Since he was at the end of his trip Heewon decided he wanted a bit of comfort and decided to book himself a nice hotel room for his last few days. We were chatting about our rooms when he sent me a picture of his, which included a huge couch. I jokingly replied, “It’s huge, I could sleep on that couch!” but he generously said, “Sure? If you want to you can.” I had already paid for my dorm room for that night, but he said if I wanted to move Saturday morning it was fine with him, so I figured why not. Which is how I also wound up spending the last few days of my Bangkok trip in luxury, and not even on a couch.
This story starts walking down the streets of Chiang Mai with my new friends from the UK, all of us with a large beer in hand. What I assumed would be a fun last night out in Chiang Mai, a few drinks, new bar, good food and possibly a ladyboy show, turned into a pivotal moment shaping the next few weeks of my travels and possibly more.
Although I was perfectly content in Chiang Mai I made the decision to pack up my bags and head north to the "hippy backpacker, come for 2 days stay for a week" town of Pai. Since before I even left for my trip to SE Asia I had been hearing stories of the beautiful little town, whether it was through travel blogs, Instagram or other travelers I met the message was the same "Do not miss Pai!". There's really only one downside attached to a trip to Pai and that's in getting there; the road from Chiang Mai includes 762 winding turns along narrow mountain roads. You basically have two options, pop some motion sickness pills and tough it out on the bus or hire a motorbike and hope you don't end up like 1/4 of the people walking around Pai with cuts, scrapes, and bruises. I was back n' forth between the two options but ultimately chose the bus, I figured I'd rather puke in a bag than wipe out on the side of the road.
Having one successful day out on the scooter in Chiang Mai we decided to give it another try. After all, Laura only had one day left in the city so we didn’t want to waste it by the pool, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I did some searching the day before and discovered there’s both a cave (Muang On) and hot springs located about an hour away, in the San Kamphaeng district of Chiang Mai. Laura and I had previously considered visiting some caves near Pai so this sounded like an ideal replacement. We were smarter about breakfast this time around and chose to buy some goodies at the local market, much cheaper and faster. Armed with our snacks and obnoxiously big Thai iced coffees we were on our way.
Before you get started do yourself a favor and read about my first and second days with these goons
On day three I was up early enough to catch the sun rising over the mountains directly in front of us. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and peaceful morning and spent it doing yoga and daydreaming about this crazy life I've acquired. Laura was up soon after me and we sat drinking coffee (if you can call 3 in 1 mixes coffee) and talking. Chet came out with his gigantic smile and cheerful “goooooood morning” which was soon followed by another round of eggs, toast and candy spread.” Before leaving for our hike back to civilization we took a small walk through the village to get more of an idea as to what life is like here. Chet explained we should have done more of this the night before, but due to the rain and our tiredness, we didn’t get the chance. I met one man who spoke decent English and upon hearing I was from Milwaukee responded “oh famous basketball – the Bucks!” which of course left me laughing, I'm not sure I'd call them famous.
I'm not sure what I may have done in this or a past life but somehow I have acquired the best luck when finding trekking tour guides. There was my first trek in Australia where the tour guides idea of "soon" were much much different than mine, not to mention getting lost and almost missing the bus home. Then there was the eight, turned 13 hour trek in Taiwan, although that one had bright turn of events. And now, my adventures continue in Northern Thailand; one more trek, another great story and one quirky guide I'll never forget.
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.