THAILAND 5
Once we arrived in Pai we went to the guesthouse that had been recommended to us by Ralf and Caroline, (this means that it will have decent parking for the bikes) but it was full, however the owner was able to recommend some where else that also had safe parking, so we ended up staying at the Patchari guesthouse, If you like the local Tea this is a good choice as its free and available whenever you want to make it.

Anyway Pai is a lot more traditional than Chiang Mai was, most of the buildings are still made of wood (Teak), and there is plenty to do there if you can be bothered, we went to the hot springs and sat in the water for a while, This really was boiling water so you had to get in the water further downstream to avoid cooking yourself, It was like getting in a piping hot bath that did not cool down as you sat there, in fact after a while you just had to get out because you get too hot ! After that we went up to the 'Temple on the Hill', good views from here, and some interesting Teachings posted on the wall, one of them read as follows :-

Children are shackles around the neck Wealth and property are shackles on the legs Spouses are shackles on the wrists

These shackles are difficult to break

After reading this me and my shackle hopped back on our rented scooter (oh yes I forgot about that, I'll back track in a mo) and rode back into Pai.

A local woman boiling eggs in the hot spring
Back to the rented scooter, well a 100 cc Honda step-through, the first job we did when we got up was to go and find somewhere to get the bikes cleaned with a pressure washer, so having done that we decided that we did not want to go up any dirt tracks and get the bikes dirty again, so for 150 Baht (about £ 2.10 ) we rented the little Honda and took that instead !!!! After the Temple we found a dirt track that led to a waterfall, (so we did get it dirty) and then just had a ride around before returning the Scoot. We could have gone Rafting or riding Elephants or Trekking in the jungle or even Bungie jumping, But we could not be bothered with most of these things and after bathing with Elephants at Chitwan we figured that it would only be a disappointment to ride an Elephant here.

Time is becoming a problem as there is so much to see and do here, but we can't do everything so two nights in Pai and we were back on the road again, We rode to Mai Hong Song where we had breakfast and then headed up into the hills to find the 'Long Neck Karen' tribe, (so the bikes didn't stay clean for long) on the way we had to cross seven rivers of varying width and depth (up two about two feet deep) before we arrived the village, these people have all crossed the border from Myanmar (Burma) , which is only a couple of miles away and are living in Thailand as Refugees, As they are not allowed to work in Thailand they make their living from tourists like us.

One of the 'Long Necks' wearing the 'full get-up', It all looked pretty uncomfortable to me.
Having visited the Long Necks, we headed back to Mai Hong Song and then turned south, riding along the road which runs parallel to the Burmese border, this was an easy ride on good roads with some good corners and plenty of interesting scenery, We arrived in Mai Sarang and after several attempts finally found a reasonable hotel with parking for the bikes, whilst we were
unloading the bikes an American fella came over for a quick chat, it turned out that he was in Thailand on his two weeks holiday, but that last summer he had done a tour starting in China and ending in Germany using a Kawasaki KLR 650, doing china on your own bike is a big expensive headache, so we were interested in finding out more, so later that evening we met him at his guesthouse and quizzed him for more information, it turned out that he had done it on a tour organised by Henge Pedersen (if you interested in overland travel by bike then you will have heard of him, he's been riding around the world for most of the last two decades and has probably been everywhere worth going to by now), By doing China on a tour with twelve other riders the $100 per day cost of a guide is shared and thus more reasonable (all Westerners have to have a guide in China if you take your own vehicle (we would be interested to hear from anyone who's managed china on a bike without a guide). It transpired that only nine of the starting twelve made it to Germany, one mechanical failure and two accidents, one of them was Medivaced out of china after only three days, and a nasty one near the end of there travels (in Poland I think) that resulted in one broken wrist for the rider and a broken neck for the passenger, not good.

The next morning we were back on the bikes and heading south again, we had thought when we got up that we would have our first wet day for months, but by the time we left the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. The road from Mai Sarang to Mai Sot is hilly and so very twisty but also with almost no other traffic on the road, so once the road had dried out it made for some excellent riding, Grin Factor 10 !!!

Left :- Time for a smoke on the road from Mai sarang to Mai Sot (bike is in picture)

Once we had got to Mai Sot the road across to Tat soon became less interesting and of course busier, our target for the day achieved we decided to go on and try as we still had a couple of hours of daylight left, Thus we stopped for the night in a place called Nakhon Sawan, after a couple of attempts we found a hotel that was not full and had parking for the bikes, having cleaned ourselves up we headed out to find some food, we had passed a Pizza Hut on the way to the hotel so decided that we

would eat European tonight, However as we headed for the Pizza Hut we soon realised that we had made our usual mistake of forgetting to bring the camera with us, Its Chinese New Year and the Streets are now all closed off and a procession is making its way up the road in the same direction as us , needless to say we stopped for a while to watch, The highlight was a huge Chinese Dragon that was absolutely covered in lights, it was about 100 ft long, (Cliff worked out the length by saying that is at least two trailer lenghts so thats ninety feet plus a bit of over-hang, so, call it 100 ft) There was about thirty men carrying the Dragon, plus each man had a replacement and they took it in turns to operate their bit, After about ten minutes of running around carrying the Dragon they swapped over and had a rest, The whole thing was followed by a big pick up with a generator on the back and about five men running out the cable between the pick up and the Dragon, once the procession had passed the Pizza Hut we went in to eat.

Some time later we came out and was heading back towards the hotel when the Dragon came out of a side street ahead of us. The Dragon was a bloody impressive thing so we legged it up the road in hot pursuit, we were soon getting very close to it and watching as the front half went into a shop then came back out again whilst the back half went into the shop on the other side of the road that the front half had previously been into, and so it went on, this was all mixed up with the Dragon dancing around in circles with crackers and fireworks going off all around it and above it. Throughout the whole evening the only other white face we saw was eating in the Pizza Hut, seemingly oblivious to the goings on outside, We think that the lack of other Westerners made the difference as we found ourselves inside all the locals and running with the Dragon. The locals showed their pleasure at seeing two foreigners enjoying the spectacle and mixing in with them by regularly touching our hands or gentle gripping our arms, Cliff will never forget one man who very gently gripped his arm and said 'Thank You' before returning to the procession. It was FANBLOODYTASTIC.

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