Can you really survive in the Thai jungle with just bamboo? Scott Yorko goes all in with a Thai ex-soldier affectionately known as ‘Mr. Bamboo’ to find out.

When I first meet Mr. Chartchay Chaikaew, he’s wearing a flowery, teddy bear-printed apron over a snap-button shirt and linen pants in his office/restaurant that’s devoid of any customers. The 52-year-old former professional karaoke singer and Thai boxer stands at five feet three inches, and his short, muscular arms are drying aluminum silverware like he’s squeezing the life out of each spoon. 

Although he is a multi-hyphenate professional, he currently offers guided treks through the Thai jungle at Trek Pai—marketing his treks as opportunities to “survive in the jungle using only natural materials such as bamboo and banana leaves,” and “cook traditional food and use ingredients found in nature.” Another selling point? No elephants. 

“Bring only long pants and a shirt, headlamp, bug spray, and hammock,” he tells me, running through the very short, four-item packing list for the guided trip I’m about to embark upon. “We’ll make our own plan when we go. Other guides plan first.” He continues. “I can survive anywhere. It’s amazing. The jungle has everything. Medicine, toys, nail polish…”