Off the beaten path
The truth about traveling in Thailand, is that it's quite easy. The tourist's path is well beaten; You can 'trek' in the jungle, hangout with a tiger, ride an elephant, and go white water rafting all for the easy price of 1000 baht! Its almost overwhelming the amount of advertising you see for these adventures. I had almost two-weeks to kill in Chiang Mai while I waited for my Indian visa to process and going on a pre-planned tour wasn't an experience I wanted.
So what to do? Browse the internet of course! I came across a video a friend shared on Facebook about a man who walked across China. The video sparked a bit of inspiration in myself; Pai is a small town 127km/80mi N.E. of Chiang Mai and the road to get there winds in out up and down through the mountains…bicycle, Bicycle, BICYCLE! I rented the closest thing to a road bike that I could find, stocked up on starch and protein heavy foods, locked everything but a change of cloths in a locker, and set out the next morning for Pai. Maybe not as challenging as walking across China, but something off the tourist path.
Route 1095 heads all the way to Pai and has relentless climbs and rewarding downhills…that repeat and repeat and repeat. I was almost 2/3 of the way to Pai and headstrong on making it there that evening when a local pulled over and offered me his home for the evening. He gave me directions to his property about 3km away and left with an open invitation. Taking him up on this offer is what made the entire ride to Pai worth it.
Chon is an engineer who has spent the last 3-years building a sustainable living space on his property. His open air communal space and kitchen is all built with bamboo from the surrounding forrest, his housing is crafted with clay and he's in the process of creating drip-irrigation on his garden plot. The property itself is hidden away in the valley and surrounded by a river that's fed from the mountains. I settled in, took the nicest shower of this trip, and talked with him over a fire for the rest of the evening. I slept next to the fire listening to the rush of the river as I drifted off grateful for the kindness of a stranger. Chon wouldn't let me pay anything for his hospitality.
Experiences like this are the ones you hope for while traveling. The formula for such an experience is always changing and even if you did have it right, they seem to happen when we're not looking for or expecting them. Stay open, challenge yourself, ask yourself 'what do I want' and follow that. Detach yourself from the results or expectations of an action and anything that comes from it can be seen as a gift. This is a sort of mantra I'm trying to repeat.
"Be melting snow; Wash yourself, of yourself" -Rumi
All signs point towards India...