White knuckle ride of terror!

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As grateful as I was at the time to find a “travel” agent, a tour company, to help me set up my arrangements for the next month while travelling in Thailand, I am certainly having my doubts.  Today, one of those doubts smacked me right in my nauseated tummy!  Now I am struggling to stay awake after having to taken a gravol to keep me from puking all over the white van.

Each leg of the journey is supposed to involve a drop off and pick up at my next location, as the journey has unfolded, this has not always been the case.  Safe to say 50/50 would describe the truth.  I have found myself stranded at the bus station on more than one occasion expecting someone to pick me up only to find that I was clearly on my own.  Each time it was easy to flag down a tuk tuk or jump in with other travellers, sharing the ride.  Although in Thailand the term “sharing”, which would normally mean to me is that the cost of such a ride would be shared, not so, here in Thailand, each person pays their “own” price.

Today as I waited at the hotel I had this sinking feeling that no such ride would be showing up, yet again, and I wondered how I would get to Pai, nearly three hours away.   I would find myself a comfortable spot at my new favorite restaurant, REFORM KAFÉ in the Green Tiger House and read while my mind continually interruped conjuring up all sorts of reason and solutions should the ride not show up.  I chose not to listen and believed instead that if I just remained patient and allowed myself to settle into the moment that it would all work out exactly as it was supposed to.  Not an easy task sometimes.  Finally, a young man would saunter into the restaurant holding his sheet of white paper looking around, I knew he was looking for me, I stood walked towards him as he exposed the list of names, one of which was mine.  I would climb aboard the white van and take my seat in the third row, generally I am a front row kinda gal because I have a strong need to see where I am going and to take in the scenery head on but it was taken.  I had just started another book, half way through, I couldn’t put it down.   I would settle in with my book, my glasses and two seats all to myself.  Feeling happy.  We would head North to Pai for the two-hour and 48 minutes drive according to google maps.  I settled in with my book and noticed after about 30 minutes into the drive that I had to hold on tightly, a pair of flip-flops came flying over to my side and rested under my feet, my knapsack threatening to do a header off it’s comfortable seat and I immediately started to feel a queasy.   I closed my book and looked out the window to watch the road.   I noticed after a few minutes that my knuckles were white and my hand was aching as I held on for dear life.  I couldn’t help but wonder if it is better to watch the vehicle you’re sitting in hit another car head on or rather be consumed in something else like reading a book.   The highway was a series of “S” turns, so tight that the driver regularly swerved into the other lane to get around the corner.  Often times he would hit the brakes hard as he came upon a slower vehicle in our lane then he would dash in and out of our lane into oncoming traffic to see or not to see the oncoming traffic, punch the accelerator and boot it past the slower vehicle.  At times I could have sworn I heard the tired squeal as he rounded another corner.  Each time my heart jumping up in to my chest looking for some semblance of solace.  From that moment on I could not take my eyes off the road and the nausea continued to climb up into my throat.  The first sign of puking is those tiny, little burps that seem to come out of nowhere, they were upon me.

I kept reassuring myself that everything was going to be alright.  It was another one of those moments when I thought this could be the end.   I brushed the thoughts aside and continued to reassure myself that this was just another experience.  My next set of thoughts told me to go talk to the driver, but I was terrified to stand knowing there would be a good chance I would be thrown off-balance and land up on the floor gasping for air.   Finally after over an hour of windy roads, speed racing, and swerving in and out of oncoming traffic he stopped the vehicle and poked his head in the door to say we would have a 15 minute stop.

I exited the vehicle and mumbled “sofa king scary” as I stepped onto the “never so grateful” ground.  The 20 somethings there were accompanying me on this ride of terro all mumbled something similar under their breath, some eye contact was made and everyone just sort of stood there catching their breath.  I  immediately went up to drive and asked if he spoke english he, like many other driver’s here in Thailand, would say “a little bit” showing me with his pointer finger and his thumb.  I said “you have to slow down, you are scaring me”.  He looked at his watch and indicated that he had a schedule to be on, I continued saying that he had to slow down, he had the care and safety of 6 passengers and that I was scared, please slow down, you HAVE to slow down.  I looked to the other passengers who were standing nearby and heard every word I uttered, for some support, some acknowledgement that they too were scared.   They stared back at me saying nothing until one girl said a little bit using her finger and thumb to indicate, a little bit.  He rolled his eyes at me and again looked at his watch seemingly disregarding anything I had to say.  I took a walk and then joined the group and we talked about how terrified we all were, each one expressing the thoughts that had been swirling around in their minds – that this might be the end.  We piled back in the van after our rest stop and he continued to drive like a maniac disregarding anything I had said, it seemed that he actually drove faster, more erratic and took even more risks with our precious lives.  When we finally pulled into the bus station I could feel the tension melt away as my feet planted on the ground.

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Welcome to Pai!

Pai (Thai: ปาย) is a small town in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province.  Pai was once a quiet market village inhabited by Shan people (ethnic Tai) whose culture is influenced by Burma. Today, Pai primarily thrives on tourism. Well-known among backpackers for its relaxed atmosphere, the town is full of cheap guesthouses, souvenir shops, and restaurants. outside of town, there are several waterfalls and a number of natural hot springs.  (wikipedia)

My impressions are similar it is a small town you can walk around and see everything, this I love!  Beautiful mountains surround this sleepy little town and a river runs through it, it just feels like a version of home.  The weather is cooler which makes me soooooooo happy!  There are many shops and tons of tatoo shops, it reminded me of Victoria with all of its dispensaries that adorn each and every corner, similarly here but with tattoo shops screaming “genuine bamboo tattoos.” I cannot say I have not been tempted.  The town is crawling with young backpackers walking down the roads with their maps in hand while others have google maps on their phones and they are discussing the next turn.  Lots of tourists on scooters and motor bikes crusing the two main streets.  Lots of shops, tons of restaurants and lots of things to see just outside the borders of this quaint little town.

Another cozy little guesthouse to call home for two nights, Medio de Pai, a boutique hotel with all the comforts, a REAL sized tea-cup, a comfy bed, a swimming pool (this was a surprise) and a decent bathroom with REAL hot water.

As I move around from place to place I realize that it is the little things that make such a difference.  Having a kettle in my room, air conditioning, a tiny fridge to store my snacks, electrical outlets that I can find without crawling along the floorboards to seek them out, a tea-cup that holds a good-sized cup of tea, a desk where I can set up and write and of course the obvious a flashlight, slippers and umbrellas, screens on the widows which means no bugs and NO CHANCE of rats!

And of course, the decoy!

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A new guesthouse, a new visitor.  The last visitor put her coat on and sat at the table waiting for me to come down to tea, she bid me a farewell and carried on her merry way, in its place has come a calm, a peace, a general state of happiness and excitement, a vivacious appetite and a new colour pallet on the world surroundings, a desire to explore, creativity, passion and a strong need to put words to paper.  This guest feels much more familiar and I am glad she is back.

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