The road back from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai is bit longer than the previous two days so I was planning to get an early start. However, just as I was getting ready to go, my hosts invited me to go sightseeing with them and they were so nice to me I just couldn’t say no. They took me to Su Tong Pae bamboo bridge. It’s pretty similar to the one in Pai but they claim this is the original, the one in Pai a copy. They kept being super nice to me so tried to at least buy them coffee as a way to say thank you but they didn’t let me.
It was almost eleven when I finally left the city. I should have headed straight for Chiang Mai but there was one place I wanted to see on the way. Huay Pu Keng or Kayen village is a tiny place only reachable by boat some way off the main road south. The only reason to go there is to experience some hill tribe culture (or gawk at the funny looking locals, if you’re a bit more cynical). You see, among tour operators and tourists alike, the village is simply known as Long Neck Village, because the women living there wear bronze or gold rings around their necks to make them look longer. It’s a pretty special thing to see but at the same time it felt a bit exploitative. I’m ambivalent as to whether or not it’s a good place to visit.
When I came back to the main road it was already noon and I really needed to haul ass if I wanted to reach Chiang Mai at a decent time.
Riding on those twisty mountain roads felt like being back in north Vietnam with the same autumn-like chill of the high altitude; the same feeling of being alone on the road; the same sense of unity with the motorbike. It’s strange how you can get a connection with an inanimate object like that, but I guess it’s something about the way it brings you through everything life throws at you. When I left the bike (or Sally as I call her) back in Pakse I was in a bit of a rush and it felt kind of abrupt. Though I was on a different bike today (Sally Mark II) I still felt I got closure for those 6000 kilometers.
Something I noted in the way into the city: in all of south east Asia, most big cars on the road seem to be pickup trucks. Apparently, people sitting in the truck bed is common enough here that they’ve invented a kind of tent roof to give the people some protection against the elements.