Monday, 23 June 2008

Saturday 24th May

Pia Loop
An attempt on Chiang Mai-Samoeng-Wat Chan-Pai-Chiang Mai loop, a bit of an epic, about 400k's + on twisty-windy roads of various calibre from sealed tarmac to near impassable dirt tracks.

I Love The Village People
The Baja broke down in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm in the middle of nowhere. Had to be philosophical about it, what else can you be (it was a good lesson in patience and tolerance of other people's way of doing things as it turns out). I received several offers by villages of lifts to the nearest village which I finally accepted after realising I had no option but to call Mr Mechanics to come and rescue me. The pick up truck driver let me hop in the back whilst he and his young wife and baby sat in the cab. I was already soaked to the bone by now. The Thai man who spoke no English but emitted a big beaming smile and sympathetic eyes dropped me at the centre of the village - a collection of maybe 20 wooden shacks. I tried to tell them I needed a phone. 'Aha!' they seemed to say, 'We have a phone', I was escorted to a public phone box - result! They motioned me towards the phone box (by now a small crowd had gathered), but as I tried to force the stiff door open they began raising their voices and shaking their heads, hmm, so the only landline in the village doesn't work, great. My saviour then disappeared for half an hour. Had he gone bak to work I wondered? Has he just abandoned me? At leasst the rain had abaited and the sun was out, quickly evaporating the fresh rainfall. I sat in a shelter drying off with a small group of small Thai villagers looking on in wonderment. Thirty minutes later my man returned with a Thai lady in her 30's who spoke a smattering of English, get in! After explaining that I needed to call my people in Chiang Mai she then disappeared for half an hour. Damn, why do these people keep offering hope then just wandering off without any explanation? There was nothing I could do except hope that she'd gone somewhere that might help my cause. At this point some young boys overcame their initial shyness as I showed them my camera and let them take pictures of each other. They loved it and were soon pulling faces. The English speaking girl returned with the village mobile phone. Excellent! Sadly we couldn't get a signal as naturally we were in the mountains and in the middle of nowhere. One of the old boys of the village (who insisted on holding a conversation with me in Thai - why can't older people understand that if you can't speak their language then there's no point in speaking, they dont seem to comprehend this and just rabbit on and expect some sort of sensible reply which ofcouse I couldn't supply him with), the old boy knew where we could get a signal, and so, after trapsing up a hill we managed to get one bar's reception. After several disjointed phone calls between myself, Mr Mechanic and my personal translator we finally came to a agreement that one of the villagers would give me an my bike a life to Chiang Mai in a pick up truck. By this time another couple of hours had passed, I spent the time making paper aeroplanes with the village kids. I was totally at the mercy of the villagers who little by little and bit by bit had pieced together a rescue plan. I just had to be patient and despite it taking a long time to get anything sorted I was very grateful for all their help.

Rescued by Radish Farmers
Finally a pick up truck was scrambled and half the village piled into it and took me 3kms or so to my broken down bike. We met up with another pickup truck that was alreay full of radish in nylon bags. The radish farmers made a space in the middle of the truck for the bike and we hauled it into the back of the truck. Two ladies then climbed into a small void on the right hand side of the truck and I hunkered down on the left rear wheel arch. I have ha more comfortable journeys. The rain began again and we hid under small plastic sheets until it mercifully abated. Five hours later we made it back to Chiang Mai where I handed back my poorly bike. I waved goodbye to the village people who were off to sell their radish at a local night market. They smiled and waved. Today I met old Thailand, the real Thailand. The rest so far has been a western-influenced artificial Thailand that bares little resemblance to the Thailand I have seen today.

Game On
After all that culture I treated myself to some Test Cricket an ended up being initiated into the Chiang Mai cricket team thanks to Dean the Kiwi, Sandy the Aussie, Nick from Melbourne, Pete the remote control submarine operator, Chris a well spoken Chelsea fan and more. The initiation requires having 50 shots of sambucca before you get your first game. I took a few for the team, largely thanks to my Slippery Nipple training program at 2Dry.

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