After recovering from the high that was spending two days with elephants, we embarked on our next adventure. Our plan was to take a minibus north to Pai and from there take a motorbike ride through the mountains to Soppong. There is a pretty famous motorcycle loop that starts in Chiang Mai and the section from Pai to Soppong is regarded to be the most scenic section.
First step – surviving the minibus
As much as the route from Pai to Soppong is windy and hilly, as is the road from Chiang Mai to Pai. However, minibuses dont lend themselves to nice comfortable (throw up free) rides. In fact, we knew we were in trouble when there were plastic bags for every seat. I am not really sure how long it took but it felt like forever. I don’t really get carsick, but I was definitely feeling it a little by the end. Others didn’t fair so well. Shannon and Collin held it together, with Shannon needing a little bit of time when we got off to recover. There was one man in the front of the bus that almost made it before he threw up. We aren’t sure if he actually did because we didnt witness it, but it suddenly smelled like throw up and when we got off one guy was white and could barely stand.
Step two – death by scooter or strangling?
The night we arrived in Pai we explored the city a little. It had a very modern tourist feel; a very hippy and hipster vibe. Which is fun but it felt like I could’ve been back in the US. There wasn’t anything to write home about in the city; however, we weren’t there for the vegan food, but the rewarding views we would get the next day.
We woke up and went to find our scooters to rent. It was then that we realized we didn’t have enough money to pay the deposits on the bike so we spent like an hour trying to figure out where to get money on a Sunday morning. After that was sorted out, we went to get our three bikes since we convinced Shannon that the ride wasn’t too difficult. I should mention that at the scooter rental place there were people limping out of it, bandaged up, but we had full faith in her abilities. As we were about to get them, I remembered reading that travel insurance didnt cover motorbike accidents without a motorcycle license; so, very responsibility might I add, we decided to rent two bikes with Shannon riding on the back of mine or Collin if she decided I was inadequate.
Off we went with Collin shooting in front since he had half the weight and did this on a daily basis back home. I, on the other hand, decided to use the beautiful sweeping views as an excuse for my leisurely pace (even though it wouldn’t go more than 20km on the many steep uphills). However, I maneuvered beautifully even with Shannon squeezing the life out of me on every turn. She eventually got distracted or decided I was competent enough to strangle my body every other turn or so. I would not have wanted to do the ride any other way.
The ride was amazing and we enjoyed every second of it.
Once we got to Soppong we decided to check out ‘Cave Lodge’ which is where we would be staying for a couple of days after returning the motorbikes and taking a bus up. The place was amazing, and you’ll hear more about it in my next post. For now, all we did was check out the numerous treks they offered and we took advantage of asking them where we could take our motorbikes next (since it was only midday). She pointed at a hand-drawn map on the wall with a loop that went through some small villages (and of course more awesome views). We took a picture and her directions on how to get to the start and went off.
This was the best part of the ride. The road ended up being the size of a sidewalk and full of potholes. Sounds not pleasant, but it was actually a lot of fun. Also the fact that we saw no one else on the road for hours was fantastic. It was like we had a private course set up only for us. With this loop we saw more awesome views and walked through some interesting villages.
On the way back we stopped and found a cool spot to grab a bite to eat. After that it started to get dark and we started scooting back to Pai. This way I decided to go as fast as I could. Partly because it was fun and because I started to eat a stupid amount of bugs and wanted to not be doing that anymore. I even got to play a little game with an obnoxious kid (must have been like 15) driving a truck. He was getting on the road and made us stop to let him go in front. Then when he was in front his truck was spewing sand all over our faces. So, I went to try to pass him and he made it his job to make this as hard as possible. After driving on the wrong side of the road for a little too long I was in front of him, which I dont think he appreciated. From then on it turned into a race in my mind. He might have been faster on the straight bits but it was on the turns that I could get some distance. He was consistently in view of my rear view mirror but he never caught up (victory!).
Step 3 – sleep
I forgot to mention a little detail about our guesthouse beds. Everything about the guesthouse was fantastic, except our beds. The mattresses must have been from the stone-age. So I didnt sleep much the night before the ride and once it started getting late I must have started to become delusional.
That night we went out to find dinner in Pai and found a bite to eat. After that though I had decided I wanted to eat all the Mango Sticky Rice on the street. As in – I got it at one end of the street and by the time we had walked to the other end I was done and since there was a stand for this stuff every few meters I was able to get a refill! Excellent decisions by me. Mango and Sticky Rice is amazing. We then got a bag of ice because I’m getting old and my lower back had started to hurt and we made our way back to the guesthouse. I must have been acting some kind of way because a group of guys said to us – “so I can see that this guy smoked way more than you two”. I decided to play it off and responded by holding up my bag of ice and saying something like “wow this is some good ice, you guys should try it”. Successfully made a group of people think I was on all the drugs, it was an oscar worthy performance.
We went to sleep with the plan of taking a minibus to Soppong the next day and doing some trekking and caving.
Pai -> Soppong in a exhaustshell
The ride was beautiful. To make it even better find the cave lodge in Soppong and follow their homemade map. Then after seeing the Cave Lodge, you’ll fall in love and stay there a couple of days – you’re welcome. As far as difficulty of the ride, I do think having a motorcycle license and knowing how to ride helped. It really isn’t terrible and since you can go as slow as you please why not go for it – its worth it.