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Sun Feb 21 2016: The (Square?) Route of Pai

On the longboat back to the shore, I keep squinting at the shoreline trying to see if our bikes are still parked behind the huts. Neda is shaking her head at me.

*phew* Still there!

We're heading back to the Mae Hong Son Loop. The road to Pai (B on the map above) is the twistiest stretch of the Loop. Glen had told us that there was heavy construction all the way to Pai, but we decided to brave it. Glad we did, because it looks like all the roadwork has just finished. Aside from a few construction vehicles and some piles of dirt by the side of the road, it was smooth sailing!

Still a bit hazy though

The terrain starts to get more mountainous just west of Chiang Mai and on that 150km ribbon of freshly-paved road, there are 762 glorious curves! We're getting a bit more comfortable on the 250s, even leaning them into the corners a little bit! Still have to be wary of oncoming vehicles crossing the line - two wheelers are definitely second-class citizens on the road in Thailand! We wind the Hondas up and shoot them up the steep climbs, negotiating a combination of tight switchbacks and 4th gear sweepers, passing hordes of farangs on scooters. Pai is a very popular farang destination.

Along the way we stop for water breaks, to take in the scenery and of course... pet the stray dogs

The landscape around us consists of mountains, wild jungles and farmer's fields

Loving the Loop!

Just outside of Pai, we stop for lunch. No, not bacon... Burritos, actually. And Neda stops to pet more animals

Pai is very westernized. It's been popularized on a lot of TV shows and movies lately, so it's built itself up as a major tourist draw in the area. Tattoo parlours, bars with live music, burrito places... Not really very Thai...

A neat bridge we passed on the way into Pai

Pai is a funky town, lots of hippie places to eat and hang out in

We don't spend too much time in town. Too many farangs. :) We are actually staying 40 kms further west in a tiny village called Soppong, which is basically a line of shops and stalls in a cluster less than a km across. If you blink while riding by, you'll miss the village entirely! From what we saw of Pai riding through, we like this a lot better!

Passing more fields on the way to Soppong

Our accommodations for a couple of nights, right on the Soppong River! Beautiful!

The real reason why we are staying here. Neda: "Where are your dogs? I would like to pet them now."

Walking around the Soppong River, our little inn above us

A missionary baptizing some hill tribe members in the Soppong River. The indigenous people here are predominantly Buddhist

Trying to catch up on the blog. Or watching some motorcycle racing...

We were told that there was a morning market in the village, so we walked outside to buy some fresh fruit

From the style of dress, I think this woman is from the Lahu tribe

There are many hill tribes in the Northern Thailand, the Karen are the most well-known, but other tribes like the Lahu and the Lisu also live in this area. On certain days, they set up stalls on the main road through Soppong and sell food and arts and crafts.

Of all the things in our travels, I am the most drawn towards anything depicting indigenous history and ways of life

We are staying in Soppong for a couple of nights, so the next afternoon we ride back into Pai to visit some of the sights that we passed the day before. The road between Soppong and Pai is nice and twisty, so we totally don't mind spending a half hour on the bikes shuttling between the indigenous hill people and the hippie farangs. Having said that, we did drop into a vegan Belgian Waffle place for lunch in Pai... :)

Dread-locked, Birkenstocked, Granola-Farangs are a tourist attraction too!

Just outside the waffle place, is Wat Phra That Mae Yen, otherwise known as White Buddha on the Hill
Speaking of which, our Hondas *used* to be white as well...

From the top of the steps by the Buddha statue, you can get a pretty good view of the area surrounding Pai

After the White Buddha, we rode over to the Pai Canyon to hike around a little bit

It's not a very big place, just a few raised ridges of reddish rocks that snake around a valley full of green pine trees. We came around sunset, which turned out to be a great time to take pictures as the rocks were glowing with a nice colour and the temperature was not too hot that we could walk around without dying of heat exhaustion.

Some places you had to scramble up and down the ridges. Fun!

Taking a break from hiking

Brave Neda out on a ledge

On our way back to Soppong, we come across some more temples

The sun is getting lower, so we say good bye to Pai

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