Ever since I left South Korea, I’ve been looking forward to the chance to rent a scooter and use it to explore someplace awesome. Technically, I’ve been looking forward to that since mine got stolen a few weeks before my departure from Pohang. Well, earlier this last week, I got the chance when I arrived via van to the beautiful, hippie haven of Pai in northern Thailand.
My interest in visiting Pai had been piqued by a guesthouse I’d discovered on Airbnb known as the Ing Doi Guesthouse. A little outside of town, surrounded by peaceful fields and ringed by the silent guard of the mountains, this place sounded absolutely serene; and just where I wanted to spend a few days after traveling and being a tourist non-stop. Luckily, the place was even better than I could’ve hoped for. Sandy and I immediately felt like home thanks to the welcoming attitudes of the owners Jake and Ming. The location was perfect, the food was amazing, and the attitude to the place was juuuust right. I could only stay a few days, but Sandy was able to stay on for a few extra. I’m more than a little bit jealous, but hopefully I’ll make it back someday!
Sandy and I did our own things for the few days we were both in Pai. She stayed around the guesthouse to take advantage of the shaded hammocks and tranquil setting… not at all a bad way to spend a few days. I took the opportunity to rent a motorbike for a few days and explore the surrounding countryside.
I rented the bike through a company called Aya Service. It has offices by the train station in Chiang Mai and the bus station in Pai, making it convenient to ride motorbikes from one point to another. Rentals are relatively cheap (less than five bucks a day, depending on the bike) and they have insurance options in case of loss, damage, or theft. I think the best option is to ride from Chiang Mai to Pai, since doing the reverse requires you to pay an additional fee of 500 baht (about $17). Unfortunately, I didn’t have any luck with a bike being available then, so I rented it for my time in Pai and the trip back to Chiang Mai.
My first full day, I decided to ride to the tiny mountain village of Pang Mapha through the mountain roads; about a 90 km round trip. It was beautiful. The road dipped, climbed, and wound its way through valleys, hugging tight to the steep slopes, and snaking its way through beautiful forests of pine trees.
Then, unexpectedly, disaster struck…
Around halfway through the journey to Pang Mapha, I rounded an uphill hairpin turn. Due to the poor lighting, I didn’t realize the road was wet. Although I’d slowed way down for the turn, I felt the need to slow just a little bit more. I lightly tapped the brake and the unthinkable happened. In what seemed like an eternal instant, I felt the bike slide out from under me. I felt my body hit the pavement, followed by my face. It happened so quickly, but there are micro-moments of the accident burned in my brain. The instant I felt the bike start to slide. The moment I hit the pavement. The feeling of my chin and nose smashing into the asphalt and the sickening ‘crack’ as one of my front teeth hit. Laying on the ground and feeling frantically to make sure I still had all of my pearly whites. The feeling of numbed interest as I realized my nose was gushing blood from both nostrils onto the pavement. The hazy awareness as a passing motorist stopped to check on me and I waved them on with a weak, but reassuring, smile. The uncontrollable shaking in my hands as my mind caught up with what had happened. I’d just crashed my bike, I was scraped, and battered, but I appeared to be ok.
I shakily picked my bike up and inspected it for damage. It appeared ok, and started up after a few tense seconds. Phew! I got back on and made my way further along the road to a rest stop only 2 km away. Once there, I went to the bathroom, where attendants stared open-mouthed as the battered tourist covered in blood grinned sheepishly and asked if it would be ok if he paid the bathroom fee when he was finished. I cleaned out all the wounds and washed as much blood and dirt off as I could, taking inventory of my wounds.
I scraped up the back of one hand, the forearm of my other arm, my knee, my chin, and the skin at the bottom of my nose. My tooth appeared to be ok, though several days later I would notice a crack across the front. Luckily, the cute dentist (hehe) I would end up going to would say it appeared to only be a crack in the enamal after close inspection and a few x-rays. None of the scrapes were very deep, and appear to be healing quite nicely.
I was lucky for several reasons. First off, I was going quite slow when I fell, so the damage was far less than it could’ve been. I was also going uphill, which meant that I slid only a small distance before gravity stopped my momentum. On a downhill slope, I could’ve slid much further and scraped myself up much worse. My open-face helmet – while not preventing the scraping removal of the skin on my chin, a smashed nose, the scary tooth-hit, and a scraped/bent pair of glasses – prevented the upper part of my face from smashing the ground and probably saving me from even worse injuries on my head and face. The long pants I was wearing – ones I bought with birthday money from my grandparents last year – took one for the team and let me walk away with only minor scrapes on one knee. Despite the scary experience and the injuries I sustained, I was so lucky to be able to walk away with only superficial wounds.
Not only did I walk away, but I got back on the bike and rode the rest of the way to Pang Mapha and finished my ride. There was no way I was going to have a bad day, no sir! It was a good one, and the rest of the ride was fantastic.
Look at that… glasses messed up, nose swollen like a turnip, but I’m still smiling!
A farmhouse on the way to the stone forest.
A glimpse of the valley.
View from the top.
Thanks to Sandy for the picture!
For a more in depth post on Pai, keep checking my friend Sandy’s blog here. She hasn’t posted it yet, but she spent more time in Pai and (I’m sure) took lots of amazing pictures. This town and Ing Doi Guesthouse deserve more than the brief gloss-over I gave them here. I’m sure she’ll do it justice!