I traveled solo. Itís not the
first time, but itís been 8 years since I've journeyed alone in Thailand.
My independent wandering forces me to be more out going and meet
people, which is exciting. One couple I met on the bus had
lived in India for the last ten years. When I commented that
riding on this bus was torturous they responded by saying it was first
class compared to India!
My first destination was Pai,
a four hour winding mountainous
road trip to meet my friend
This bus was
packed. The only thing missing was livestock!
my ticket I was instructed to take the number 13 bus. That should have been a
clue. I am not sure if they forgot to put leaf springs in the bus or
if the springs were simply shot, but in any case I was
from side to side with each curve and I felt every bump throughout
How I missed
notices for this festival is beyond me.
I was relived to arrive, sort of.
Along the way I overheard
another foreigner say
that there was a reggae save the world music festival
for the next two nights in Pai, a slight oversight for Dale not alerting me.
Upon arrival I
found that each
of the five
Guesthouses I checked were fully booked and the thought occurred that
I may be sleeping in the Lisu Hilltribe village that Dale finances.
Normally I wouldnít even check at a boutique hotel running 100 Dollars
per night, but room availability was not looking good. They, too, were
dressed in their velvet finery
at the Lisu Village were all smiles.
I found the place
Paul Terhorst and I stayed the last time
I was here, and although full, the
owner said she would help me find something. It
was a 200 Baht 'closet'. Being desperate, I said ďIíll take it.Ē
Expecting to find chocolates on my pillow was out of the question.
Lunch at the Village: Rice and Pork pieces were all
that I recognized!
There was no ensuite bath or shower but nonetheless it
was a place I could
stow my gear and regroup. Perfect.
I grabbed a
quick bite, a standby of fried mixed vegetables with chicken and rice,
and then set out to find Daleís village. The last email I received
from him explained that the villagers had just killed
their pig and were having a party. He encouraged me to make it. His
sketchy directions were to take the road past the hospital to the
second fork and his house is at the fork. Easy enough. I started
walking but soon realized this may be
further out of town
than I thought. I flagged down a girl on a motorbike and persuaded
her, through a small donation of course, to
take me to a
village she had never heard of.
Ladies in tribal finery enjoying their lunch
We clocked a
few kilometers and I
could tell she was getting nervous having this crazy foreigner on the
back of her bike. Still she pressed on. By now we had
crossed a couple of dirt roads and I was wondering if these were the
forks that Dale described. But there was no sign of a house or
village anywhere. I decided we had better return to town so that
this young girl could go ahead with her
planned business for the afternoon.
I was in town just long enough to sip on a beer when Dale spotted me
from his motorbike. Telling me he has some errands to run, we
planed to meet up in a couple of hours.
The town was
There was music and
food everywhere with people blocking the streets
making it impossible for anything but a motorbike to pass. This was
either Paiís finest hour or worst, I had not yet decided. Dale and I
slipped off from the main drag to a place where we could chat and
Four on a
motorbike with no helmets, good luck! I am glad the driver didn't face
The blaring music carried on long into the night
and, from what I heard from my humble suite, there was more rock
than reggae, but the folks seemed to
was a much more comfortable ride.
in town the next day, he invited me to lunch with the Lisu tribe. This experience is
an event in which few people will ever have
the chance of participating, something right out of a National Geographic
magazine. I quickly jumped at the opportunity. However, this time I
hired a motorbike taxi costing 40
Baht and we followed Dale 5 kilometers
out to the village. The Lisu girls were just placing the
food onto the small tables when we arrived and we were immediately
told where to sit.
Large glasses of beer were
us as the food
was being presented. The only thing on the table that I recognized
was rice and some pork in a broth with noodles with a few
vegetables. As to the other dishes neither Dale nor I had a clue as
to what they were. Some were very spicy hot while others, only a
little. Hill tribe villages do not have Western standards for
cleanliness as running water is fairly new to them. For sure, it is not in each
house, so I was careful as to what I ate.
Traveling solo and being sick is not a good combination.
sticky rice at one of the many bus stations. Delicious!
The elder men ate at one table while the
women at another. Dale and I ate with the boys. As is typical of the
Hill tribes, everyone sits on the floor
at mealtime. We, however, were given small 12 inch
tall stools to sit on. I never saw where the girls were eating as
they kept checking on everyone. We were finishing up when one young
girl gives us a glass of a warm red liquid. She was one of the few
that could speak a little English. When I asked what the red drink
was, she replied, ďItís medicine, make you strong. Drink it, it not
kill you.Ē With her assurance it was bottoms up.
Not wanting to wear out my
welcome and with no pressing
schedule, I decided it was time to head back to Pai. I needed to make arrangements for traveling to Mae Hong Son the
comfort, air-con room with a view!
Dale doesnít trust himself taking passengers on his
motorbike, and I definitely respect that. "No accidents" is an
travelerís creed. So, he made arrangements for the same Lisu girl
that served us the medicinal red liquid to bring me back into town.
While we were quickly making tracks I asked if
she was a good driver. Her response was "no!Ē
My room was across from
the Pai bus station. Seeing that the same
type of bus which brought me here was also going to Mae Hong Son, I
was determined to find something more comfortable. So this time I
booked a minivan for 150 Baht to make the 3 hour trip and was glad I
the deck overlooking the Mae Yuam River
mountainous road was still very winding, but the views were spectacular.
A couple of years ago, Akaisha and I flew here and saw many of the
local sites. This time Mae Hong Son was just a stopover town for me. My
original destination is a village 45
kilometers outside of Mae Sariang, about
four hours due south.
Viewing the awesome scenery from the air conditioned bus the next
day was superb until the air-con quit about halfway out. My mood started to sour. Arriving
in Mae Sariang late I booked the
nicest place I could find for 900 Baht to reward myself for this
settling in I started feeling guilty that I was staying here, in
such a nice place, without Akaisha. With it
being just two days before Valentine's Day I decided that I would
head back to Chiang Mai in the morning, completing the Mae Hong Son
I never made it to my original destination, so that village will have
to wait for another trip. But that doesnít concern me in the least.
Once again I am reminded that itís better to travel than to