I set my alarm for 6am – I had a long day ahead of me. I set my course on Pai, the most famous town in the north. It’s famous for a great number of westerners living and working there, as well as for its unparalleled natural beauty.
The place is often compared to a tourist resort without a sea, as the amount of guest houses, bars, restaurants and massage places is very high, considering its remoteness. It’s situated very high in the mountain in a beautiful valley, the roads leading to it are very narrow and twisty, making the ascend very time consuming.
As I found out the night before, there were no straight transport to Pai. I needed to go to Mae Taeng first, and then switch for a bus to Pai at some market. As I had made up my mind to cycle all the way to Malaysia on my newly acquired bicycle, I thought that I could do with some gradual training, my first baby step being a 40 km throw between Chiang Dao and Mae Taeng.
The sun just started to show, when I left my hostel. No people, no cars, only occasional dogs to say goodbye to. I was so excited! Cycling in the early morning was such a pleasure- only me, crisp air and misty horizon ahead. The roads were perfect and wide, with a little side line, either for pedestrians or bicycles, I don’t know. It was the same road, I came here by the bus, but my feeling were absolutely different, it was, as if I saw it for the first time. The fields, the river, the foggy mountains, little villages in the background – they all filled me with such emotions. I realised, that cycling was the best way to travel, if undeniably a slow one. Even a motorbike couldn’t compare.
On the way I passed the highway police, who stopped me, only to offer to have a coffee with them. How nice!
I didn’t even realise, how I entered Mae Taeng, cycling 40km was like a walk in a park. I had no idea, where the right market was. I decided to cycle in the direction of Pai and then hitch-hike the rest of the way. The sky became dark, it looked like it was going to rain, it was high time, I stopped a car. A few cars drove by, but in less than 5 min, a white truck pulled over. The guys hardly spoke any English, but with my gestures I explained, that I needed to go to Pai and wanted to put my bike at the back of their car. No problem, miss! They dragged my bike into the truck, and I hopped on next to it. As it turned out, they didn’t go to Pai, but only 20km in its direction. Still, better than nothing. In addition, they gave me a bottle of water, called me beautiful and wished me luck. I didn’t want to take the water, but they noticed, that mine was running low, and just put it into my basket. The world is truly full of wonderful people!
I still had 80km to go, so I started stopping cars again. The next car took me all the way to Pai, it was a man, working there temporarily on an excavater. Good man he was too, he spoke little English, and was happy to learn a few more words. Meanwhile it started raining like crazy!
I needed to find my bungalow, but had no luck. Google maps showed an entirely different direction, and locals kept pointing to different places. I spent almost one hour, wandering cluelessly in the rain with my bike, hungry and tired. Finally, it occurred to me to google map a hotel, next to mine. That’s how I got there in 10 min. My bungalow was situated outside the town, on a little green hill. I couldn’t believe, that one minute I was in the centre of the town, and only a few moments later, I found myself in a grassy, rural area, with little huts around me.
My single hut was tiny, it only had a mattress, a fan and a mosquito net. It didn’t have any windows either, but I so liked the look of it, as well as what I saw around me. There were a few more huts on the territory, loads of green grass and a little pond. The facilities were shared and were situated at the back of the garden. It was fine with me, except sometimes in the evening, I had to reluctantly leave my hut, in order to walk there in pitch darkness and on wet grass.
I had great time at my little hut, considering it only cost 180 baht a night, but it might be unsuitable for those, who don’t like nature being too much “in you face”, so to say. At night the garden was full of noises – crickets, birds, a whole bunch of loud frogs. In addition, I could hear lizards stomping on my roof, like elephants. I did have a little fear, that something could crawl inside.
Pai has got so much to offer, one can easily spend a whole week there, unfortunately the weather let me down. It was raining for the whole two days, that I stayed there. Renting a motorbike is a must, as all places of interest were quite a distance away. There were two waterfalls, a Chinese village, white Buddha temple on the mountain, the canyon, hill tribe villages. I was silly enough to cycle to the waterfall. It was only 7km away, but the road was so steep, that I had to lead my bike, while walking all the way up. I was looking enviously at cars and motorbikes whizzing by. In the end I didn’t want anything, I just wanted to go home and lie down. The waterfall wasn’t anything special, for the amount of work I’ve done. On the other hand, I had a chance to have a peak into a rural life and take a few lovely photos.
On my second morning at the hotel, I noticed a cat at the reception, who had some sort of skin disease and was scratching himself bloody. The poor thing had the whole head affected and it started spreading to its body. It was the cat of a lady, who lived next door. For some reason, they thought that the animal was bleeding, because it constantly got into a fight. It was the meekest cat I’ve ever seen, it couldn’t hurt a fly. I took a picture of its face and cycled into the town to find a vet. The lady at the clinic told me it was mange, a common disease, caused by a tiny mite, that could be treated by vaccination. I cycled back and offered the lady to treat her cat, if she allowed me to take it to the clinic. We had to put the poor cat into the sack, and it’s been making such heartbreaking noises, probably thinking we were going to throw it into the river.
I payed for the whole course of vaccinations ahead, so the lady just needed to take the cat back in 10 days time. I suppose, she simply couldn’t afford the vaccination, as it cost 300 baht. Not much for us, but considering, they only make 150 baht a day at some jobs, it was 2 whole days pay, to spend on a cat. The owner of the hotel promised to send me a photo of the cat, when he gets better.
Pay was just such an awesome place, with a whole bunch of cool bars and restaurants, and tea places. I wish I could come there again with a good company, and enjoy some more.