Whereupon our heroine does the dumbest thing so far
6/13/17 - 6/14/17
The bus ride to Pai is well known for people throwing up. The road there goes over the mountain pass, and has 762 switchback curves, which the minivan drivers take way faster than a reasonable person should. Having heard about this early on, I went and bought some Dramamine before our departure, and slept through most of the ride. No one in our minibus got sick, thankfully, but I absolutely see how someone could.
After we arrived in Pai I threw my bags on and just walked to my hostel, a 15 minute walk or so out of town. The place is gorgeous, and has a Moroccan theme. It's owned by a nice guy, and when I arrived he and his girlfriend were giving cooking lessons to a couple of girls who were already staying there, so I joined in and got a free cooking lesson (check that off the to-do list!). We learned to make Pad Thai, Green Curry, and chicken with cashew nuts. So basically everything you would learn to make in a cooking class. We all ate dinner together at a big table outside, and it was wonderful! Way beyond what I expected to encounter when I arrived.
The next day (after sleeping on the best mattress I've encountered so far, OMG), I woke up to discover we were having french toast with fresh fruits. Best. Hostel. Ever. After breakfast I decided to just go into town and wander around for the day, as I've heard Pai is super cute (and super small). The town has long been attracting the hippie style of human, and you could really see it in the vibe of the town. I met my new best friend at a local restaurant, which was just a countertop outside.
I strolled around town, looking in all the shops for the mystical dress I've convinced myself i saw once but haven't been able to find since. I bought a cute tank top for 2 dollars, mentally checking off the tank top in my bag I would be swapping for this one. I stumbled upon a giant Fred Flintstone for seemingly no reason.
Towards the later part of the day I found my way to a little Chai shop that I had heard was good, and ordered a chai with vanilla. It was amazing and spicy and smooth and I'm sure Laura would have loved it. I read a book on my phone because my silly self had forgotten my book back at the hostel. A nice woman came around to inform me that tonight would be an open mic night with music and poetry and such, and asked if I wanted to share something. I politely said no, but then paused to actually think about if I had anything to share. Not right now, but maybe some day? I actually think that would be kind of fun.
I figured I would just stick around, so I ordered the closest thing to dinner (banana bread), and another chai, this time with hazelnut, and settled in. The place wound up jam packed with dreadlocks, hippie pants, free spirits, and random bells on belts and tied into hair. An old woman got up and ranted about people who have the cell phone sickness. Lots of wonderful people played music. An old man got up and talked about how he had cured himself of every disease, including cancer, and how the directions were in the simple 17 page booklet up for sale in the corner of the cafe.
Okay, we need to take a second here. I've heard the most ridiculous bullshit about cancer while traveling. This guy said he cured his own cancer without ANY medicine. Because I'm sure the oncologists in Pai, Thailand are doing thorough check-ups on him? One of the girls I met claimed that complete fasting, including not drinking water, is a cure for cancer, because "your body is no longer distracted dealing with the foods you put in it and trying to digest things, so your cells and immune system can focus completely on the cancer." Except for the part where you die three days later from dehydration? Fascinating. Okay, moving on.
A woman got up and recited a 200 year old poem that her grandmother used to recite for money on the streets, and it was fascinating and wonderful. A random guy from Jerusalem sat down at my table while he waited for his turn to perform, and we chatted and had a lovely time, and then he performed and was absolutely the best musician of the night. Another old guy got up and started talking, just telling his life story. At first I was expecting more crazy miracle cures, but it turned out to be pretty good. He talked a lot about different experiences in his life, and about the importance of speaking your truth. The three guiding principles of his life are truth, respect, and sharing, and by the time he was done talking he certainly had me convinced.
Riding the high of a fun day wandering this small town, I headed off to walk back to the hostel around 10 pm. It was dark, but I felt super safe here and it was only a 15 minute walk or so and I figured I would be fine.
This is where I was mistaken.
But it's not what you think.
The first part of the walk home was just fine. I turned the corner to head down the road that leads to my hostel - the ONLY road that leds to my hostel - and I made it about 50 feet down this road when I encountered a dog in the middle of the road ahead of me, barking furiously and heading towards me. Let's be real, everyone reading this knows that I love dogs, and if it had been daytime this encounter may have been very different, and I might have been more bold about approaching this dog. But at night, when a dog is barking at you, you never know. Thanking myself silently for getting those rabies shots, I decided to retreat to a different intersection and let the dog pass by closer to town. Standing on the side of the road in the middle of the night by yourself in a small town makes you feel like a super creep, but after 5 agonizing minutes of this I decided the dog had moved on and headed back down the road.
This was fine for another 4 minutes. Little motorbikes passed me every once in awhile, helping illuminate the road and convincing me that everything would be fine. I reached a bridge and was crossing it when THREE dogs came bursting out of a yard, barking and running right at me. I hopped up on the railing of the bridge and prayed that they were just being defensive and not actually wanting to attack me. They had no interest in letting me move on, however (think it through, dogs, come on), and just stood around barking at me and blocking my way. A few seconds later a woman came by on a motorbike and asked if I was okay. I gestured to the dogs that were still barking and growling at me, and she made me walk next to her motorbike as she went past them so I could get by. The adventure didn't stop there, however, as once I gained a little space from them, she stayed to call the owner outside. As I continued down the road these dogs took turns sprinting after me and barking. How f*(&ing terrifying. I basically yelped my way down the road, each time the stupid owner heard me he half-heartedly yelled at the dogs and they stopped, only to start again 2 seconds later. Eventually they stopped and my blood was pumping and I convinced myself that I was almost back and it would be fine and later I would laugh about this.
I made it to the small road I had to turn down to reach my hostel, only to have yet another dog come running out, barking up a storm at me. This dog, however, was illuminated and I could see her little tail wagging furiously. Okay, just defensive, but not aggressive. I talked gently to her, and she walked next to me barking the whole way, wagging her tail, and I just crossed my fingers that I gauged this one correctly. I made it to the last road-like area, 40 yards from my destination, when suddenly 3 more god damn dogs came running out of the dark construction site, barking and RUNNING right at me. There was nothing to do at this point. I powerwalked my way to the hostel (I didn't want to run in case dogs are like mountain lions and will give chase if you start running, a fact some part of my child brain remembered learning once when I was convinced that I needed to know how to handle any large mammal encounter just in case... "after all, cougars attack people in California all the time, in the middle of town!"[says 8 year old me]), refusing to turn around and see my impending doom coming at me. For some reason the dogs respected the boundary line of the open-air hostel (they could have followed me right in no problem), and they let me go. I stood in the lobby area dazed for a minute, watching them wander around outside staring at me. Dear. God.
I thought this sleepy little town was perfectly safe. It was okay to be wrong, but to be betrayed by my best friends hurts in a special way. Et tu, Rufus?