Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pai and Mae Hong Son

Avoided writing on here for a couple days because the internet cafes in Pai were twice as expensive as any place i've seen. Friday I left Chiang Mai and jumped on a bus to Pai with an Israeli girl I met in Chiang Mai. The road twisted through the mountains and I'm sure there were some incredible views but I couldn't see anything because the smoke from the forest fires is still everywhere. Pai itself was pretty clear though and we saw a blue sky for the first time in over a week in northern Thailand.

Pai is an idyllic small hippy town along a river that I don't think would exist if tourists didn't start showing up there at some point and hanging out for no particular reason. Got a little one room bungalow...was a pretty chill place, can see our bungalow complex from across the river in the pic below.

Since it's the end of dry season the river was really low and not too pretty, but the mountains were nice and overall it was a peaceful place to relax for a couple days, no traffic and relatively clean air. I finished the first book I started here and read one and a half more books just chilling on the porch of the bungalow. The town itself is all bars and western restaurants, got a pretty good falafel and a not so good cheeseburger. You can circle around the whole town on foot in about 20 minutes, so it was familiar very fast. After 2 days I was ready to go.

This morning I hopped on a bus to Mae Hong Son, it is about 120km northwest of Pai. Another steep windy road through the mountains, the guidebook actually called the highway from Pai to Mae Hong Son one of the fabulous sites to see in northern thailand, but I barely saw anything again due to the smoke. I'm sure this is killing my lungs.

The girl I was travelling with went on to Laos and today was the first day i've spent alone in Thailand. It was a little lonely, there are very few tourists in this town since it's the low season and it's pretty far off the beaten path. The few i've seen seem to be older or couples, haven't met anyone here yet.

I came here because I bumped into the guy I travelled with the first few days of the trip in Pai and he told me this town is great and the Long Neck hill tribe village is really cool. So I got here and got oriented (pretty small town also, already know my way around) then rented a motorbike and followed the signs to the village, about 15km.

Along the way the scenery was beautiful...all little farms along the mountains and people harvesting their crops. Most importantly they weren't burning the forests here and I could actually see the mountains. On a motorbike all the scenery just hits you, it was great, i stopped about 5 times just to take pictures and take it all in. Here are a few of the sights along the way.

It was a little adventurous overall since I'm riding around rural thailand by myself on a motorbike...luckily there were a lot of signs pointing the way to the village and the person who rented me the motorbike wrote the name of it in Thai so i showed thai person along the way and they reassured me i was going in the right direction.
Took about 45 minutes then I hit a dirt road. This bike wasn't designed for a dirt road and I took it really slow...too slow b/c i hit a steep hill and got stuck. A Thai guy was walking up the hill and he stopped and helped me push the bike along till I could ride it again...really nice of him. Then right before the village there's a steep downhill part and I lose control of the bike as it slips into gear for a second and stub my toe pretty hard on a rock...was really scary but walked away with only a small cut on my toe, very close to being much worse.
I paid 250 baht to get into the village, not sure if the money goes to the government or the people of the village, but that's a lot of money in thailand...about $8...considering i'm paying $4.50 to rent the bike for the day and $3 for my room for the night I expected it to be worthwhile. Instead I walk into the village and I'm the only tourist around. It's literally a tourist trap, every family has a little table set up with the same crafts. I couldn't find anyone who spoke english...I wanted to ask them questions about their life and their village, but I asked around and no one would talk to me more than to try to sell me crap. The Long Necks make their girls wear metal rings around their necks and keep adding rings as they get older...this pushes the womens' rib cage down and causes their necks to look really long. I felt pretty weird taking a picture of them so i didn't...just walked around for 30 minutes and left.
The ride back was great, did it a little faster b/c i knew the way. Took a nap in the evening, tried to walk around looking for some people to meet but this place is pretty empty. I might leave tomorrow...there is a chinese village 45km away i want to see, but 45km is pretty far to go on a little bike that I'm afraid to push above 45km/hr.
here's a random cute asian kid...she lived in one of the hill tribe villages we stayed in on the 3 day trek.


Stacey said...

hey bro
greetings from the land of south africa.
just got the link to your site and read up on your adventures.
looks amazing! i'll be keeping in touch.
i just got back from our rural visit which was totally amazing.
and last night i got to spend visiting my family from the durban area. there was a huge party for the ancestors. my mama is being inducted to become a sangoma which is really honorable. they killed a goat and two chickens! and then i got to eat it. talk about fresh meat. anyways. i'll keep in touch. sending zulu love ~stace~

March 19, 2007 7:33 AM  

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