Trip Start Jan 04, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, February 23, 2005

On the Saturday we left for Pai, north east of Chiang Mai about 6 hours by bus, which was a rickety old thing that struggled up every hill. With about 60K to go we pulled over, we thought just for a rest until we saw oil all over the road, they hadn't thought to tell us it had broken down, and the driver was just sitting in a nearby cafe having a cigarette. We ran into a crazy Californian called Dave, and he was rounding up some people to hitch a lift the rest of the way, which we did in the back of a pick up truck. The back of the truck was shared with Mary (my sister), Jo (Australian), David (Scot), Dave (Crazy Californian) and Angelique (Dutch), we went on to meet with these people every day for our stay in Pai, and are still with most of them on our way to Laos.

As we arrived in Pai I began to fall in love with it stright away, the scenery was fantastic and there was no sound except for the truck engine. The town was really small but very friendly too, and we found our guest house in about 2 mins. After dropping our bags and a quick shower we headed off to explore, and after some umming and ahhing rented a couple of mopeds. A brief but enjoyabe drive later we arrived at a nearby hot spring, which was a very strange experience, stepping into what looked like a cold stream and finding it was like a steaming hot bath.

We met the other taxi members later on in a very nice restaurant and went on for a couple of drinks in the town. We also found the Bebop bar which I had heard many people raving on about who had been to Pai, and with good reason. The bar was very lively with an amazing blues band playing, and everyone was having a great time and dancing. After a few drinks we headed to another bar called the Bamboo bar, which was a big contrast as there was no music (lots of locals live nearby). A good time ws had by all and the next day we arranged to meet up and do some exploring.

A nearby waterfall was our first stop off the next day (after another couple had picked up mopeds), this was followed by lunch back in Pai and another trip off to the hot springs, to show the others the weird sight of eggs being cooked in a stream etc. Our day on the bikes was rounded off by a brief stop at an art gallery and then a swimming pool to watch the sunset. Then back home for a quick shower and another night at the Bebop bar.

The following day we spent most of it by the pool, popping into town to do some jobs and eat etc, then yet another night at the Bebop bar followed (a bit quieter this time, as it was Angelique's last night and she was due to be up early in the morning), we all said our goodbyes and arranged to meet up to visit the Lod Caves (about 50K away) on our bikes the next day.

We were getting quite used to the bikes by this point, and had already arranged to leave the next day, so wanted to do something a bit further afield. The trip took about 1.5 hours (the bikes are not very quick, and the roads are very slow) but the caves were worth it, hopefully the photos will do them justice. We got a guide and she took us through the caves on a raft, stopping at each one to have a little tour. There were hundreds of large fish in the stream which we fed on our way through, each time the fish food went in the water erupted. A slow journey back, with plenty of stops to look at the sunset and we returned our bikes. We had a few people ready to get a private taxi to Chiang Khong (on the border of Laos) at 8:30 am. This worked out slighly more expensive but would have been cheaper if we had found more people (we had 7), although the advantage was that he could stop if we wanted him to for food a toilet etc. An early night was had by me, and Mary rolled in about 1am after 'checking the numbers for the taxi'.

The morning was a bit chilly and we all met for breakfast at 7:45, feeling a little rough, and the supposed 6 hour taxi ride took 8.5 hours, even though he was driving like a maniac. We got to Chiang Khong a little uncomfortable, but managed to find a guest house no problem, the cheapest so far at about 2 pounds per night between us. We're due to get the ferry and Laos visa in the morning so read the next chapter to find out if we make it.
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