Renting a scooter is on our mind for some time already as breaking off from the main road and the tourist trail is when Thailand really shines. I do miss our bikes in that regard (not so much in the almost 40C degrees from 9 to 5). Renting however involves coming back to where you came from and that really isn’t my understanding of traveling, after months of riding towards the horizon and never turning back. So we hitch-hike out of Chiang Mai. Well, first we walk a lot to get out of the city. Added benefit: The biggest food market we saw so far. A nice lady who lived in Belgium many years sees us struggle and translates and explains (and forcefed us in the end). Back on the road there is a traffic jam which makes it easy to interview drivers and we explain that just 5 or 10 km is already progress and no we don’t expect to be driven all the way by one driver. Language struggles. We end up in a small town and a man is waving at us from his Toyota pickup truck. He cannot drive us far but invites to stay at his place for the night. We had planned to get to Pai today, but happily agree to take him up on his offer. 10 minutes later we’re on his pig farm.
We get right to business, 3 frogs are caught, I got handed a fishing rod and pulled out a cat fish, off to the market for shrimps and more fish, back at the farm two piggies get loaded on the pickup to be brought to the slaughterhouse and I wonder how much he expects us to eat… Dinner is delicios, mom cooked it all, Nastya played with the two girls and I get escorted by the farmer and his right hand to the roadside whiskey bar. Thailand – full of surprises.
Next morning we get back on the road. Getting sick a bit too, as all the fish fat from the hot pot last night works its magic and the road features 762 curves through the mountains to Pai. 762 is a lot! I think we took 25 so far 😦
Pai is laid back, hard to reach, has its own vibe. We chill at 7-eleven to recover and charge the phone. Thai rastas and young westerners stop by in big amounts to refuel their scooters. Some movies lately have brought an influx of tourists to Pai. We read about waterfalls and hilltribe villages all around and set off by foot to the post office and to find a place to sleep. As usual we end up in a wat just out of town after a few hours of hiking.
Early in the morning we continue and soon catch a ride on a pickup driven by a (short) hilltribe guy. He had a beer for breakfast and after chewing on some leaves and another 100 curves the ride got a bit too crazy for us and we decide to part at a 2nd breakfast pit stop (with another beer). There is a cave close by which we skip. The busloads of tourists arent there yet but the 20 Thai employees already put us in the VIP category and that price is just too high to go see a cave. So we hike on into the noon heat on beautiful mountain roads with absolutely no one passing by. Oh an overloaded scooter every 40 minutes or so. We’re running low on water and after many pictures decide to turn around and walk back. It’s MUCH faster downhill. Oh this heat is killing me. Finally a pickup taking us and then another one with a young Israeli couple that drops us close to the next bigger city Mae Hong Son. We listen to a live album of Aviv Geffen.