6/15/17 - 6/17/17
Okay I'm going to be honest, I have two other blogs written and ready to go, but I didn't want to post them before this one because then things would be out of order. Hang on kids, stories coming your way!
The next day I had recovered from my night of terror and booked a day tour to go see the sights around Pai. A minivan came to pick me up, and then we went and picked up three other women, and it turned out to just be us for the day. (There were supposed to be several other people as well, but they gave them the wrong address so we couldn't find them??? So we just left without them???)
One of the girls was also a solo traveler, and she's from Ohio. The other two ladies were from the Philippines/kind of from New Zealand, and they were awesome and chatty. We all got along swimmingly and knew the day would be fun.
Our first stop was the Chinese Village. The girl from Ohio had heard there was a good viewpoint, so her and I decided to trek up the (incredibly) steep hill to try and find it. We only had 30 minutes at this stop, so we were hustling. We didn't end up making it all the way, but still had a good view, so we took some photos and speed walked our way back down to the van. We told the other girls (who had decided to stay behind to drink some tea) about the viewpoint, and one of them said "Let's just ask our driver to drive up there." Oh. Yeah. That's a good point. A few minutes later we were driving up the hill and made it to the actual viewpoint, which was gorgeous. We took some photos, looked out over the valley, and drank some green tea in adorable tiny cups. A kitten caught a lizard and was playing with it, so I got distracted for a few minutes by that.
After the Chinese village, we headed up to Mor-Pang Waterfall. It was a really pretty waterfall with several cascades, and a little cairn at the top of one of the cascades. It was very peaceful and we were the only ones there. We took some photos and had some quiet moments, and then headed back on our way.
I love love love English translations on signs. Waterfall with caution, guys.
Our next pit stop was the natural hot spring. I kind of knew we were going here and I kind of didn't...so I had grabbed a swimsuit at the last second but not a towel, and when we arrived it became very obvious they did not have towels. I didn't want to spend the entire day soaking wet, so I just waded in and soaked my legs for a bit and chatted with the girls, and then went to lay down and read my book while they kept soaking. After watching the other girls sit in their wet clothes for the rest of the day, I regret nothing. Regardless, the hot springs were really pretty and seemed to be rather popular, despite the harrowing road we had to traverse to get there.
[it appears I did not upload a photo of the hot springs. Sorry. If you head to the flickr page you can see it]
Before we hopped back in the van, we had our lunch here, where I saw a huge creepy spider, and the cutest tiny puppy ever. I took about 34 thousand photos of the puppy, so be happy that I'm only forcing you to look at one of them.
Next up was the giant white Buddha. I mean, this thing is huge! Unfortunately it was under construction, so we walked up a gajillion stairs to see some scaffolding. It was kinda interesting to see the process they were working on, though, and they're clearly doing some renovations on the entire site that will be stunning when it's finished. We also got some great views of Pai, and I saw a hairy caterpillar.
After we left here, we drove for a million years to reach the bamboo bridge. Based on my reading, this was constructed to allow monks to cross the rice fields of the area without causing any damage to the local people's crops. It was pretty impressive and a little intimidating to walk on, but it seemed quite sturdy once you got the hang of it. There was a hole at the very very end that I almost fell in, but otherwise no problems. I made a donation to get some fish food, and fed some of the biggest, fattest fish ever. They were so cute. All in all it was another peaceful and beautiful place, and I left a small donation for maintenance and a blessing. I'll take all the blessings I can get, and it's amazing that it's free to visit this site!
We zipped down the road to the next destination: "The Land Split"! It's a super literal name, but actually a pretty interesting sight. There was an earthquake in 2008 that essentially wrenched a crack in the earth, and the ground separated. You hike up the middle of it and then climb to the top to see it. When you come back down a cute little couple serves you juice and snacks for free, and you donate whatever you want. We drank some Roselle Juice, which supposedly can cure... everything? I'm curious if this was the solution that guy from the cafe was referencing, although then his book would just be one page and it would say "Roselle Juice." Oh, sorry, Roselle juice is juice made from a species of hibiscus flower, and is essentially an infusion. Not going to lie, it was absolutely delicious. I just hoped that the "bowel launch" held off until we got home...
Also I made friends with a super cute doggo here who was definitely covered in fleas but who was soooo sweet and who reacted like she had never been touched before and almost fell asleep while I was scratching her ears. Seriously, LOOK AT THIS FACE.
After we left the Land Split, we headed to Pai Canyon. In the parking lot our driver pointed out "shy plants," growing on the sidewalk, which are the sensitive plants we grew when I was a kid that shrivel up when you touch them! I spent way too long playing with them. Pai Canyon is like nothing I've ever seen. It's these super skinny ridges that you can go explore in all directions...I don't even know how to describe it. There's one area you can climb down and then up very carefully to get a pretty neat shot, and I definitely just went for it in my $15 target sandals (what? I didn't know we'd be hiking!), so I got a super cool picture except that my camera refused to take it in focus, which is neat.
We were supposed to watch the sunset from up here, but the sun was hiding, so we moved on to the Memorial Bridge as our last stop instead. In World War II, the Japanese had an army base in Thailand, and forced villagers from Chiang Mai to construct the road from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, while villagers from Mae Hong Son were forced to construct the road from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai. These roads met near Pai along the river, where a bridge was constructed by elephants. The elephants dragged trees 30 inches wide from the jungle for the bridge! When World War II ended, the Japanese soldiers left town and burned the bridge, leaving the villagers without a bridge and having to construct boats to cross the river. The villagers all came together and decided to rebuild the bridge. Unfortunately, in 1973 a flood destroyed the bridge, so Pai asked Chiang Mai for an old steel bridge instead, which took a year to transport and put in place. Now this bridge serves as a memorial bridge as a reminder of the history of the region. Whew! That's the most detail I've given you about anything today (sorry). To be fair, if you're reading this blog you have access to the internet and can google things for yourself if I've left things out. Okay, moving on!
I forgot to tell you that there is a guy who dresses up as Jack Sparrow and hangs out at the bridge to take pictures with tourists. IDK why. I have no idea. And I snuck a picture because I'm a bad person but also because I didn't have any more money because I spent it on Roselle Juice and fish food and blessings.
I said my goodbyes to the girls from my tour and went back to my hostel. I didn't want to risk a trek into town and getting caught coming home in the dark again, so I wandered over to the only restaurant still open nearby, which turned out to be amazing. It was called A Taste of Joy, and it was the cutest dang restaurant/coffee shop/art creation space. There was a teeny tiny kitty and two big adorable dogs sleeping, and I got a raspberry shake and some pulled pork and it was amazinggggg and then I went back to my hostel and passed out for the night.
The next day a man came to pick me up with essentially a shopping cart-like cage welded haphazardly to a motorbike and dropped me off at the minibus that would take me back to Chiang Mai. At one point in the journey back I was pretty sure I saw the driver take some Dramamine, so I spent the next two hours fighting my own sleepiness in the delusion that I had to make sure our driver didn't fall asleep and crash. I don't know guys, my anxiety is trying to find different outlets now that I'm getting the hang of this travel thing, I guess.
Here's a picture of fish because I don't know how to end this blog and I'm getting impatient. Byeeeeeeee!