We headed in the direction of Chiang Mai and could only get to a city called Nakhon Sawan. We got really lucky and found a good guest house within our range. We had the most amazing noodles in broth with pork meatballs in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant just outside the guest house for 30 bhat…love when that happens! Dinner for $1?!
It had already started getting hilly the day before but we found it was quite hazy. Soon we started to see random fires on the hills and even fires encroaching on the road we were driving on. Nobody has a real straightforward answer as to why it’s happening this way, seems like it’s because the farmers are setting the rice stalks on fire after harvesting (like in India)…slash and burn…but who knows. Some people say farmers do it to encroach on others land and gain more land or to grow mushrooms. It sucks though because the view is cloudy and you can imagine that the terrain would normally give good green views. By early afternoon we found ourselves close to Mae Sot, a border crossing with Myanmar. We knew it wasn’t going to happen but we tested our luck by trying to talk to immigration at the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge since we had a Myanmar visa and carnet. It was a no-go and we pushed on. After about an hour or so, Nick said he thought he saw big bikes…so we sped up and low and behold it was Big Tom and his fellow Austrian, Harry. We caught up with them and took a quick stop to finally meet. We had been in contact with Tom since November so this was a long overdue meeting! The sun started to set and we decided on finding a campsite. We found a perfect site at the convergence of two rivers. There wasn’t a restaurant around so we boiled water and had some instant noodles and beer that we had picked up from a shop. It was a great night, exchanging stories and tips. The next day we camped again at another national park somewhere between Mae Sot and Mae Hong Son and lit an awesome bonfire. I think we’ll definitely be doing more of camping. We are already carrying our tent and sleeping bags but we may even look into buying some basic cooking equipment. After the couple of days of camping…we had heard about Pai, and thought it’d be a good ride. The scenery didn’t offer too much because of the haze but it was a fun and loopy ride. Usually Mae Hong Son to Pai to Chiang Mai is a popular route that people rent scooters and ride around but again…the haze!
We got to Pai and ended up staying 3 nights, we just didn’t want to leave! It’s a really cute town in the hills, super hippie, like the Thai version of Austin! You just want to chill out with cold Chang and meet interesting people! We honestly didn’t do much, just hung out with Tom, since Harry decided to move on. The bamboo bungalows that we stayed in were too cute, and decorated with blue linens, and a blue lace mosquito net with a hammock on the deck (Nick’s official spot). And it was 300 bhat…woohoo! It took a while to find a place to stay just because there were so many options and we wanted to stay in budget. But in our search we ran into Phillipe Rahmani, he had done a world tour on a BMW in the early ‘90s, including The Road of Bones. We met up with him later to chat with him about his travels. There are some things to see around Pai (canyons, waterfalls etc), and there’s a river but with it being the dry season, the views aren’t much and the river is kinda sad looking. But it was a good stay and I think worth coming to if you want to avoid the big cities. We’ve been having a great time hangin out with Tom because he kinda has the same laid-back attitude as we do and loves to chat and joke. The last night we partyed kinda hard and at the end of the night found ourselves at the other end of the rickety bamboo bridges at some bar playing straight-up dirty south rap! It was a welcoming sound for me, I haven’t heard that kind of music since I left Houston but also a weird choice since most people were European and of the hippie, hemp clothes wearing lot. The next day it took a lot to pry us out of the warm, relaxing hold that Pai had on us…but we had to do it! On to Chiang Mai…or somewhere in between!