A bike tour through Northern Thailand.
From Northern Thailand's main city Chiang Mai, we (Nicolas and I) took the bus to a small town called Pai.
We imagined ourselves a rural and small local town, especially because we read that the town has only 2000 inhabitants. But, as soon as we arrived and left the bus, we realized that there must be almost the double of tourists compared to the town's inhabitants. Literally everything was tourist orientated. Which doesn't mean that it was not a nice cozy town, but it was undeniable that it was fake. A mother was making her little girl sing English Christmas songs. Now, of course it is awkward to sing such a song in this period of the year, but that was not the problem. Children in a small town in the deep mountains of Northern Thailand normally are just not supposed to sing English songs.
After spending a night at Pai, the next day we departed on our adventure. For the next 5 days we were going to cover about 700 kilometers by bike. The bikes we had rented in Pai only cost 100 Bat (250 Yen or 2 Euro 50) a day which is nothing, but it was the fuel which was most expensive. These bikes seem really addicted to that liquid, and on a full day of biking we would have to refill for at least 3 times.
That being said, we had an amazing time on our bikes, racing through the mountains, forests, passing waterfalls and caves. The scenery would often change drastically. Sometimes it would be like a tropical forest, the other day it made Nicolas remember Southern France's countryside. But whatever kind of scenery it would be, it was all amazing non the less. I especially liked one tree with very bright red leaves, which would show its face once in a while.
On the first day, we did a 5 hour expedition inside the "Mae Lana Cave" which was definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far. I will write more detailed on this in a next post (in Japanese, muhaha!) so stay tuned.
After becoming completely dirty and exhausted from the cave, we found a small eatery in the middle of nowhere. Funny enough, there were 2 western guys sitting there that had just their lunch. After departing Pai, we had hardly seen any foreigners, but sometimes you see a few hardcore backpackers. They were from the United States, but were both living in Asia. One of them had lived in Thailand before, and spoke fluent Thai. The other one was teaching English somewhere in the cold north of China. They mentioned a waterfall that was supposed to be close by, but with the car they had rented they were not allowed to enter. After having some simple and cheap noodles, we took them on the back of our motorcycles, and tried to head to the waterfall, but there were some Chinese asking for a ridiculous entrance fee.
"Even when I leave the place they still try to scam me!" the English teacher said.
We headed back to the restaurant, said goodbye to them and continued on our tour.
After another 3 or 4 hours, we arrived at a city called Mae Hong Son. It was supposed to be the capital of the province, but expect no more than a small village. There were not too many foreigners here either. We found ourselves a cheap motel for the night with the name "Pen Porn House".
The place had no internet, so once we left for dinner, we hoped to find a restaurant with wifi. To our surprises, there was wifi at a simple local restaurant, so we decided to eat there. It was not very crowded, and the lady gave us a seat at the second floor. We were the only ones at the second floor. For the simpleness of the restaurant, the food and service were really good, and most importantly the lady was really kind. With a real smile on her face, she often came upstairs to look if we had everything we needed. After finishing dinner, Nicolas and I used the place as if it was our home. I moved to another table to write a bit on my blog, while Nicolas was walking around in the room while skyping. When the lady came upstairs again to look at us, she laughed and told us to feel as if we were at home, which we had already been doing.
On the second day of our trip, before leaving Mae Hong Son, we first made a brief visit to the towns temple located next to a lake. We had some simple lunch, and then were ready to go. We wanted to pay a visit to a town were a Long neck tribe lives, but somehow took the wrong way. I have heard that you pay an entrance fee there nowadays and that the place has pretty much lost all of it's authenticity, so I didn't care so much.
We found a small road that was leading to the top of a mountain.
We took this road because it said "Left for the microwave" on a traffic sign before it. Let's see what kind of microwave this could be! On the way, we found many huge crop-fields, but strangely enough there was not a single laborer around. Was it maybe not the right season? On the top of the mountain, we found a small small village. This was really a place were tourists usually don't come. Although most people did have cars, life here seemed still very primitive. Kids were holding chickens, a small pig was walking around in someone's garden and people's houses were built primitively with simple pieces of wood. A microwave was going to be hard to find here. In front of a certain house, a grandma was cooking loads of meat and rice. Wouldn't it be interesting if we could join the lunch here? With the guide book Nicolas had brought, we tried to explain that we were hungry. They somehow seemed to understand, but didn't invite us inside. A girl carrying a baby (probably the only one in town that speaks a little bit of English) told us to follow her. She took us to a small old shop, probably the only place to buy food in town. We had some snacks, and ate this in the front of the shop.
"Do you think they know a lot about Swedish contemporary art here?" Nicolas asked.
After eating our snacks, we saw a lady entering her house, and asked if we could take a look inside. The lady was cooking rice, and in the back a boy was sitting on an old table. No microwave to be seen.
We left the town, and went on with our trip. On the way, we found a place on the riverside to have a swim. It had been so hot! I was dying to take a fresh dive. But once in the water, I started to worry. What if there was a crocodile swimming in this water? It looked exactly like the kind of river in which you would find one. Quit that nonsense, Nicolas said, and I forgot about it and decided to just have a nice swim. But then, all of the sudden, I saw bubbles in the water, coming closer little by little. I pointed at it to Nicolas. We both swam back to the riverbanks as fast as we could. Back on the land, we had another good look at it. It were just some small fish.
Later that day, we found a huge waterfall in the middle of nature. It was a complete jungle out there, and there was no one around at all. About our adventures at this waterfall, I will write detailed in another post ( in Dutch, muhaha!) so stay tuned!
It was starting to get pretty late by then. We had to hurry on to the next town for a bed. But on the way, it started to rain like cats and dogs. We were only wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and were cold and wet like crazy. On the way, we found a small roof with a bench to hide from the terrible weather. After a while, a local family came to hide as well. We all climbed as high as possible to stay away from the rain.
After something like 15 minutes, the rain got a bit less. Time for us to move on. But we had to be careful. The roads were very slippery because of the rain. On the way, Nicolas fell with his bike once, but gladly seemed to be unharmed.
The rain became worse again. But if we would stop to hide again, it would become too dark before we would arrive at the next town. While getting completely soaked, we headed on and on. Just when we were about to die because of this terrible weather, we found a small cottage saying "Coffee house homestay".
We were saved! A cute old couple gladly invited us inside, and told us to first have a nice hot shower. After that, they cooked some nice fried rice and an omelet for us while we were watching Thai television. A cheerfully smiling guy with long hair was singing a happy song, while trying to dance with a beautiful girl. The girl seemed to be in for this, but her angry mother next to her was not allowing her to dance. The guy then tried to cheer up the angry mother. It seemed hard to succeed, but he kept trying and trying, but even at the end the mother would not show a single smile. The song somehow matched perfectly with the atmosphere of the living room.
There was no wifi at "Coffee house homestay". The rain had stopped now, so I made a small tour around to see if I could find a place to use wifi, but without luck. When I came back, Nicolas laughed and said "I guess driving around in search for wifi in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Northern Thailand in the middle the night was a bit too ambitious".
The 3rd day, we decided to try and make it all the way to Chiang Mai. It was only another150 kilometers more, so that shouldn't be too hard. On the way we bought some Lychee, and ate some while driving our bikes. We found another waterfall, this time not in the middle of nowhere, but with a parking lot and a restaurant positioned next to it. There was a path next to the waterfall leading somewhere, so we decided to climb our way up. It was further than we had imagined. A huge staircase seemed to be leading somewhere, but it was a terrible job to climb all the way up in this incredible heat. When we finally arrived at the top, it turned out that it was just another parking lot.
"Huh, all this sweat for nothing?" I said.
"Not for nothing. Now you lost a few more pounds"
After having a huge fish for lunch, we headed on to Chiang Mai. This day was so incredibly hot, that we wanted to arrive and rest at a cool room as fast as possible. On the way, there was a "Gahesha museum". Ganesha being a god with an elephant shaped head, originally from India. We decided to have a look, but once we arrived we were so exhausted that we just sat down on a bench in the shadow, and didn't feel like looking around anymore.
"I wonder if they have wifi here" Nicolas said, and to our surprises there was. In some small elephant god museum in Northern Thailand, I was chatting with people from over the whole world. The world has really become a strange, strange place.
After about an hour of wifi, we decided it was time to have a look at the elephant gods. There was a collection of Ganesha statues from all sorts of counties. It was interesting to see how each country has a slightly differently shaped Ganesha. Nicolas explained me about the story behind Ganesha.
Ganesha, a young boy was lying in bed with his mother. Father came, and mistook Ganesha for a guy cheating on his wife. He cut off the head of Ganesha.
"No honey! You are making a mistake! This is our son" mother said. But it was already too late. In total panic, father searched for another head to replace. The first head he found was an elephants head... Well, I guess it's better than nothing!
We arrived in Chiang Mai in the early evening. We found a comfortable and cheap hotel, and headed out for barbecue food in the night.
The next day, we were both so tired and sun burnt that we decided to take it easy. Nicolas had his beard shaved at a local barber, I had my first real massage in my life, and we drove around by bike through town.
At the massage parlor, we were told to change into special uniforms for this massage. It seemed that we had made a mistake, and that I was wearing the small sized uniform that were meant for Nicolas while he was wearing my large sized uniform. The ladies that gave the massage seemed to find this hilarious, and would often suddenly burst out laughing while giving the massage. That being said, I have never been someone who enjoys massages, and going to my first real massage parlor didn't really change that. But, having a real Thai style massage was a worthy experience non the less.
On the last day of our trip, what we had to do was bring back our bikes back to Pai, then take the bus back to Chiang Mai and take the night train back to Bangkok. On the way back to Pai, we had lunch at some fashionable cafe that served it's rice shaped in a heart piece.
In the last few kilometers, I tried to brake in a curve, but the bike suddenly slipped and I fell. Until now, no problems at all and in the last few kilometers this. Luckily I was unharmed and able to go on, but a few minutes after that, while driving straight and slowly, I tried to brake once more, and again the bike slipped. This time my arms and legs were full of scratches, and I had a really deep wound on the side of my right foot. After 700 kilometers with no problems, 2 accidents in the last 10 kilometers! There had to be something wrong with the brakes.
I guess I will have to take it easy for a while to recover these wounds. Hopefully after that I will be able to practice Muay Thai!