Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Pai, Thailand (1 of 2)

July 4th - July 11th, 2012

After leaving Ian and Suzies we spend a couple of days in Chiang Mai researching upcoming parts of our journey and soon after hired a motorbike and were en-route to Pai. 

The journey to Pai is just as exciting as the destination.  137 km long with 762 curves the road climbs steeply over two mountain passes and back down again to Pai in the valley below. Ill with both a head cold and minor food poisoning Julian was not physically doing well but insisted we make the trip regardless, partially to get out of Chiang Mai and into the countryside, partially to keep our date with our couch surfing host. The ride helped focus his mind but every time we stopped all he wanted to do was stay where he sat and sleep, feeling worse for wear as the day progressed.

The ride into the hills was like 'coming home' to me, the cooler air and mist hung amongst the trees as I felt that sense of familiarity I have been craving; a relief from the constant heat and sun of the tropics.  The monsoon is late here this year but a presence of it tantalizes in the air suggesting its forthcoming arrival to northern Thailand. I rested my head on Julians shoulders as we road the bike, the road twisting its way up the mountain side.  Clouds nestled amongst the trees in the valleys below and irregular showers moistened our skin and for the first time since coming being in SE Asia I almost felt 'cold'; pulling my sleeves up as far as they would go to fully embrace the sensation. 

Amongst the thick vegetation on the forest floor vines hung from the branches of trees restricting our view into the jungles beyond.  Golden Buddhas made appearances along the roadside as we passed small villages with roadside stalls selling fruit, coffee and petrol.  Feeling particularly enlightened and possible slightly delirious from his aliments Julian began to sing songs from old childhood television series such as the Wombles, the choruses from Mary Poppins and mixed in with classics from Iron Maiden and Metallica. As we approached a military checkpoint nearing the summit the bike suddenly swerved as Julian reached for his helmet in a panic, undoing its straps and nearly throwing it to the ground.  Taking his helmet from him I noticed a large black insect fly past me as he steadied the bike, pulled over and cradled his ear in agony. I instinctively sucked on his temple attempting to offer a sensation other than then stinging he was experiencing.

The road allowed him to focus on something other than the continuing sting as we made our descent into the valley below which was just as steep and curvaceous as the ascent.  Evening upon us Julian pulled over to put his jacket on, his health clearly deteriorating quickly.  His body possibly reacting to the sting further worsened his discomfort he wanted nothing more than to curl up and go to bed.

Pulling up at Paulas' stone house was a welcome moment.  She pulled back the gate and welcomed us with enthusiastic energy despite our late arrival.  Our host, originally from Washington DC, sold 95% of her possessions and moved to Pai to help open a Montessori School for Burmese refugees in 2011 and still serves the school as Board President.  Having just joined Couch Surfing it is an honour to be her first surfers and introduce her to this fabulous community of people.  I love CS virgins!  We sat down to a refreshing rice salad (with BROWN rice! Bring on the fibre) with some fresh bread and a cheddar cheese.  Decent cheddar cheese at that - hard to come by over here! 

We slept soundly that night to a cacophony of sound from the surrounding jungles of Pai; the loudest we have come across thus far. 

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