A crack-head driver, two new dances, and a beat down from mother nature

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February 11th 2011
Published: February 19th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Mae Hong Son and Soppong

Mae Hong Son – Let’s start with the ride there from Chiang Mai. This was one of the few times we decided to take a van instead of the public bus to get to our next destination. Too bad the driver we had was a frickin’ animal behind the wheel! We couldn’t tell if he was just mentally insane, watching too much American Nascar, or if he just wanted to see how fast we could take the turns in the mountains without flying off the edge or flipping over the side of the road. I mean, we’re already getting used to some of the “rules” of the road. Basically, the law is optional. Red means stop? Only if you have to in order to avoid hitting someone. Solid white or yellow lines? It’s ok, you can pass the guy in front of you if you want to. Yield for pedestrians? Only if they have enough guts to start walking out in front of you, even if they have the right of way. Our driver definitely abides by THESE rules, not to mention all of the blind passes around 180 degree, 10 mph corners going up or down the mountain while throwing everyone in the van from side to side for 4 hours. Poor Jessie was trying to sleep, but after her head smacked the window a couple of times, she gave up. At least we finally got there alive, and our driver was nice enough to drop us off really close to the guesthouse we were staying at. Our whole reason for visiting here was to do some trekking to the hill tribes. However, after doing some of the research, seeing the prices of the tours, and hearing some of the horror stories on the street, we decided against it. We do plan on getting some trekking in somewhere along the way, but we also won’t pay for a tour that we feel is basically exploiting these people as if it was like visiting a human zoo. So, we ended up taking some time to rest for a day, and we DID find this awesome little coffee shop with THE SWEETEST Thai woman who owned it. Let me tell you, she made some absolutely delicious latte’s, and I mean REAL latte’s. After not having one in almost a month now, it was like Christmas in our mouths! MMMMM! Our next stop was Soppong…

Soppong – It was a pretty easy ride to get to Soppong on the public bus. It’s funny how we felt more comfortable on the bus than in the van. Hmm, I wonder why. The scenery on our ride was incredible. There were miles and miles of tree covered mountains as far as you could see. We were in the very back of the bus where the door was left open for people to get on. Jessie felt like she was on a roller coaster with her grip on the handrails in front of her. We had found a place called Cave Lodge that was off the “beaten path” a little bit and decided we wanted to give it a shot. Online, we found out that after you get off the bus, you basically just find someone that will take you the 9 km to get there. As we arrived in town at the “bus station”, or bench on the side of the road, we started to look for a ride. We were greeted after a few minutes by a couple of small Thai men who were eager to help us out, so we followed them to their “motorbike taxis” they had just mentioned. Now, we were picturing them to be like the one we rode in Sukhothai, but it was juuuust a bit different. We stood next to the 2 scooters (with no attachments on the side) with a dumbfounded look on our faces. They both motioned for us to take our packs off, which we did. They each grabbed the big pack and put it between their legs on the front footrests of the bikes as we got on the back and held onto the little 6 inch handle in the back. We were both still in a bit of shock as we took off, trying as hard as possible not to lean one way or the other for fear of causing our drivers to lose control. Nate probably weighed a good 70 lbs more than the guy driving! He was definitely struggling a bit to keep us upright. After holding on for dear life on our 15 minute ride, we arrived at Cave Lodge. We smiled and looked at each other, “ I was not expecting that!” “You and me both.” Jessie: “I feel like I just did everything my dad told me NOT to do when riding a bike. We didn’t wear a helmet, we were in shorts and a tank top, and we were wearing flip flops!” All we could do is laugh. Cave Lodge proved to be a very interesting experience. The guy who runs it, John, discovered a lot of the local caves many years ago. He is married to a Thai woman who helps him to run the lodge. We got a private little bungalow with a bathroom for 400 Baht, about $13, and decided to take a shower. As Jessie hopped in, Nate went to hang some clothes he had just washed on one of the curtain rods, as something sprang out from behind the curtains! All Jessie heard, was “ Holy Shit!!” and then a laugh. Out popped a bright green lizard about foot long from head to tail and about 4 inches wide. He ran across the wall and squeezed down the space under the roof to escape.
Since we were in the middle of nowhere, we thought trying the hill tribe trek would be a little better here, so we asked John if anyone was leading a tour the next day. He told us that there wasn’t one going, but we could easily walk there ourselves. “It’s just over that hill and you can’t miss it.” The sign for the trek had said you should be moderately fit, so we figured this sounded easy enough. We got up the next day, ate a big breakfast, and started out on our journey with our hand drawn map. For 2 solid hours, we were hiking up the side of a mountain, guessing which path to take, only to reach the top and see another mountain full of thick brush like the one we had just gone through. Drenched with sweat and guzzling down water, Nate looked at Jessie... “MODERATELY fit my ass! Are we trekking or training for Mount Everest?” Ok, so that was a bit over exaggerated, but it was a brutal walk. After seeing the overgrown paths and not having a clue on where to go, we both decided to chalk this one up to a good hike and started back to the lodge. On the way back, we heard a bunch of cows with the bells around their necks coming straight down our path. As we got closer, Jessie was walking ahead of Nate only to catch a big spider web in her face. “AAHHH!” She jumped back and flailed her arms in the air, only to scare the SHIT out of all the cows. No, literally! As we walked down the trail there were splatters of cow crap everywhere that they had left as they ran away. Now Nate has 2 things to make mimic from Jessie when he wants to pick on her. We’ll call them the cockroach two step, and the spider web tango. He laughs every time! As we got back to the lodge, Jessie noticed a beautiful butterfly with a pink body and white and black wings. She could literally stay occupied here for a month with all the butterflies. One cool thing we saw was the mass amounts of swallows that make their way into Cave Lod every night to sleep. There are hundreds of thousands of these little birds filling the sky right before dark. Jessie was definitely enjoying it. We also took some time the night before we left to try out the herbal sauna, which was more like a steam room. We asked one of the ladies for permission, and she went out to the sauna to light a fire under the tank of water that fed steam into the wooden room. Nate sweats a lot as it is, so when you factor in a thick, steamy, hot, humid room, he looked like he had just gone swimming. Jessie on the other hand looked like she was in Heaven! The one thing we wished we had when we were there, was an actual mattress for our bed. We basically slept on a flat wooden bed frame with a 1 inch pad, so pretty much like sleeping on the floor. Oh well, you can’t always be comfy.

We’re counting down the days until our Thai visa is up, so it’s off to Pai as we head east and make our way towards Laos.

Xoxo Nate and Jessie

**Traveler Tips to come when we have more time (sorry)**

Additional photos below
Photos: 65, Displayed: 28


19th February 2011

Rules of the road
You forgot the most important rule of the 'imaginary middle lane' - anyone can drive in it safely, as long as you have your offering to your deity of choice hanging from your rearview mirror and have nerves of steel you will be fine! Nice pics, we hope to make it back up to that area of Thailand at some point. Happy travels!
19th February 2011
Can you see Nate? Scale pic to show how BIG the opening is

I love this picture. I was laughing so hard about Jessie walking though the spider web.
19th February 2011
Other bungalos at Cave Lodge

What a great photo
Wow, this really gives me a feeling about where you are. It is such an honest photo. Great pic!! I am watching dateline right now. lol. Totally different scenario of what you guys are looking at.
19th February 2011

Love the title
What a great blog and an interesting van ride. Remember cab and van drivers are independent most of the time so time is money. The buses are public transportation and they are getting paid no matter when you get there. We had a similar cab ride in Vietnam-- very memorable. Loved your photos. The latte did look very good.
19th February 2011

Congratulations on your first Featured Blog on the Front Page. :)
20th February 2011

The center line
We both laughed reading your comment, so true!! We feel like our lives are at risk each time we get on the bus, minibus, tuk tuk, motor taxi, etc. But that's half the fun! Thanks for reading we have been using your blog as a reference! Glad to have real insight...our "bible" is very outdated.
20th February 2011

Blog title
Nate's the mastermind behind the title, he write most blogs while Jessie is in charge of the photos...gotta split responsibilities:) Thanks for the comment, the latte was delicious, it definitely rivaled Starbucks!!

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