Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Another Slice of Pai

Renting and riding a motorbike in Pai was a breeze. Probably because I had eased into navigating Thai streets by bicycle back in Chiang Mai. I hadn't ridden a scooter in a couple years, since my trip to Turkey. I mentioned this to the attendant at Aya Service where I picked up the bike, hoping for a brief overview. He obliged. 

The guy pointed at the kickstand. "Up."

Then at the left handbrake. "Brake. This one better."

He turned the key, motioning toward the ignition switch. "Start. Go."

And I was off. No mention of the gas tank, which was nearly empty, or how to open the seat compartment to refill it. Nothing about the turn signals or headlights. Minor details. Can't be bothered. It was all simple enough to figure out on my own anyway.

I rode to Pai Canyon in the early afternoon, 8km south of town. Sometimes referred to (rather optimistically) as the Grand Canyon of Thailand, Pai Canyon is an impressive viewpoint and a great place to catch the sunset. I wandered a bit and vowed to come back for sundown, as the midday heat was hovering around 100 degrees. Too hot for this north-westerner. 

Sergio arrived in Pai the next day and I picked him up on my scooter. Riding with two people is challenging for a novice. I swerved as we accelerated, dodging and weaving through pedestrians and other vehicles. No incidents to report, thankfully.

Sergio checked in at Yawning Fields and with nothing else to do, I taught him how to drive the motorbike. He sped off for several minutes, long enough for me to wonder if I'd ever see him or my motorbike again. In the evening we joined a pub crawl, where we met Karina from Eugene, Oregon who just so happens to be a fellow vegetarian. We chatted awhile and parted ways, neglecting to exchange contact information.

The next day we ran into Karina in the street. She was looking for something to do and I suggested sunset at Pai Canyon, so we planned to meet again later. Once 5:30 rolled around Sergio was sleeping soundly in his bungalow, so I went to meet Karina alone. We took the long way there for a change of scenery. As I came round a corner in the lead, I nearly ran into something completely unexpected.

Two Asian elephants were walking down the road, taking up the entire left lane.

I laughed, slowed down, and went around. The elephants' mahouts (trainers) were with them, and it seemed they were just out for a stroll. Like walking the dog. 

Karina brought a bottle of local kombucha and we drank it while watching the sunset. We discussed travel and work and life, and she invited me to join her the next day for an overnight trip to some caves up north. It turned out to be one of the most spontaneous and rewarding decisions I've made so far. The sun disappeared. We rode back in the dark, tired and content, looking forward to our next adventure.

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