Departure: 11:30 Arrival: 18:30
Not so fresh on that morning due to overconsumption of malted beverages, Jesse, me and Georgia gathered at the hostel’s reception to figure out how we could fit her and her belongings onto our bikes. Luckily, I had brought some straps (part of the backpack repair kit), so it was decided that since my bike was a little roomier, I would carry her. Her stuff would be attached to Jesse’s luggage rack and the smaller objects would get distributed between our front baskets. With everything secured and stable, off we went on the very windy road to Chiang Mai, so windy in fact that on here way here, Georgia got carsick.
Going uphill was a lot more tedious than before since I was carrying another person and on downhills, I had to be extra careful. Watch for hairpin turns, take into consideration all the grease, oil and gravel on the surface and be extra wary of all the potholes for Georgia had put her safety in my hands. Kudos to her though, she had rented a scooter while in Pai and two days before had bailed while down a dirt path too steep for her to handle. Jesse and I had figured that she might have been scared off motorcycles for some times but no, her only words were: I’m not gonna tell my mom. Originally, she was also okay with making the trip without an helmet; not that she did not care about safety but in Thailand, most people don’t wear them. A couple of minutes out of Pai, in a stroke of luck, I spotted a lone helmet sitting on a post by the side of the road and on inspection, did not appear to belong to anyone and was in good enough condition for her to wear it. The helmets that the hand out with motorcycle rentals are absolute crap and would provide little protection in a crash, but the idea is that if you end up in an accident at least you were wearing one. Also not a bad idea because officially you can get fined for not having one, but none of the police barrages we passed on that trip seemed to care that Thai people were not protected. To extort a bribe, they might make an exception for tourists though.
At one point, we saw a sign for the Pong Duet hot springs and geyser and decided to stop, because its not about the destination but about the journey. At the gate, we got charged more than we thought we’d spent that visit but since we had taken the time to drive the small road there, figured we should give it a chance. Thankfully, it was not a ripoff. The whole park was really nice, the geyser itself a small but proper one (Georgia had never seen one) and the hot-springs well maintained and located in a beautiful setting. Well worth the detour, the complex even had some very nice stone chalets centered around a mineral baths complex in which one day I would very much see myself staying in for a retreat. Satisfied with the experience, we paused at a small kitchen for a meal and pressed on to Chiang Mai.
The remainder of the road was uneventful, nice for a while, then very ugly when we hit the highway. Finding our way back to the hostel in rush hour traffic provided a small challenge but that was it. Safely home and relieved that everything had gone according to plan, we all rewarded ourselves with a pizza at some Italian restaurant in Chiang Mai, with Jesse and I recounting how this little escape would be the highlight of our time in Thailand and Georgia just sharing that moment of content and happiness with us.