SCOOTER EXPEDITION IN THE NORTH, THAILAND
Of all the experiences we had during our stay in Thailand I think this was the most awe inspiring. It is hard to say which experience was the “best” because there are too many that appeal to a different part of our character. So I think it is fair to say that this was the most naturally beautiful part of our Thai stay.
We had our 2 small “daypack” bags ready and our large Backpacks were going to stay at Potae’s House, under the watchful eye of the “boss of the house”, Latte. Latte is Potae’s adorable and ferocious kitty. She is really a sweet cat, that on occasion will attack your hand in the hallway, just because…
We were extremely happy that we could leave the big bags, because it would have been a whole different ball game if we had to take them with us on a scooter…
This packing arrangement did mean that we had to pack the bare minimum. I packed my stuff into a quarter of the one daypack and Jo filled the other bag and three quarters of my bag with her stuff…
We had hired a Yamaha N-Max 150cc Scooter as our vehicle for the next 6 days. Our first destination was the original Hippie Town of Pai. We had heard a lot about the place whilst staying with Potae and it was described on many occasions as a Hippie Town, although we did read up a bit online and there were a few Hippie comments saying it had become too mainstream… ?
We were on the highway out of the city and on our way, excited because apparently the beauty of North Thailand is only fully experienced when you go on one of these multi day loops. Of course there was a police roadblock on the way out which turned out…uh… expensive!? I think that is the best way to put it, and it was a bit of a dampener on our moods. However we soon forgot about any wrong doings as we were punched in the face by amazing views and epic roads that wound their way up and down the mountain sides and valleys. It took us about 4 hours to do the 120km because of all the stopping and taking photos. There was also a bit of rain and the lunch stop on the side of the road at one of the local stall restaurants!
Pai was a pretty little town with a definite hippie feel… everyone was scooting around without helmets and wearing long “yoga” pants. The place we stayed at, Buzzas, was a sweet little place with very simple bungalows on the edge of a rice paddy.
The town and surroundings had a lot to offer and our 2 night stay could have easily been extended by another night to see and experience even more.
The first night we just stuck to the town and had dinner at a small restaurant which Jo said did not make Khai Soi properly… 🙂 I had a decent Pad Thai.
The next day we managed to get out and see the Pai Canyon, which is a very picturesque place. It is a limestone region that has been weathered away by rain water and has left these bare limestone cliffs and canyons with thick green vegetation growing in between. I can only presume that a decent photographer would have a field day in a place like this. Jo was not too happy about the half broken bridge that we had to cross…
We then went on to see the Land Split which is a crack that was caused by an earthquake in 2009. For us it was a reasonable attraction to go see, but what makes it a place you cannot miss on a trip through Pai was the farmer who’s land it occurred on. The crack has caused quite a bit of touristic interest in the place and the farmer has taken to building an awesome rest area with tables and benches or even hammocks, then he offers fresh Rosella juice and small bowls of fresh food from his farm. All of this is free. He has a donation box but he does not make you feel even slightly obligated to put anything in there. After he explained a bit about the land split and when it happened, also how he processes all the produce from the farm, we could not imagine that anyone would not want to give this man their money… he was such a good host and friendly person.
The rest of the day was spent chasing waterfalls, which surprisingly had roadblocks on the way to, and these police were not the expensive kind… although had they found any substances of the Narcotic variety after searching the scooter and our bags, the situation may have changed drastically.
We also stumbled across an amazingly clear and reasonably quiet hot spring, that was more warm than hot. It was a nice place to relax for the rest of the afternoon.
That evening we had “Family Dinner” with everyone staying at the hostel. The staff and a few guests had already been to the market and we all sat together preparing the ingredients. The end result was a phenomenal meal that left us rolling to bed…
The next day we headed out for Mae Hong Son. I actually wish I had the vocabulary or the camera which could have captured the beauty of this part of the trip. The roads were even more obscure and passed through places that I can only wish I had been there when they built it.
We stopped off at the Tham Lod Caves. You had to take a local guide who was equipped with an old school oil lamp to show you the way. The cave has a river running through it and you had to cross a section on a bamboo raft. Once inside it was quite extraordinary, the formations of stalagmites, stalactites and columns were crazy but the camera does not do them justice in the dark conditions.
Our guide was quiet and we found that her English was limited, but we both felt that our Thai was worse, so who are we to complain…
At this point I really was enjoying riding the scooter. The windy roads and extreme hills with stunning scenery, bought out the inner child in me. I started to imagine I was riding a Ducati Diavel at some stage and Jo noticed it too. At a few points she would point out the fact that we were on a scooter. It was still amazing fun regardless… It gave us the idea that we should look at purchasing one of these magnificently fun machines when we return home… (Sorry Mum!!!)
Anyway, our accommodation at Baan Mai Guesthouse felt more like a home stay. The couple that ran the place were super kind and always smiling. We were given a nice big platter of watermelon and Paw-paw (Papaya) on arrival. Breakfasts were also amazing platters of fruit. For dinner that evening we walked around most of the Town looking at the menus of all the restaurants, finally eating at the 3 food stalls which were operating out of the Post Office parking lot. The food was delicious and we were introduced to hot soya milk with a bit of syrup and some sort of deep fried pastry that you dunked into the milk… it was amazeballs!
The following day we took the windy road to the Chinese inhabited town of Ban Rak Thai, which is the perfect place to grow tea. It was chilly up in the mountains and the weather was a little gloomy but we still managed to get there and try out the tea. The town was really small and very quiet, but judging by the amount of touristy shops and tea rooms/restaurants it is probably quite abuzz during season. I am not a great tea connoisseur so was not too blown away by most of the teas… except the Rosella Tea. I loved it and we bought a box to take with us.
We then went to a dam that was home to some beautiful black swans and 3 very playful dogs.
Then we stopped over at a the Queens Garden, which is actually an agricultural research centre. We just so happened to stumble across an area where there was a presentation taking place on the growing of Avo, passion fruit and the Cape Gooseberry… We were invited to have lunch and sit and watch the presentation, during which we were discussing how nice our Avo’s back home were. We were then presented with a freshly picked avo and had my taste sensations blown away… It is truly one of the creamiest and delicious Avo’s I have ever had…. It was such a cool experience to have stumbled across.
The rest of the garden had some interesting birds and deer in enclosures… The only thing was the wild cats that were kept in the enclosures were a bit depressing, we are not big fans of this kind of thing.
We went to a waterfall, which we could not swim at, and a hot spring, finally finishing off the day at a private and secluded waterfall which we were not sure if we could swim at or not, but there was nobody around to tell us not to…
The day was concluded with dinner at the ladies at the Post Office again. We were so impressed with the quality and taste and value of the street food that the restaurants seemed so uninspiring.
The next day we made our way slowly towards our next stopover, Mae Chaem. The route was littered with signs pointing in the direction of Microwaves???? Not sure, but we guessed satellites or cellphone towers. We stayed in 2 different places during our 2 night stay. The first night we stayed at a place called Hot Coffee which is actually about 20 minutes out of the town. It is a really sweet little place and it is set in a stunning location. The problem was, firstly the location was a bit out of the way, and secondly the staff were a little uninterested in anything so the vibe was really dull. We made our way into the one-street town in the evening and were blessed with an amazing view over the rice paddy just out of the town. The green of the rice and vegetation was just stunning! We had a brilliant dinner (I am running out of words to describe the food experience we had in Thailand) of Thai Green Curry and a Whole fried River fish.
At this point we had seen 2 different vehicles upside down and in a ditch next to the road, and that was just in the short drive from the accommodation to town. So it was a bit of a slow and scary drive back home in the dark that night.
The next day we spent a bit of the day making our way up to the mountain, Doi Inthanon, in the National Park. It was wet and miserable, we could not see anything more than 5 metres in front of us, but we did persevere to get to the top. I was very glad that we had pushed on because when we stopped at the restaurant near the top we were blessed with an amazing sight… or sights… 2 awesome Ducati Diavels and a Monster. What beautiful looking bikes!!! They gave me an image in my mind that I could imagine when winding down the road on our 150cc scooter…
But that was all we saw that day.
That night we stayed at Kwan Lah Homestay and were invited to have dinner with the family – very sweet people! It was a really good place to stay and we wished we had spent both nights there.
The next day the weather was a bit better but only slightly. We made our way back to our Home-away-from-Home, Potaes House. It was an uneventful day, although by this stage our bums were not happy with the scooter any more. The ride was becoming pretty uncomfortable and I can safely say that I was looking forward to not riding a scooter for a while. We finished off with a photo of our helmets, because our Belgian friend, Jeroen, had not used his and stored it under the tail lights of his bike. His helmet was absolutely ruined by the time he got back. The rear wheel had eaten into the outer shell and made a fantastic indentation, so we sent him these pictures to tell him we were home safe!
It was such a fantastic experience, I truly would recommend it to anyone going in that direction. It gave us a glimpse at just how stunning that part of the world is! I really hope it goes untouched for many more years.