Thursday, March 8, 2012

And Then I Crashed....

By Liane Nichols

Pai. It's a beautifully unique town located in the northern province of Mae Hong Son, Thailand. The road to Pai involves a 3-4 hour open air bus ride through the mountainous region that separates it from Chiang Mai. It is a haven for hippies and health nuts wanting to escape the real world. Dreads are the popular form of hairstyle and comfortable fisherman pants are donned by both man and woman. The coffee, tea, and smoothies are endless, and a good price. Needless to say, for those wanting to escape corporate world, or just wish it was socially acceptable not to shower daily, this is paradise. 

One of my favorite features of the glorious small town is that motorbike rentals are a mere 100 baht. This means you can have your very own motorcycle or moped for just 3USD and use it as you please for 24 hours. The Thailand norm is 200 baht/ 24 hours. I was quickly falling in love with this place.

For two days I had been zooming through the hills. The steep roads, the sharp curves, and the viewpoints felt like pure bliss. I could ride around for hours on end just soaking it all in. I even remembered to bring my headphones to listen to Young the Giant, Mumford and Sons, and Ray Lamontagne. A perfect mix for the ride. It's difficult to not stop on every corner and snap a photo of the scenery you only thought existed in the famous National Geographic.

Day two of riding had a rocky start. My new Dutch friend Stephanie and I were exploring the area where you could see a Chinese village and a waterfall. However, just 20 minutes up the road my bike grew tired of me and retaliated with a flat tire. Luckily the true Thai hospitality you've only heard about helped me. We had stopped outside of a small home/side of the road store of fruits and drinks. There was a plethora of odd looking chickens scattered around the place. The man may not have spoken English or even known how to fix a tire, but by golly that was not going to stop him from helping. Eventually after about one hour and a quick trip back to town for a new tire, we were on our way to the waterfall. I even bought a delicious pineapple and watermelon from our friendly determined helper as a sign of my utmost appreciation.

Day three was when it happened. This day I was with my friend from Sweden and we had decided to drive from Pai to Mae Hong Son. The ride, as always, was absolutely gorgeous. There were a few fires that were frolicking at the side of the road, but for the most part the ride was pleasant. On the drive back to Pai, we passed a sign for three caves. With time to spare, we decided to take a peak down the back road. The road was steeper than ever and covered with giant potholes. It was much like an extreme biking obstacle course. But as much as I love riding the bike around, I still enjoyed the bumpy ride. At one point I was waiting at the top of a particularly steep hill waiting on my friend to catch up. Once I saw him appear around the corner I took off again....and then I very suddenly stopped.

I found the cave! It was the giant pot hole I was unable to avoid in the road!

This is what happened as I recall: I hit the pot hole, my tire stuck, my bike fell sideways, and we began to scrape down the steep hill that no longer looked fun. There was actually a slight fear in me as I felt my head bounce off the asphalt. I could see my motor-cy continue sliding about 10 feet after I had caught myself and tried to sit up. I did a quick self injury check and then said "Is the bike okay?!". My friend stared at me in amazement while saying the usual "Better question, are you okay?!" I was more concerned with the bill I would have to pay if I didn't bring the bike back in one piece.

I self assessed my wounds (they weren't pretty) and decided I didn't have a terrible concussion. In fact I was more concerned with the swarm of bees I had managed to land in. Crashing was bad enough, but I was not getting stung by a foreign bee! Sure my right leg was covered in asphalt, sand, and blood, and my toe may have needed stitches, but I figured I could survive that will a little cleaning; but a bee sting was out of the question. I kept hobbling up the hill in a weak attempt to escape them.

After about 20 minutes to determine if I was concussion free I decided that I would need to drive back to Pai. Many people had stopped but driven on once they realized I was alive. I had to look mad as I was laughing at the whole thing and standing on the side of the road in a torn up shirt and covered in blood and dirt. Once my bike was retrieved from the bottom of the hill I slowly began the hour drive back home.

Luckily as a girl who grew up in the country of Texas, I was quite accustomed to nursing nasty injuries. A little peroxide and Neosporin could fix just about anything. So when I reached Pai I stopped at the first pharmacy I found and limped my bloody self up to the counter to ask for the necessary ingredients. Again, I was impressed with the cheapness of my goody bag of medication, cleaners, and bandages. I had a nice looking first aid kit for roughly 3USD. Impressive.

So now that I'm bandaged up and ready for recovery, I've decided to remain in Pai. It's a lovely city and small enough the hobble around. I can't think of a better place for healing. It's peaceful, has a river, and friendly talented people. I've been here a week already and have no desire to move for at least a few more days. This motorcycle crash was just the excuse I needed to sit back and relax in my favorite Thailand city.

Pai, Pai, I love Pai.

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