When Andrew and I were in Slovenia and Croatia we (royal we…mostly him) wrote a blog post about relying on the kindness of strangers. 3 years on and it looks like the kindness of strangers keeps the world moving. As the title suggests this post is all about helping a fellow person out.
I had already extended my stay to experience one more day of the beautiful Pai, but it was time to press on.
After recommendations from numerous people including my Chillean friends, I opted to do the route between Pai and Chiang Mai by scooter on the condition I can find at least one other person to join me (just incase). I searched desperately for anyone who’d be leaving for Pai on Saturday who could be pursuaded to join me. After exhausting the people I knew I started asking random people I bumped into at the temples and waterfalls. Though some tentative interest I had nothing concrete.
Whilst having a superb breakfast yet again at the Witching Well (seriously if you’re in Pai check it out, the breakfast is seriously good!) I started chatting to an American guy, Bob. The staff at witching Well recognised Bob from the year before. It turns out Bob had come to Chiang Mai from the States every year for the last 8 years, he drives to Mae Son (the Thai town at the border crossing of Myanmar), then to Pai, stays one night, has breakfast at the Witching Well then sets off to Pai. He said it’s an easy ride and a stunning one – I was sold, I’d ride a scooter for the third time in my life, alone, across the 135km stretch through 762 mountain turns.
I had one last breakfast at the Witching Well, filled my tank to the brim (for 90 baht – about £2) then set off early to avoid the traffic. The temperatures were pretty cool, especially in the shadows of the trees but the road was dry and my 125cc engine packed enough acceleration to really enjoy the journey. The views were stunning but unfortunately over I have somehow permanently deleted all of those pictures…mwah wah.
As my confidence grew and I became more familiar with the driving style of the cars coming the other way, I sped up and started taking the racing lines around the turns and accelerating out of the apex. @hickeshmehta you would have been proud and you need to do it.
I tried to create a stop motion video by leaving my iPhone in my top pocket but ended up with a lot of footage of my left arm (provided the Internet works fast I’ll put some of the videos at the end of the post).
About a third of the way through I saw signs for a natural geyser. I followed the signs taking a 6.5km detour off road, somewhat reminiscent of the Vietnamese roads (but significantly better so not really). I arrived at the entry point to the national park and drove towards the ticket office. As I approached the security guard, I was greeted with a salute from the Thai Military officer. He asked where I’m travelling to, I replied “Pai to Chiang Mai”. He smiles and looks happy at this response. I asked him how much the entry ticket is. He replies 200 baht (£4). I like to think in that moment as the words “SHIT!” ran through my brain my face didn’t reveal the same sentiment. I pretended to fumble around my money pouch then repeated the words “200?” He typed 200 into the calculator and swivelled it around. I said okay. I took all of my money out and put it on the table. I counted it then typed into his calculator “190” and showed him my empty money pouch. He shook his head saying no. I said, attempting to convey the message with my body language knowing that he won’t understand the English, “this is all I have. Please [hands clasped together], please! Let me in?”. He thinks for a second, proceeds to take 100 baht then pushed 90 baht back towards me, tears off a children’s ticket and hands it to me smiling. Then says okay. I thanked him profusely to wish he smiled. I assume he didn’t want to take the full 190 because I was biking alone and might need some cash in case of an emergency over the next 80 km, or incase I needed petrol or water. Once again the kindness of a stranger was welcomed and greatly appreciated.
The national park was beautiful and the geyser a worthwhile detour (again I have lost the pictures).
After about an hour and a half I set back off. As I exited the national park I looked back over to the guard gave a quick smile and a nod. He nodded back. We had a tacit agreement with that nod not to tell anyone what happened…the internet’s a safe place to keep secrets right?
About a kilometre down the road I see a monk on the side of the road waving. I slow the bike down and pull up next to him. We exchange greetings in Thai after which he talks very quickly in Thai. I apologised and said I only speak English. He asked me where I was from and then asked me to follow him up a stoney road. I drove the scooter up carefully and he walked up by foot on my side. He gestured to leave the bike at the top and I followed him on foot towards the small monastery and a few surrounding buildings. Another monk was sat infant of the main building with a small smile on his face. The monk who I had followed pointed to one of the buildings. A tree had broken, falling through the roof of a building. I acknowledged the sight with a simple “Oh! okay”.
He showed me a piece of paper in his hand with some Thai writing on it. He said “Give, shop”. I nodded my head accepting the responsibility to become a messenger. He picked up a stick and drew a simple map in the sand, one circle for where we were, another where the shop was. He said “2km”. I said okay. I asked (gestured) whether he would like to come with me, but he declined. I asked him (gestured again) if he would like me to come back. He declined. I jumped onto the bike, he said thank you in Thai and with that I set off on the dirt road again.
I checked the odometer and began to count 2km. After a few false stops and being chased off private property by some angry dogs I found the shop. The shop was open but nobody was there. I shouted hello in Thai and eventually an old lady looking suspiciously at me emerged from her house and in through the back of the shop. She stared wondering what it is I wanted to buy and why I had a white piece of paper in my hand. I motioned for her to take the paper, she approached cautiously and then read it slowly – reading the best her eyes now able her to. It took a minute and a half for her to read the two short lines and after she registered what she said she looked at me with a face of sincere gratitude and proceeded to thank me in both Thai and English. She set off quickly to find more of the villagers shouting after people. I quickly fell into the background as she rallied the troops.
With that my deed was done. The rest of the journey to Chiang Mai was beautiful until I hit the main motorway after which I was able to maintain a comfortable 90-100km (with the reassurance of knowing if I crashed it probably wouldn’t hurt because it’ll be over too quickly).
In a short time I relied on the kindness of a stranger to give me a 50% or 100 baht discount into a National Park so as to leave some change in my pocket and I gave back by helping a monk in need with a short errand.
With that the universe and karma was in balance again.