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Sat Mar 05 2016: Home is where the Cat Balloon is

We got the phone call!

The Honda dealership called us while we were in Mae Sariang and told us our license plates had arrived! Finally!!!

Packing up and heading straight back to Chiang Mai. In the morning, we met a F800GS rider in our parking lot.

It's very rare to see a big bike here in Thailand, much less a BMW GS! I felt like a local, eyeing his beast of a bike. How does he filter through Thai traffic on that thing?!? He also seemed curious about us, probably because we had just as much luggage on our CRFs as he did on his GS! Unfortunately he didn't speak much English so we couldn't really have a full conversation, but through sign language and pointing at the stickers on his bike, he told us that he had just participated in the GS Trophy, an international off-road competition hosted by BMW. This year, it was held in Northern Thailand. BMW Riders from all around the world took part and our new friend represented Thailand.

Very cool! I wish I spoke Thai. We were all bursting with questions for each other, but we all ended up smiling and shrugging and wishing each other a pleasant journey.

Went straight to the dealership. It's taken almost two months, but we're fully legal in Thailand now!!!

So we kinda rushed through the last part of the Mae Hong Son loop. Didn't take a lot of pictures, but it was more of the same... twisty roads, jungles, scenery, scenery, scenery... you get the idea. We just wanted to get back to Chaing Mai to pick up our license plates so we could go exploring South-East Asia!

Not to say the Mae Hong Son loop wasn't awesome. Neda did an amazing job planning our route and we rode it in *only* 10 days! Just to put it in perspective, most people manage to complete the loop in 3-4 days, so our lackadaisical pace is about on par with the rest of our trip! 555!

I've finally derived a formula to calculate how slow we travel: What's the longest anyone has ever taken to travel this segment? Multiply by 2.5. That's how long we'll take...

Booked a nice AirBnB place on the outskirts of Nimman

It's too expensive to rent our old apartment just for a few days, they'll only give you a deal if you're paying monthly. But we're not planning on staying very long in Chiang Mai, so although we're not right in the middle of town, this will do for the short-term. Neda and I were discussing our future plans and when we move to Chiang Mai, we'll probably try to sign a long-term lease with the old Nimman apartment, we like it that much!

The Mae Hong Son loop was a good test run because now we've discovered a few things we need to fine-tune and change up before we head out into Asia. And not just with the bikes.

Ever since we started our trip back in 2012, I've suffered on and off from bouts of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It usually flares up after I climb back on the bike after an extended period of not riding. I've successfully kept it in check with wrist splints but unfortunately I've left those behind with the majority of our stuff in Europe, so now we have to buy a new pair in Thailand.

Damn CRFs. :(

I really hate spending money on stuff we already own, but it was very hard to anticipate what we needed when we flew from Croatia so many months ago and we just couldn't bring everything with us...

While we're town, we find out that there was a hot air balloon festival happening

Unfortunately they launch the balloons to coincide with the sunrise, which means I have to drag myself out of bed in the early early hours of the morning. Since I normally go to bed around 3-4AM, I just stayed up a few extra hours. Problem solved!

It's pitch black as they unroll the huge balloons out on the field. The burners start to fill the envelopes just as the horizon starts to brighten

This cat balloon is my favorite. It made me laugh every time I looked at it. I have 300 pictures of it. I won't post them here.

Filling the envelopes is a two step process, first a huge fan blows cold air to partially inflate them and the burners are used for the last little bit to force the balloon to rise

Okay, here is another Cat Balloon picture.

Neda is a morning person. There won't be any pictures of me in this entry...

It's with a bit of envy that I watch these hot air balloons floating up to greet the rising sun. I wish that we could be in those baskets looking out to the horizon.

It struck me that these balloons were like the natural evolution of the Yi Peng lantern festival that we saw when we first came to Chiang Mai almost four months ago. Staring up at these hi-tech lanterns, it made me reflect on how comfortable we are in this city. Comfortable enough that within a week of staying here, we knew that we would want to try living here full-time.

It also made me think about all the "almost" places we considered moving to over the last four years - La Paz in Mexico, Medellin in Colombia... Although they were all in countries with very foreign cultures and languages than where we came from, these cities were very middle-class and westernized, that we had no problems feeling at home there.

Pretty colours overhead

After all the big balloons took off, these little hand-operated balloons had their turn

Some of them were flown like kites

And some of these even had a small crew on board

You know how sometimes there's loose change in the coin return in the public payphones...?
Yeah, yeah, I know. What's a "public payphone"?!?

It's not even 8AM and we've been out here for hours! I need to sleep now

We've spent just under a week here prepping our bikes and equipment and now we're ready to head out. Although this won't be the last time we ever see Chiang Mai, it might be awhile before we return from traveling. A lot of people have told us that Chiang Mai is not the "real Thailand" because it is so westernized. So now we're off to discover the rest of the country!

Addendum: After completing the drawn-out and complex procedure of a farang buying a new motorcycle in Thailand, I've documented the entire process in as much detail as I could. If you're interested in doing the same, or just want to see how complicated it is, you can click below for a step-by-step guide. If you have any questions, send us an e-mail. Our address is at the bottom of every page.

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