Riding Thailand

Finally broke free of chiang mai a few days back. Mike has recovered sufficiently to be able to ride for an hour or two at a time, and so we made our way northwest about 100 kilometers to a small mountain town called Pai. It’s a small village spread along the edge of a river, with a lot of guest houses and bungalows on the water’s edge. There’s a very vibrant downtown area with lots of sidewalk cafes and diminutive bars. Some of them have bands in the evenings, and a few even have fires, so there was plenty to keep us amused. The day we arrived was the last day of the Pai Reggae festival, which took place at a resort about 5 km south of town. Because of this, I had to search for about two hours before I could find a lodging house that wasn’t full. In the end, all we could get was a dilapidated bamboo hut with a couple of mosquito nets and some flea-bag mattresses on the floor. And glad we were to get it, too.

That evening we headed out to the festival grounds, arriving there a little before the music started. The lineup was all Thai bands that played reggae or some derivative of it, certainly none that we had ever heard of before. Some of it was pretty good, but the Thais just don’t have the cadence and inflection that the Jamaicans have, so they couldn’t really pull it off all that well. Think of an american hippie trying to make it sound like he’s a rasta, then try to imagine a Thai hippie trying to sound like the american hippie. Doesn’t quite work out, if you see what I mean.
So mostly we just tolerated the music and walked around people watching. Here too, they built many fires inside the show ground, so we wandered from fire to fire, drinking buckets of rum, and marvelling at how strange the world can be sometimes.

In Thailand they have this communal drinking tradition wherein they take a small bucket, like an ice bucket or a child’s beach pail, fill it with ice and about a half a bottle of liquor, then top it off with some mixer. Anywhere from three to ten straws are then inserted, so everyone in the group can drink from the same cocktail. It’s a bit strange, but at least you don’t have to keep standing in line for another beer. Mike, who is a seafaring man, has a certain fondness for rum, so we worked our way through two buckets of it, as well as numerous beers, before creeping back to the lodging house at about 4:30 am. The next day was a total wash, and it was all we could do to go into town for dinner.

The day after that, though, we’d recovered enough to fire up our trusty motorcycles and ride about 15 km into a nearby national park, in search of a hotspring. It was easy to find, and was actually a nicely flowing stream that was heated by geothermal springs to about 100 degrees fahrenheit. We had a nice soak, and then were joined by a handful of Thai teenagers, cheerful, smiling kids that had come from a nearby village. Mike was sitting in the stream, squirting water with his hands, which the Thai kids had never seen before. He showed them how to do it, which they picked up quickly. It was all downhill after that, and pretty soon it devolved into a giant battle among the Thais. We decided it was a good time to make an exit.

This morning we left Pai, and have now made our way over to Mae Hong Son, near the border with Myanmar. It was an incredibly beautiful ride over, through forests and mountains, with never a single straight stretch of road. I’ll send more about this place later.