14.10.2012 - 19.10.2012 35 °C
Arriving in Northern Thailand was an unpleasant shock having come from quiet, rural Laos. Our ride from the Loatian border dropped us off in Chiang Mai on a corner with Starbucks, McDonalds and Boots (a ubiquitous British chemist store). Ugh. It was late and dark and we wondered the streets looking for somewhere to stay. Everyone we passed was a foreigner. Every shop, restaurant and cafe had ugly boards in front advertising the different trips and services they could provide to tourists. It was tourism saturation and we didn't much like it.
The intention wasn't to stay in Chiang Mai, but to hit the road by motorbike to ride the Mae Hon Son Loop. Taking in quiet country roads that go up and down and round and round (more than 1,600 bends) the mountainous green terrain of Northwest Thailand, part of the infamous Golden Triangle. At Mr Bear's bike shop I chose a scooter for its classic good looks, Dan chose on mechanics. A few hairy loops around the busy streets of town to run errands got us warmed up, before we hit the back roads.
Day one we started off gently curving up and down many jungle hills, with so many corners it kind of felt like snowboarding, hardly any straights, just constantly putting in your turns. Swish, swish, swish. Slowly it got dark, the cloud set in and it started to rain. But we were both in the groove, took it slowly and really enjoyed it. I was feeling pretty happy with my riding, and confident on the bike. Which is why it is so surprising what happened the next day....
We were on our bikes after breakfast, heading out of the town we had stayed in. The traffic lights turned green and Dan headed out into the intersection to turn left. Something didn't quite work for him and before you know it, I'm watching him slow motion skid into a turn and fall onto the road. My reaction was to get to him as quick as possible and get him off the road before any traffic might hit him, but in doing so I somehow went full throttle careening around the corner. Cue comic skit. People calmly sitting at their road side cafe on a Saturday morning having breakfast. It has a wall only about a metre high so the customers can look out onto the street. Into the scene comes out of control motorbike with foreign girl flying off the back trying desperately to reach the brakes. This is when Dan, shaken from his own accident, has gotten up off the road. Just in time to see me skidding, ever so narrowly missing the restaurant wall, but smashing off the planter box and all the other pot plants that were nicely lined up along the street, before falling off my bike.
We were both lucky. I had literally been dragged through the mud, and was covered in it from head to toe. Other than that, we suffered a little shock, a couple of decent grazes each, some bruises, and a minor crack on my bike which Mr Bear made me pay 20 quid for. Not bad considering.
That little accident aside, the 5 day trip went off without a hitch! We rode through, and stayed in, little rural villages. Rode down narrow roads to reach beautiful waterfalls. Ate delicious Thai food and enjoyed the smiles and friendliness of the locals. Marvelled at the scenery, including more of those green rice paddies I love. Enjoyed watching rural life, including the corn de-husker machines which had the dramatic effect of shooting streams of corn debris into the air.