Saturday, July 07, 2007

Life of Pai (not that I even like the book), June 30th – July 1st

On Saturday morning the PiA crew took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Pai, a small little hippie town hidden in the mountains and unlike any other place I’ve been in Thailand so far. It used to be a mecca for all sorts of traveling artists and the sort, but according to modern cynics, it’s now a played-out getaway overrun with lame Farang. For me, while there were plenty of beer-guzzling Westerners abound and dreadlocked Thais who still act like Bob Marley is alive and well, Pai was an awesome weekend respite, though many of its occupants consist of once-travelers who never managed to escape the town’s laid-back allure.
We took a mini-bus to get there on a road that had plenty enough of dips, climbs, and curves to make me nauseous. Accompanying us in the bus was a quiet Australian and an obnoxiously affectionate and big-schnozzed Israeli couple who couldn’t keep their hands or lips off of one another. Ben and I had a good chat to help pass the time, though at one point the Australian said to himself but loud enough for us to hear, “Americans are funny.”
I turned around and went, “Huh?”
“You Americans are funny” he continued. “You guys talk so much and you talk so fast.”
He pantomimed with his hand some kind of yapping motion. Yet another remark that I just had no idea what to make of.
“In my town, we have this competition” he went on. “You know that show Gilmore Girls? Well we have to listen to this 50 second sound clip of Gilmore Girls and guess how many words were said. It’s always somewhere around 50 million or so.”
Go figure. People from four hours outside of Melbourne in the country must have a lot of time on their hands.

Nell, Alexis, & Leah

Once in Pai, we set out for our guest house, which turned out to be located on the main river in town – the kind of muddy river that you think of when envisioning a stereotypically bucolic Asian landscape. While walking along a quaint little road, we passed a sign that read:
I was confused, but not for long. As I turned my head around, I came face to face with a baby monkey tied to a post and looking me in the eye. It scurried around within the available slack, futilely reaching for bananas that must have seemed within range to the tortured soul.
We rented motorbikes and set out exploring. We were gonna go with bicycles, but the guy at our guest house advised against it, saying that the roads would be too steep. Sure enough, he was right. There was no way we would’ve made it on bicycles.
In Chiang Mai, Ben and I don’t really find it necessary to own motorbikes because of the availability of song-taews, not to mention we’re both little woussies, but riding on the motorbike for the first time would be like a paraplegic one day waking up to discover a newfound control of their legs(not that I can say what that's like). It gave us a new found mobility previously unfathomable. And let me tell you, it was exhilarating – riding out of town into the countryside of fables and zipping around on those little death traps of ours. It was probably the act of riding the motorbike itself that proved to be the highlight of my trip. It reminded me of going out on Jetskis when I was younger and rules didn’t exist on the wide-open seas (or in my case, semi-contained lakes). When you ride on a jet ski, there isn’t really a destination, it’s just the act of speeding aimlessly around that makes it so much fun, and thus was the case with the motorbikes, except we had super cool destinations available as well (like the waterfall and Temple on the Hill). Did I mention that Ben was my passenger? There wasn’t really much debate as to who would be the driver. Sounds eerily like a metaphor for our relationship…
After an afternoon of motorbiking in and around Pai, we’d seen ourselves a Chinese village, the waterfall (at which only a chubby nine year old Thai boy had enough balls to go down the ad hoc waterslide created from a section of smoothed out rock as an entirely all Western audience looked on in amazement), and the solo landing strip in the middle of a field that is officially known as Pai’s airport. Oddly enough, there were a few times I turned my motorbike on and it would then turn off immediately (yeah yeah, I was giving it enough gas). Luckily this was during the downhill portion of the journey, so I was able to coast even with the engine off like Kerouac in “On the Road.”

Retardedly spelling out PiA in the countryside - a sad attempt to make the newsletter

As darkness settled, we grabbed dinner at an Italian restaurant, making it something like the fifth time in seven days that I was gorging myself on pizza. The restaurant didn’t seem to be doing so well on this particular night as every party that came in after us subsequently wound up leaving within a few minutes. Maybe there was some correlation between that and the fact that they never got around to bringing us the goat-cheese salad that Nell ordered (note: Nell is one of the PiA girls). They did wind up bringing out Leah’s goat-cheese salad though, and ironically enough, their goat cheese tasted like nothing of the sort, but rather more along the likes of Mozzarella.
With our stomachs full, we moved onto a bit of boozing, first at some entirely Thai afterwork-type hangout blasting a dubbed version of “Bean” on TV, and then a series of entirely Farang infested watering holes, several of which request taking off your shoes before entering. While that’s all good and nice, it didn’t seem like particularly shrewd policy after I accidentally shattered a glass and everyone was precariously walking around barefoot.
My buzz didn’t actually kick in until we got ourselves a bucket of SangSom and coke. SangSom is this cheap Thai liquor that tastes pretty similar to rum. At some point while in transit between bars, someone drunkenly rode their motorbike into a ditch right in front of us. There were plenty of people around to aid in his rescue, some of whom we got to chatting with. They were a crew of British kids, and after the girls headed back for bed, Ben and I were left in their care. Most of what I remember involved ranting about my cultural inferiority complex that tends to spill out after a few drinks whilst in the presence of people with seemingly fancier accents. I’m pretty sure Ben and I also offered up our best Cockney impersonations which were passé even before we began.

Cut to scene: Ben and I made it back to our room and the conversation went something like this:
“Whoa” I said, laying my head down on the pillow. “I think I’ve got the spins.”
“Really?” he responded. “I don’t really feel that drunk.”
“I didn’t either, but now that I’m lying down I feel it a lot more.”
Ben hit the lights. A few seconds passed.
“Ok” he said. “I’ve got the spins now too.”

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