Friday April 4
Monday April 7.
We picked up the rented motorcycle (Kawasaki 650 ER-n) in Chiang Mai on Monday morning. I had rented one of these on my trip here four months earlier. We left our luggage at the rental place and took a ride up Doi Suthep to Wat Phra That. Aileen was nervous on the hairpin bends but bravely leaned in the right direction when needed. After her meditation we headed back down the mountain. I took it slowly as she needed time to gain confidence in me, the bike and herself. We then loaded up the bike and headed towards Mae Sariang on rt 108 which was a 4 lane highway for the first hour or so (boring). We got to the town of Hot and stopped for a while to hydrate and rest. We were jet lagged and neither of us had got much sleep the night before. We were fending off fatigue and we had just 90 minutes of daylight left. The road from Hot to Mae Sariang is magnificent and has to be one of the world’s best motorcycling roads. We rode through a river valley and then ascended into the mountains. The air got quite a bit cooler but since it had been 100+ Fahrenheit at the lower elevations the cooling was quite welcome. I rode with exuberance and Aileen was remarkably calm. Just 2 weeks before we had ridden up the Palisades Parkway to West Point and she had closed her eyes for the whole way up there and needed to stop at the State Line rest area to deal with her anxiety.
She had come a long way in those 2 weeks. Riding at dusk was (I know, I use this a lot when talking about Thailand) enchanting. We rode between silhouetted mountains into Mae Sariang. We arrived there just before nightfall and got a room with a balcony that almost overhung the Salaway River. The next day after a breakfast of sticky rice with coconut we headed to the morning market.
We then loaded up and headed north on 108 toward Mae Hong Son. With the exception of one straight of about a mile the road to Mae Hong Son is a continuous string of curves and undulations. Unpleasant if you are driving but shear joy for motorcyclists. After checking into our bungalow we headed up Doi Kong Mu to view the sunset.
Wednesday April 9th. Mae Hong Son
We’re still jet lagged and I woke at 5 am. Aileen heard me moving about the bungalow and got up. We stepped out to view the dawn and watch and listen as the town slowly woke up. It was quiet except for roosters (quite a few of them) and the occasional whir of a small motorcycle. After a short walk around the lake we saw the mountains emerge from the lightening sky. There were delicate colors. The lake was still.
Each day soon after dawn the monks head out to seek alms. I saw some young boys and their robes were quite new. The Poi Sang Long festival completed just 2 days ago during which a lot of Shan boys became monks for the first time. Mae Hong Son is the epicenter of Shan culture in Thailand. We spent the entire day in Mae Hong Son getting over jetlag. We walked about the town late in the afternoon and made arrangements with the resort management for us to check out at first light the next day. Next stop will be Pai and a magnificent stretch of highway 1095.