we to do, but swallow? And it was no penance, as it turned out. Thai wine is not the main topic of conversation wherever oenologists foregather, but actually there's no reason why not, since it's really pretty good. We tasted chenin blanc, rose, shiraz and tempranillo, and it was all eminently drinkable, even before lunch. Don't go looking for it down at the bottle store, though: it goes to Japan mainly; and it's also a bit expensive. Not for us today, though, hooray!
After what was an unsurprisingly jolly lunch at the winery, we were off to an organic mushroom farm where they grow varieties with names like Ear, Angel Wing and Monkey Brain. Presenting us on arrival with a cold mushroom drink that had the consistency of snot wasn't the best marketing move, but it got better. The one that they cooked up for us in a light batter was really very moreish. The mushroom-shaped accommodation and swimming pool were perhaps a little over the top, but there's no faulting their enthusiasm for the fungus, which managed to survive even - presumably - Google Translate in their literature: "We have a good sniff exactly it helps people live longer with healthy." And the eager man who showed us around was a real fun guy. [*cough* Stolen joke.]
Pausing briefly at Palio, a quite bizarre Italianate shopping centre, complete with golden Thai shrine, bronze greyhounds and a shop selling Halloween costumes, we ended the day at a massage parlour. It was an everyday, unpretentious sort of set-up, nothing like the elaborate rituals of hotel spas: a team of small women directed us to battered loungers or mattresses on the floor depending on our wants, and proceeded to knead and poke with hard fingers and thumbs for an hour, or two. There was wincing, there was giggling and there was also, incredibly, given what I perceived to be a barely tolerable level of pain, snoring. But it was cheap, and I walked back to the nearby hotel on fluffed-up feet, to paddle in the infinity pool and gaze out over manicured gardens to the wild hills, which are about to be visited by a multi-billion baht development of hotels, shopping mall and water park.