At first, it all seemed normal and I actually appreciated a relaxing break from traveling. However, the more time I spent wandering the streets of Pai, and the more locals I met, I got a suspicion that something was out of order. The women have a sort of giddy middle schooler temperament and when life gets hard, the men seem to submiss to the women and return to their hammocks for a nap. I stayed at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows, named after the owner Darling who consequently called everyone else darling. Her German husband Peter would yell, "Darling! Darling is here to inquire about a room, can you send Darling to show it to her?" Peter seemed to be running the joint, but when I asked him about anything remotely related to renting a room he seemed almost annoyed and threw his hands up in defeat instructing me to ask Darling.
Every morning I was greeted by a zealous Darling excited about one thing or another. Her expressions were so animated that I sometimes felt like I was watching a four year old going on and on about her new pony she got for Christmas. She told me all about her morning on the zip line, then taught me some Thai words and insisted that I make my pronunciation sound sexier. This behavior was the same for all the women of the village. They were so full of energy and inching at the prospect to be your new best friend, while the men relaxed.
I was fine with all the craziness of Pai, until one evening when I noticed that I had just spent the whole day doing absolutely nothing. This was actually a pretty impressive feat for someone who goes crazy if her schedule isn't jam-packed. What had I done, and how did all that time pass without me noticing that the day was gone? The answers to these two questions slipped my mind and left me baffled. I guess doing nothing isn't too hard when you're surrounded by fellow nothing-doers. Eventually guilt from my Western-ness gnawed at me from the inside screaming that this was not alright, and I knew I had to do something differently. I met two fellow nothing-doer girls seeking to put an end to this nonsense and become something-doers. We rented mopeds and spent a day zipping around the hills and through canyons in search of a waterfall.
I rode off on my scooter warily, remembering that almost everyone I had met had crashed their bike. I was sure to dress in the most appropriate motorcycle riding gear I owned and purchased all the insurance available, which consequently bumped the rental price from $3 to $6. Everything seemed to be going well. The Thais proved to be courteous drivers, the roads were well maintained and I even did alright driving on the left. Eventually, however, I noticed that none of my instrument gauges were working. I filled my gas tank halfway and my new friends-Lisa and Holly agreed to keep an eye on their gas tank and tell me when it got low, so we could all fill up.
We spent the morning driving through the windy hills in search of a cave which was supposedly a 90 minute drive outside of Pai. Halfway through the trip, my scooter suddenly stopped while coming around a bend. Out of gas-I instantly knew it! I had been thinking for the last few kilometers that we needed to stop at the next station to refuel. I frantically honked my horn to signal to the girls to stop. They quickly turned backed and we agreed that they would drive ahead for 20 minutes in search of fuel while I wandered into the bushes and waited anxiously.
They eventually returned without good news. The nearest petrol station was ahead-uphill 20 km or behind-downhill 20 km. My only option was to turn around and cruise back down the windy road. Holly and Lisa got a pretty good laugh out of my running Flintstones style with one leg on either side of the scooter to make it up the hills. Lucky for me, the majority of the journey was downhill.
We finally found gas from a small food shack, combined general store along the road. By this time it was too late in the day to return to the cave, so we settled on exploring a waterfall instead.
The next day, we got up early to make sure we had enough time to actually make it to the cave. The drive was gorgeous except for all the small brush fires along the road. Here, they still use slash and burn techniques for the crops, and it seemed like 90% of the countryside was on fire. No one seemed to supervise the burns, so apparently out of control wildfires are not a big concern here. The air was so thick with smoke that I had to wear a bandanna over my nose and mouth while riding, and visibility was limited to only a few kilometers.
Once at the cave, we hired a bamboo raft to take us along the river through the cave. Our guide brought a lantern and stopped the boat intermittently for us to disembark and climb through the caverns to view the different stalagmite and stalactite formations. It all seemed so surreal, I felt like I was on a Disneyland ride where you venture through a dark cave and mysterious animals pop out at you. Although the cave was only 200 meters long, the ceiling and walls extended greatly and we spotted quite a few interesting rock formations and even an ancient coffin! Unfortunately, no mysterious animals.A
Afterward, we all agreed: boating through the cave was indeed worth the two trips it took to get there!