The bike chugged away as we ascended the steep hill into the hazy forest. Oliver – my French companion – was riding, and I was holding on, trying to remain positive as he accustomed himself with a motorbike for the very first time. The hair pin bends took us up and out of the forest, into the small Chinese village of Ban Rak Thai. Chinese tea shops lined the road offering a selection of local tea leaves and sweets which we sat tasting whilst overlooking the lake. Bamboo huts rose from one side, and kids sat fishing on the other, waiting patiently for their floats to slide away. It was a quiet village that saw few tourists, offering me a place to sit, relax, and catch up on some writing.
After taking turns to ride the motorbike I soon re-built my confidence, and so the next day I rented one alone to continue exploring the numerous villages and attractions dotted around the forest. With my tent gathering dust, I decided to take the bike to Pang Ung for a spot of camping. It turned out I was the only person there so I got to pitch in a nice place aside the lake, protected by a canopy of forest from the glaring sun. As the light faded I went for a swim in my underpants, much to the amusement of some local hill tribe kids who´d arrived as part of a school trip. I distinctively remember three things from my trip; getting bitten by tics on my ankles, leaving me with the itchiest bites ever; nearly dying of cold even though I had a sleeping bag and a blanket; and then waking up to the most serene moment as the misty lake glistened in the rising sun; it kind of made the pain of the previous two worthwhile, but that didn´t mean I was camping again, I just couldn´t bare another night in the cold.
Just a few kilometres from the lake stood a small Red Karen village. On passing through I saw a homestay, and couldn´t resist staying the night, content with the rustic lifestyle on offer. It turned out to be an interesting few days after that. For the rest of my stay, I went to stay outside the village at their farm where each morning we would work on the land, digging holes for new banana trees, or developing a new irrigation system. In the evenings, I went from being a farmer, to being an English teacher, teaching in the local private school ran by Ben, the owner of the house. The experience at the farm was brilliant; Ben cooked some delicious meals over the fire, and every evening, after school, we enjoyed a few games of chess, surrounded by sounds of the forest. Staying there re-fuelled my dream of having my own land with an eco house and a small vegetable plot, a dream I hope to forfill in the near future. The experience at the school gave me a better insight into teaching children, which I felt was not really for me, but I did give it a good go, as you can see from this very educational video.
Upon returning the motorbike, I jumped on a minivan to Pai, well known for its hippy vibes and tranquil atmosphere. Little did I know my first night would take a turn for the worst, but you´ll hear about all that in my next post. Until then, stay safe.
Peace and love,