We’re leaving Chiang Mai for a few days to explore the northern area a little. First stop is a city named Pai.
From breakfast we pack our belongings into three bags and the little we’ll bring on the tour in the last. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; personal hygiene it’s more relaxed here. Two pair of underwear for three days is extravagant, but we have space so why not?
Katja takes a tuk-tuk to our new hotel (which we will move into on Wednesday when we return for our motorbike adventures) where we’ve arranged for them to keep our bags while we’re away. Then we go by the post office to send home the lamps we bought at the night market before we’re finally ready to go to Pai.
Everyone we’ve told we’re going warns us of the steep and curvy road to Pai. It’s a 140 km drive and the first part is just straight Highway. Not really exciting, as the roads here are basically drawn up with a ruler.
The most exciting thing that happened during this part of the ride was a police checkpoint. With faith restored in the police corpse of Northern Thailand when we got pulled over last I hit the brake and come to a halt. Back to the corrupt police with bribes to drive on. Katja handled the negotiation and got him down from five hundred to two hundred Bath. That’s about fifty NOK or 5,5 euros. Bastards!
Just before we turn off the highway we break for lunch at a little roadside place. We get the best fruit shake in ages and a noodle soup with pork. Katja described it quite good when she exclaimed:”little meat, lots of liver.” Buy hey, everyone needs iron in their diet. It tasted good though, so no complaints.
A few minutes further down the road and we broke off from the 107 and got onto road 1095. Then the twists and turns began. I loved it. Katja didn’t.
Driving such a little cc bike makes for very active driving when there’s steep hills to climb. A larger bike don’t need to gear shift so frequently, but it’s part of the fun. For me, at least. The turns are so sharp they sometimes go back on themselves, all the while continuing to climb abruptly in mid turn. There are a lot of minivans going to and from Pai and I’m glad I’m not onboard one.
There’s a way to do a curve perfectly when riding a bike. Entry, curving and exiting. That’s not eve theoretical here. You better cling to the outside of your lane in and out of every turn because you never know what’s gonna come from behind or towards you. I frequently check the mirrors, but it’s more than once that I’ve just done it and then get passed by. Preferably in a turn, with two cars overtaking each other in the opposite direction. Nah, it’s not all that bad, but trust me on keeping to the outermost left of your lane.
After climbing up for about 50 km we went downwards about the same distance. That was the worst for Katja. Steep downhill with hairpin turns and oncoming traffic. But we made it to Pai in one piece.
We stopped a few kilometres outside Pai to look at the Memorial bridge that lets you cross Pai river. It was originally built by the Japanese during world war II. Probably not by the Japanese, but by pow’s or locals. It was meant to be the road to Mae Hong Son from where they wanted to attack Burma, a British colony at the time. The bridge was burnt in the retreat by the Japanese, but the locals were now so used to it they rebuilt it. Taken by flood almost thirty years later a steel construction was erected in its place. It’s still standing but has been replaced in daily use by a concrete version suitable for today’s traffic.
Into Pai we found our hotel easily enough and after a little hassle got our room. I think this might be the first time our booking hasn’t been visible when we arrived. No worries, all good.
We dropped our little luggage in the room and walked into the streets of Pai. It’s an old hippie town now overrun by young backpackers. There’s a lot of “free spirits” here, as you can see by the number of people with nose rings. That goes for both genders. They’re all dressed in purple or the local elephant pants and have their dreadlocks in a bun on the top of their head. Predjudistic, me? Nooooooo!
Pai offers lots of different restaurants, bars, and small stalls with street food. We have red curry and massaman at one place before taking a slow stroll through the market street and back. Yes, Katja found something to buy, on multiple occasions.
We met a Danish man on a motorbike in the street. We noticed his registration on the bike was Danish. He had driven his bike from Denmark for a year through China and central Asia. Ride to live. Live to ride.
The darkness fell over Pai and as daylight tourists that’s our cue to return home. The room holds shot thirty degrees, the air con is as joke and it’ll be a long night if we can’t get the temperature down.
“I always wish the hotels were like they are in movies and TV shows, where if you’re in Paris, right outside your window is the Eiffel Tower. In Egypt, the pyramids are right there. In the movies, every hotel has a monument right outside your window. My hotel rooms overlook the garbage dumpster in the back alley.”
– Gilbert Gottfried