I’m in Mae Salong right now. It is incredible!! I first have to update about past cities first.
Like I said earlier, it’s a hippie town with an abundance of reggae, western bars with live music of American cover songs by Thai people who don’t know the words and so forth. It was a nice escape from the busy city of Chiang Mai and it was a pleasant town to navigate. However I did not feel that it was real Thailand and rather just another tourist trap.
We rented a motorbike and I was surprisingly comfortable riding it. Beca and I kept referring ourselves to the motorcycle diaries even though it had nothing to do with the actual plot of the story. We went to a waterfall northwest of Pai. It was a beautiful scenic drive. We climbed a bunch of rocks to bathe in the waterfall. We watched a young (about 6 years old) French girl bravely slide down a mini waterfall and into a pond of mysteriously dark water. It looked fun so Beca and I did the same. We saw a Thai boy be Tarzan and hop from slippery rock to slippery rock. It was insane. One European woman swam in the water topless which was pretty culturally insensitive since we only saw Thai girls bathe with their clothes on.
After that we went to the hot springs. Actually we just went to this pool that piped water directly from the natural hot springs. I really enjoyed it. There are a lot of natural minerals that happened to transform Beca’s silver ring to gold. It was mysterious.
Later on we decided to see what was happening with the infamous Pai nightlife. We split a bucket that people rave about which ended up being a mix of Sam Song (popular Thai rice whiskey), Red Bull (ew), and lime. It was disgusting. We walked around some more and every bar was showing the World Cup. We just can’t escape it! All of the bars we have been to have great natural decorations and have been very laid back and welcoming.
5am the next morning, we checked out of our hostel and headed to the bus station. We expected to ride in a minivan like they promised, but a truck pulled up. Beca and I shoved in the back of the truck while another traveler sat in the bed of the truck like a madman. The crazy driver with unnaturally long fingernails drove along the curvy mountains. Maybe we paid for a rollercoaster or something because it was quite unpleasant. We got to Chiang Mai and transferred for a minivan to Chiang Rai. It was a smoother ride but the AC was blasting and I felt like an ice popsicle. I ended up sleeping the entire ride anyway.
We finally got to Chiang Rai after what seemed like a neverending ride. It was hot and we felt disoriented. We walked zombie-like to the nearest restaurant with English and got semi-cold Phad Thai. My first impression of the city was not a positive one. It was dirty, we got lost, a truck of creepy men stared at us, and a dog seemed to have trapped us. We eventually got a tuk tuk to take us to the Baan Bua Guest House and we got a cozy private room for an inexpensive price. B and I concurred that we should stay in CR only for one night.
After napping, we got some iced coffee and headed to the Hilltribe Museum. It was well worth it. We learned a great deal about the Hilltribe population in Northern Thailand. The famous long neck Karen tribe in Thailand is actually completely artificial. A businessman captured some long neck peoples of Burma and created a fake village just for the sake of tourism. It is quite sad. The organization behind the museum set up an ethical way for foreigners to visit the Hilltribes in such a way that both parties benefit. I think it would be interesting to visit a tribe but I also do not want to invade in their daily lives like it is a freak show or something. I certainly do not think that way – I am just interested in understanding how people live their lives and to understand the similarities between people that appear to be so different. I think that is my main goal for traveling. The people.
Underneath the museum was a strange restaurant called Cabbage and Condoms. There were funny little signs and a huge Santa Clause made out of condoms. We learned that their goal is to promote the prevention of AIDS in the hilltribe villages. I thought it was a provocative way to grab attention of locals and tourists to support a good cause. It is especially provocative because the Thai people are generally conservative.
We went to the night bazaar which was eh (they try to get tourists to buy their knockoff items) and watched a few live songs and saw a ladyboy dance. I loved it.
That’s all I feel like updating right now. We are getting up at 5am to meet up with these French girls we met this morning. We are going to walk up 718 steps to Wat Santikhiri where you have a beautiful view of Mae Salong. We will watch the sunrise, visit the morning market, and get some good local coffee.