We'd heard a lot about Pai, a peaceful hippy tourist mecca, perfect for lazy days and relaxation. We'd also heard it was a four hour journey on some of the windiest roads Thailand has to offer and on reading several vomit related coach horror stories we decided to take the bull by the horns, hire a moped and make the journey ourselves.
After hiring a 135cc moped from Tony's Big Bikes, storing our luggage at our hostel and packing a day bag of bare essentials we set out on route 107 to Pai. "Do you think we should take some warm clothes?" Darren asks me. "Nah, shorts will be fine" I answer confidently…ha ha ha!
With Darren in the driver's seat and me on the back providing the entertainment by singing Pai related songs such as 'I've got a ticket to Pai' and 'We're on the highway to Pai' we left Chiang Mai and soon realised that actually our little moped was pretty dam zippy. After half an hour on the road a few drops of rain began to fall so we pulled over and pulled on our rainmacs and looking cooler than ever we took the left turn on to route 1095 for the remaining 100km journey to Pai.
Instantly the roads became steeper and our little bike seemed to be struggling slightly "Cor, smells like burning" I comment. As the numb bum set in and the drops of rain turned into drizzle we saw a little wooden shack with a huge coffee sign hanging outside so we pulled over ready for some refreshment. "Two coffees please" "No coffee" "You don't sell coffee" "No" Ok, so maybe they just put up huge signs of the things they DON'T sell? So we jump back on the bike and continue our journey up a gradual incline. It was then that the bike made a noise and then stopped. "s***, what was that?" I ask the mechanic. Darren goes to start the bike up again but it goes nowhere "We've lost drive" he says laughing his face off "For real?" I ask "Ha ha ha ha yep" he confirms. Fantastic!
As chance would have it we broke down right near a couple of huts and after a bit of searching we ended up at an official government office. We found a lady who spoke mild English and she let us use her phone to call Tony. It turned out that because we had a hired a bike over 125cc we qualified for free recovery. The only problem was that we were halfway now so it would take one and a half hours to reach us.
We wandered 100m up the road and found a local who had set up a café in her garden. Her Husband, a mechanic, was working away in the garden. By now we were cold, wet and hungry but the welcoming smile from the lady was a sight for sore eyes. She served us a warm, delicious plate of rice with vegetables and chicken. There was some liver on the side too, I tried a piece but I wasn't too keen.
Soon an Australian man and his Thai girlfriend arrived at the café and we all sat whiling away the time whilst we waited for our pick up. He did point out that the 'liver' which I had sampled was in fact pure cooked blood, how wonderful. He gave us his number and said to call him if anything went wrong with our recovery and then he left; what a thoroughly nice bloke!
Soon after he left, our recovery arrived. He didn't actually 'recover' anything he just gave us the bike he was on; an extremely sexy black and purple 125cc called 'The Fashionista' wow did Darren look cool on that. We hopped on, bid farewell to our hosts and resumed our journey.
The next problem to arise was the little issue relating to the lack of fuel in our new bike. We were in the red, approaching empty and in the middle of nowhere and then to top it all off the torrential rain came….
With the inclines getting steeper, the visibility getting poorer and the very cold Brits getting wetter the panic set in. Road after road of twists, turns and no sign of life whatsoever. We were ascending into the clouds and our hopes were becoming lost until suddenly through a clearing in the cloud we saw a roadside café selling coffee and whisky bottles full of fuel.
Resembling drowned rats we ventured in to gain respite from the rain and drank the most hideously rank coffee I have ever tasted but it was warm and at that moment not much else mattered. As the rain died down a ten year old approached with 2 bottles of fuel, he filled up our tank and we were on the road again. With a renewed vigour, Darren asked me for a song, so I gave him the full rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. On reflection I feel he may regret this now.
As we continued to climb, the roads got windier and windier and soon we were driving through the mountains amidst the fog. It was so cold and the next sign told us we were still 45km from our destination. Oh and then the rain came again but this time it wasn't taking any s***. It literally fell from the sky like a blanket of water and drenched us, I couldn't see a thing and I have no idea how Darren managed to get us there but when we saw that 'Welcome to Pai' sign we cheered and Darren actually did a small fist pump!
It has become apparent that it always rains on our travel days and this was no exception but the best thing about this trip was the laughter. You couldn't make up the journey we had and through every one of the 762 turns from Chiang Mai to Pai we laughed. After all we weren't in a rush and our clothes would dry. If our first bike hadn't broke down we'd have missed out on the smile from the café owner, her delicious food and we would be missing one very memorable story. And so as we sat on the porch of our bamboo shack, Darren swinging in the hammock. I could safely say that they were right about Pai.