Pai Direct Route

Late night, drunken decisions, I’ve discovered, are great! (providing there are no inky needles in sight) Yesterday when I stopped in a small town for lunch, I met a Liverpudlian called Tom who was cycling around asia, like, all of it. He was inspirational in the level of determination and self reliance and was headed towards Chiang Mai on the route I’d just travelled. We swapped road condition information. He also told me of a place that was great to watch the sunrise from in Pai, so I made a note of this and promised to do it.

Sitting around the jam session circle, I told Cat and Kim of my plan to be up at dawn for the sunrise. Now a few beers in, at 1am, naturally we all thought this was a great idea with only 4 and a half hours of sleep ahead of us. It was only when my alarm went off quietly under my pillow and the cold night air snaked under my blanket that the horror of the decision was realised. It was freezing cold! Ok so not quite freezing but when you have been used to 30 degrees most days, 15 degrees is a ball shrivelling shock to the system.

I dressed and left as quickly and quietly as I could, after all, no one else needed to suffer my lunacy. I got on the bike and rode at about 7 mph into town to meet Cat. Any faster and I think my nipples would have torn through my shirt. I had stupidly only brought a shirt and a thin fleece with me. Opting to leave my pack in chiang mai this made the ride far more enjoyable in the sun, but now I was paying the price. Cat was waiting at the bus stop as arranged, with a big pink blanket that we wrapped around us both on the motorbike ride trying to conserve heat. I was so thankful for that blanket, it kept us both just above hypothermia. Kim hadn’t been able to find a scooter so unfortunately didn’t come along but vowed to do it another morning.

As crazy as this plan was, it was most definitely worth the frozen fingers. “The Canyons” were deceivingly named as they didn’t disappear into the ground, formed by the passage of water. These were tall ridges of sandy rock and clay standing proud of the surrounding trees. It was like someone had tossed aside the relief mold of canyons when they were done forming the landscape elsewhere. Nevertheless, it afforded us an amazing viewpoint across the farmers countryside of rice fields to the mountainous horizon. We spent about 40 minutes up there in the still air, watching the morning mist collecting in the valleys. The golden ambient aura of the approaching day peaked over the hills and swept across the trees. The colours were fantastic, brilliantly shining and making me smile just to see them. Again, I wished for a better camera. I think this (and some lessons on how to use it) will be on my list before my next adventure.

Mission completed I returned Cat to town, filled up the bike with petrol, and myself with a hot chocolate and set off into the cold morning air. It was still freezing cold but I went quickly through the shadows so I could crawl along in the sunlight. I felt like a lizard, picking up as much heat as I could from the sun.

I had rented the bike for 24 hours at 10:40am yesterday. Now it was 8am and 130kms of ridiculously twisty road separated me from Chiang Mai. My average speed would have to be high to make it on time, a tough ask on roads like these. Eventually I did get back on time, rocking up at 10:34, and recovered my passport with no penalties.

Having been up stooooopidly early and already done a long day’s ride I had breakfast and went to bed. I was roused a while later by the melodic tinklings of My Traveling Piano – Joe Löhrmann I had drifted out the dream world and into a world of music. He played wonderfully and linked up improvisation with his own pieces. He also went live on Instagram and had followers from across the globe offer suggestions for what to play, even if he hadn’t heard it before! He had us hold a phone playing YouTube to his ear and within 2 mins of listening to whatever song it was, he’d picked up the tunes and started embellishing it with his own twist and style.

Music seems to have made a reappearance in life these last few days. It makes me wish I hadn’t given up learning the piano when I was a teenager. I’d love to get involved with the jam but at present could only offer my enthusiastic singing warblings – little creatures like newts that live in my throat and wiggle their tails, distorting any song I try and sing. I’m sure I could train them to sit still but where’s the fun in that?

Ted made an appearance and we got a three wheeled tuktuk over to the night market for some food. It was great walking around trying bits and pieces. We even got some huge prawns bbq’d up and had great fun ripping them apart, making a great mess of things to get at the tasty meat. I love messy food! We got to the end of the market and spotted a load of Thais eating at a small restaurant across the road. If it’s good enough for them… so we dived in and had a bowl of food from the limited menu. It was really tasty and a good bit cheaper than the market food.

Walking through the streets we found ourselves being… propositioned… by some very attractive thai girls. It seemed the norm to be caught like a passing fish, by bait that would get you drinks and sit on your arm all night. I came over all British, unsure how to proceed, so we had a few games of pool and people watched. In the end we were walking along and let ourselves get caught, it’s just sport fishing afterall. We would undoubtedly be released after our wallets were weighed and sufficiently lightened.