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A slice of Pai and Pineapples for Elephants

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on July 11, 2011

Just dropped the bike back and checked into our room here in Chiang Mai.

We’ve just completed a little over a 1000km on the bike, it’s been momentous, a little wet at times and we’ve seen some great sights – we’re shattered. Having decided upon hiring a 250cc enduro, the woman at Pop Motorcycle Hire soon talked us out of it – apparently the roads ‘oop north are all tarmaced and fairly decent; just prior she’d been laughing away at my suggestion of riding cross-country with no maps nor GPS (which is a fair one if truth be told) In the end we opted for a 650cc Kawasaki, a couple of dodgy helmets and little else – in fact we had a daypack between us with 2 pairs of skids each, a couple of t-shirts and a bar of a soap and toothbrush (we overdid the personal hygiene I know!)

Our first day was meant to be our longest, with a 360km ride Chiang Rai, on the edge of the Golden Triangle – North West of here are two borders, Burma to the North West and North East is Laos. Chiang Rai was a little unremarkable if truth be told though apparently it’s a little sleazy at the weekend – a kind of Brighton in the mountains as it’s where the Thais head to for a ‘dirty-weekend’ away with the missus or indeed her sister! Finding a place to stay we ventured into town and had a couple of beers, vowing to leave early the next day having seen none of the shenanigans we were expecting!

Rather than continue East, we decided to head West and the mountain top ‘town’ of Mae Salong – a Chinese Nationalist Outpost and one of the spots (several years back now) for the production of opium (though since the 80’s the government has clamped down and almost all villages in the area now produce other cash-crops.) We were planning to stay over though having seen all of its joys during the short ride through the town we made plans to make for Pai – some 300km South West of where we were currently – initially made up of mountain roads followed by a some nice straights mid-ride then back on to mountain roads into Pai.

We set off at breakneck speeds – the roads in the main were good, occasionally you would come around a bend to find a massive pot-hole in your way or even worse, a local driver (in a 4×4) overtaking on the bend you were coming around on (almost knee down) to find said truck bang in the middle of your line – a nightmare! Eventually making our turn-off, we had about 90 minutes to make it to Pai as it was getting dark and what with the local standard of driving and mountainous roads we wasn’t relishing – we’d also been told that from the turn-off to Pai was roughly 2.5 to 3 hours to drive, a distance of just over 100km…

We made it, just!

It was just getting dark as we arrived and beginning to rain – how we got there in one piece I don’t know, we over-took everything in front of us, cutting the corners of the road and powering out of bends, a rally exhilarating ride though we did pass a lorry trailer half way along which had jack-knifed in the road, the trailer well an truly in the ditch and no sight off the cab – not sure if this went over the edge as we managed to squeeze through and carry on with our journey!

For some reason Pai lacks a good write-up in the guide books which is odd – true, it is a little touristy and they have several western hippies all of whom have taken up residence in the town however we really liked the place. It was tranquil and having been riding for two solid days we were looking forward to putting our feet up and garaging the bike for a few days. We ended up staying for four nights – sightseeing the whole area, visiting local hot-springs, Pai’s version of the Grand Canyon and feeding elephants whole pineapples(!) we had a great few days there and left feeling totally relaxed – we even bumped into someone we’d met several weeks back whilst on Phranang beach in Krabi Province!

Our next stop was Mae Hong Son – apparently one of the most popular  tourist centres in the North West, someone somewhere is having a massive laugh at anyone visiting here – it was more dead than Nunhead Cemetary and I couldn’t wait to get out of there, the only thing missing was tumbleweed tumbling down the high-street! It’s one redeeming feature is the Highway 108 heading south – what a fantastic motorbiking road this was, long sweeping bends and super fast straights – a massive grin spread across my face as we powered on to Khun Yuam which is where we turned east, opting to ride through Doi Inthanon National Park – we should’ve stayed on the 108, the road through the park was too narrow, too windy and was quite difficult to ride – plus the Chief Navigator missed our turning which added an additional 60km to the trip!

Having completed 1027km we arrived back into Chiang Mai, we’re back in the same room we were in when we left and we’re glad to be back. Not sure of our plans tonight – probably a beer and a game of pool at Pinkys, followed by bed – probably a little after 10pm!

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9 Responses to “A slice of Pai and Pineapples for Elephants”

  1. Shelley said

    If you had listened to the chief navigator instead of saying “no, I think we’ll take this road”, we would have arrived earlier and won’t be suffering from the bum-cheek rash!

  2. Rich said

    Jesus, this sounds so amazing. I’m disappointed at the lack of a ‘Man versus Bike’ picture from you Craig. What the hell happened?
    Lucy loves the picture of the elephant!

    We’re in Belize at the moment. Lucy did scuba diving in the Blue hole yesterday and I went snorkelling with Manatees and stingrays and sharks. Utterly amazing.

    Glad we’re out of Guatemala now. We had our wallet stolen, everything was in it! We had no money for food, drink, pay our hostel nothing. We were absolutely desperate. An English guy lent us a fiver which had to last us 2 days. We were eating 2 slices of bread and a banana each, for two days. Oh, and we got to share a beer in the evening! Hilarious!! We’ve been so good up until now. We’d always had emergency dollars hidden away elsewhere and kept our credit cards seperate but I guess getting to the end of our trip, we got lazy. Ha, that taught us! Anyway, we’re happy and relieved now and looking forward to Cuba in a weeks time. Absolutely can’t wait.

    You two look after yourselves and can’t wait to read you about your next adventures.
    All the best…

    Rich (and Luce)

    • Shelley said

      Rich & Luce – what a terrible experience. I know what you mean about getting lazy towards the end of the trip because we’ve had similar slippages of leaving debit cards behind in the ATM machines etc. Hope you are reunited with some cash and don’t have to eat banana sandwiches any longer! Also hope you didn’t lose too much!± Will check your blog re Guatemala post. Enjoy Cuba – have always wanted to go there.

      Oh and re man vs bike photos, of course there are some, I’ll upload a few of our trip on facebook shortly! Love to you both! Shelley

  3. Rich said

    Cheers Shelley!
    Nah,we didn’t lose much actually, only about 60quid, but we owe loads of money now to the folks back home who transferred money over for us. I hate having unpaid debts, it does my head in!

    All OK now though. We have credit cards and money and can continue spending like idiots.

    Hope you and Craig are well Shelley and speak soon.


  4. toogreytogrind said

    You guys over did it all right. Two pairs of skids! What ever happened to wear them for a week turn them inside out and wear for another week!

  5. Sawadee dee khrap!
    greetings from the orient. Malcom is currently making me a website so whilst looking for it I stumbled across this page! (is this what you call a blog)? What a pleasant surprise. Some fantastic photos and memories from your trip, doing it again soon? My bar is evolving rapidly, things are picking up slowly now and we won 7-2 in the pool league last night. Thank you so much for the water proof coats, they did a grand job up til the point when i hit a monsoon 30 minutes out of Chiang Mai and it dissintigrated!! I got wet and lost at crazy golf.

    • Shelley said

      Graham – great to hear your news. I started work on Monday and feel absolutely shattered now by the end of my first week. Can’t remember why we decided to come back! Actually, it’s not so bad! We have had stunning weather since we are back – sunshine and warm weather every day for the last three weeks. This never happens do I think of it as a warm welcome back to our home.

      We are looking for somewhere to live – most probably around Battersea and will move in the next week. Looking forward to having our own place after a year of nomadic lifestyle. Are you due back here anytime??

      Oh, here is my little post about our trip up in northern thailand –


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