26.12.2011 20 °C
There is a fine balance between spontaneity and getting stuck holding an empty bag and we have found that Christmas is hardly the time to be slack when it comes to reservations on anything. We woke up on Christmas day with a road trip planned, hotels booked and no vehicle sorted out. I was sure it wouldn't be a problem and tried to instil the same confidence in Nat as we checked out of our hotel and went searching for a set of wheels. I neglected to realise that it wasn't only Christmas Day but it was also a Sunday so it was a bit of a longer walk than we planned. Just as hope was fading we found our solution that kept us from riding the bus or strapping all of our luggage to a scooter (like a local) which brightened our day substantially. It has been a few months since we have done a road trip with our own rental car so we were really looking forward to six days of winding our way through the most northern parts of Thailand in search of hill tribes, long necked ladies and romantic riverside villages. Our first stop was the city of Pai that was touted as a hub for great food and live music, "a must see" when you are in this part of the world. We loaded the map into our Ipad headed out on the first leg of our trip which was only about 120 kms shortly after lunch.
The roads here are all in pretty great shape considering the amount of rain that has fallen here in the last year, but road signs are not made for anyone who can't read Thai so it wasn't a big surprise when we missed our first turn off and added an extra fifty clicks to our trip. Back on track we got off the main highway and started to wind our way into the hills. I think the easiest way to describe the trip would be to say that we had the front seat in our very own roller coaster ride for nearly five hours. It was brutal, if I had been in a bus, I would have got out about half way and walked back to Chiang Mai, Natalie isn't prone to motion sickness at all and she was happy for any stop I wanted to make. It took almost five hours before we arrived in Pai and found a guesthouse for the night, sounds like a new record for 120kms.
After a quick nap and a shower, we headed to the streets to find out what makes this place so magical. The street vendors were setting up with their stalls of food and souvenirs, I think they had more t-shirts for sale than I can find in St.Maarten. We walked for a few hours and I got Nat into the street food a little bit which we both enjoyed a little. We also found a cable to plug our ipod into the car stereo which was a big score as I still can't understand the Thai news radio stations. But we found very little in the way of unique arts, live music or romantic scenes that this town was supposed to offer. So we headed back to the hotel and got some more rest for our next leg of the trip...hopefully tomorrow will be a smoother ride.