Mountain Delight

Exiting the city I felt exhilarated by the warmth of the breeze hitting my face as I rode behind my husband on our motorbike. We rented from Mr. Mechanic who we had researched via the net and found good reviews on. Originally we had planned for a Kawasaki 650 but both via email and in person the proprietor convinced us that a 150 was what we should use for this route. We took the advice, thinking they must know what they were talking about or why else would they cheat themselves out of the extra dollars the larger bike would give them. In retrospect, I think we would both agree we should have followed our own instinct. Just for the sake of the “leg room” and better shocks. I will have more conversation again when we return just to try to understand their mind set and advise you should you decide to take this quest yourself!

We were headed out to the Mae Hong Son Loop, finally getting up the nerve and allowing the time to do this coveted ride. As we prepared for our first visit to Thailand, I had come across the Lonely Planet Review on this excursion and knew I wanted the chance to partake of all the beauty it had to offer. Our Chiang Mai condo for this stay was not available until the 16th, allowing us the perfect opportunity to take the plunge and explore this more remote area. We allowed ourselves four days on this 600 km (370 Mile) loop. This ride is a bit grueling. There are many aspects to it but we both feel strongly the positives of the adventure made it totally worthwhile.

Mae Sariang was the goal for this first days ride. We headed west on Rt 108 and made our 193 km (to convert km to mile easily: divide km in 1/2, in this case 96 take 1/4 of the 1/2, in this case 24 and add the two together=120 miles) trek with one 7-11 stop for water and peanuts for some nourishment and one road side stand stop for Chang soda water. (Super bubbly! Try it when you are in country for sure, it’s a fav!) Heavy traffic, mostly double dump trucks comprised the main challenge this day. Farmers burning off their last rice crop remains made for less than ideal air quality as well but the vistas as we climbed into the mountains and the exspansive farmland dotted with creeks were a feast for the eyes. We made it to our guest house just before dark, having gotten our bike 2 hours later than the reserved time and getting lost on our way back to the hotel to grab our back pack. We intend to be sure we are not on these roadways after dark for safety sake! As a side note, we have 2 pieces of large luggage (62 linear inches) packed with all of our belongings for 3 months away from home so needless to say that couldn’t all come with us on the motorbike! As is customary in this country, luggage storage is typically easily had at most hotels. 100 baht ($3) per day covered both these large bags and one other backpack.

Above The Sea Guesthouse was uniquely bare bones (cement floors and brick walls) but clean with modest decor and a friendly staff of family members. The grounds were very attractive with pool at the center and immaculate landscaping that included creek ways with Koi fish. An unusual and not exactly comforting mode of securing the room was by latch and padlock. Leaving the room, the lock was placed on the outside latch and upon re-entry the lock was placed on the interior latch. Okay for security, but what about safety? Guess with the mode of construction there wasn’t going to easily be need for fire evacuation and if all else failed the glass door could be broken but…#notconventional. It and the king mattress which my honey described as “less give than a slab of concrete” were the only items we really “complained” about here and we both agreed would not be enough to keep us from staying again. Another worthy item to mention here is the fact that at each of these remote guest house bookings the options for bed was described as two single or one double. We reserved rooms with the singles in anticipation of the difficulty we have with my man’s size in having to share a true double bed. On arrival, in each case we were able to adjust our reservation as the beds turned out to be King size, the description was simply mistaken in the translation. Breakfast was included in this stay and we were given four options. We went with muesli, yogurt, fruit, juice and coffee. All tasty and served in the open air cafe area at the front of the property.

Our dinner that first evening proved to be the “best meal we’d had since arriving in the country.” We dined just across and down the road a bit from our room at an open air establishment sitting above the Yuam River called Khrua Kan Eng. We started by sharing a “local chicken” soup that had quite a bite after the final addition of chopped chili added when the dish was served but I for one love the Thai spice. We chose shrimp for both our entrees which was simply delectable. The freshness of the shellfish was complimented by a sweet and sour sauce for my honey and an oyster sauce for me. I had two Chang large and he had one Leo large and the bill came in less than $20 with tip. A guitar soloist played in the corner and we bantered (attempted anyway) with a local pair probably known in the restaurant as a mischievous pair as the female waitress was trying to shush them. There was some kind of “hunting” going on in the river while we dined. About six men wandered with handheld lights shone on the water. Up and back, side to side they wandered and then a ways down the river their lights were dimmed and a bonfire was started. The bullfrogs were screaming in the background so maybe it was them that was the feast of the evening? morning found us off again on the 108, follow my blog to discover the rest of this trail!

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