Departure: 11:00 Arrival: 17:00
At this very Thai cabin resort in the middle of nowhere Northern Thailand, a German couple with two kids was overnighting in a neighboring chalet. We had struck a small conversation the night before with the man but the next morning, we learned that they were doing the same circuit as us but in the reverse direction. Upon questioning them about their mean of transportation (we had seen one scooter in front of their room), the husband quickly replied that his wife did not drive and that that 125cc scooter was the vehicle carrying the whole family around on the journey. What? Four of them on a scooter. I mean, it’s a pretty common sight in Asia, but I would never have thought that a German couple with means probably well above those of the average Thai household was travelling in that region’s famous driving style: the man driving, a backpack and a kid between his legs, another kid behind and lastly the wife at the very back (with room for a baby in the front basket for increased shock absorption in case of collision). “Going uphill is slow and painful, the scooter sounds like its about to die” he added; no wonders.
Much impressed by that family’s courage, we hoped on our machines after a quick breakfast and proceeded for the second leg of our journey and thankfully one that turned out to be rather uneventful. Still riddled with potholes and unpaved stretches, the road was however much nicer than the previous day and with a bit of carefulness afforded us some very pleasurable mountain driving. The view was a bit of let-down, the dry season was in full-force so leaves were falling and whatever used to be verdant green was now shades of beige. To add insult to injury, the Thais, for a reason that is sill a mystery to us, light fires everywhere, filling the air with a fog that restricts visibility down to a few kilometers. Some of them burn trash or plant waste, others make way for crops but we saw fires, especially while driving the night before, in places no sane person would ever think about cultivating but then again, the weather could have been so dry that the fires were simply spreading out of control.
The only good vista we could get was at a small road-side cafe, whose waitresses, visibly stoked that some foreigners had elected their little business for a break, gave us a bunch of freebies: fried bananas, soybeans and tea. About half an hour before however, Jesse and me had gotten rewarded with one of those “in the zone” moments you get while you are doing an intense activity you particularly enjoy such as motorcycling. We were following a large truck, something that would normally be pretty annoying, but it so happened that we were driving on a stretch of road that was bordered by broad-leafed trees and it being the dry season, leaves were falling, the road was littered with them and in its wake the truck was lifting them. This combination of leaves falling and raising from the ground, along with the light, the sound of the engine, the wind, the vibrations and the simple fact of going at 70 km/h on a motorcycle all added up to a moment of perfect bliss. A moment that puts an uncontrollable smile on your face, a moment of perfect bliss, where the whole of the situation orchestrates into a perfect symphony for the senses. Nothing to do with ecstasy, just pure, natural happiness.
In little time we had reached Mae Hong Son, a regional capital. We searched around a bit for a guesthouse but not too satisfied with the offering, decided to consult with a tour agency that directed us to “around the lake downtown”, and there we found plenty of options. Apparently, the town fills up during the high-season but that night, it was dead so we did not fuss around too much with finding a good hostel and settled for the first one that seemed ok.
I wanted to do some writing that night, but exhausted, I watched some TV and fell asleep really early.