Drove up to Pai last week-end; Pai that Lonely Planet heralds as 'a travellers' mecca....a little corner of the world that happens to be in Thailand that seems to attract artists, musicians & foodies'. Its around 130klms from here, out through magnificent mountain scenery & a road with so many corners that it takes 2.5 - 3 hours for the journey. I have yet to see a single speed sign or radar!
We were away early to see the monks out collecting alms - always a moving sight to see monks receive from &, in turn, give blessing to the givers. At the same time a spectacular sunrise over the mountains & rice paddies, the reflections on the golden temples. Flying fox was for sale roadside but we'd already had breakfast!
Cold it was as we headed from the plain into the hills - the mist, 'steam' rising from the lakes, pedestrians in ski parkas. Lovely drive up through the mountains with at times little vision due to the mist before rising up above it. There's a famous spot looking out over a bed of clouds below, where the clouds are trapped in the valleys with only the highest mountain peaks protruding proudly into the sky.
Arriving in Pa we headed down the 'main' road, closed other than to pedestrians for the day. What a stretch - great little shops, restaurants, fashion, cafes, accommodation....& any surviving hippie that happened to miss Woodstock! Wonderful setting on the River Pai with a magestic mountain backdrop.
We pushed on towards Mae Hong Son through some of the best mountain scenery ever. This is a brilliant road from viewpoints to hill-tribes, to the enchanting Pang Mapha & Mae Hong Son. We're coming back to explore - the coffin caves, the fish that 'climb' walls, the mud spas, Rak Thai, the 'wild' areas where amphetamines continue to be trafficked cross-border, the site of the Shan Sate Army......
Back to Chiang Mai for the moment, down many an off-beat road/track. At one stage we motored for maybe 3 hours through areas where only tribal villages were established, in one such village coming across a (New Years) festival with the whole (Hmong) village dressed in the most unbelievable native costumes - absolutely blew us away! Unbelievable to see these guys living this life; not just putting it on for tourists!
Speaking of New Year, we're on the lunar calendar here so we move to 2552 & not 2009.....& I dont feel a day older!