Day 77: Racing 'home' to Chiang Mai
Back on the bike after nearly a month in Myanmar. Turns out I was taking the long way back to Chiang Mai on some yet-to-be finished roads. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
THE road out of Mai Sot splits in two directions. There is direction I arrived by nearly a month ago and there is the road to Tak. With the bike awkwardly loaded up, I have a vague recollection of passing a sign pointing toward Chiang Mai on the road I had originally come south on.
So, I turn that way. The bike feels heavy and wobbly between my legs, though the CB500X is in fact a light bike for its size. Nonetheless, it's a great deal heavier than the electric scooter I became accustomed to riding in Bagan.
Not far down the road, with the sky a flat gray, promising a storm that I refuse to acknowledge, I consult the die.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I should make a U-turn and head to Tak. However, every moment I delay turning around makes me feel more and more committed to the decision I've already made – for better or worse. Rather than recant, I roll the die.
Let the die's will be done, I think.
It confirms that Rocinante and I are headed the right direction.
The sky lets go, like a child not willing to wait until he makes it to the toilet to start pissing down on his little Lego world.
“For fuck sake,” I mumble as I pull under a tree and start getting my rain gear out. What would have been so hard about giving me some sunshine on my first day back on the bike?
Back on the bike, I pick up speed, as she again feels apart of me.
How far is it to the turn off?
Along the familiar road arrives the teak-leaf roofs of the Mae Lan Refugee camp that is pressed against a majestic jungle escarpment. Was the camp really part of my last driving day in Thailand?
As the road stretches out in front of me, the storm breaks, but with the promise of returning. I aggressively overtake trucks and cars, racing toward Chiang Mai; too many knee to the pavement motorcycle racing videos on Instagram while in Myanmar I fear.
Long before I make the turnoff, it dawns on me – it was a whole day of driving between Mae Sot and the turnoff. The 108 to Chiang Mai doesn't link up with the 105, which I'm on now, until it reaches Mae Sariang, which is still three and half hours from Chiang Mai.
Dice, what have you done? And here in is the beauty of the dice: they've cast me off on a bit of an adventure. No sensible person would be taking this route back to Chiang Mai with the goal of just getting there. Yet, here I am.
The plan right now is to rest up in Chiang Mai, catch up on some work, maybe even take an off-record holiday, all while getting the necessary paperwork processed to bring Rocinante into Myanmar.
However, the dice have sent us on a little adventure. Nonetheless, I've promised Emma that I'll make it to her place by dinner. She's graciously offered to let me stay in her guest bedroom as long as I need.
Wet, but in good spirits, I reach Mae Sariang, seeing the first sign noting that I'm on the right path to Chiang Mai.
Though eager to get out of my wet ridding gear and call it a long day in the saddle, I pull up to a local restaurant for a late lunch. Massive pieces of meat sizzle on a huge, industrial-sized grill. There's chicken, pork, sausages and beef all crisping on the edges. Pour me a cheap carafe of wine, hit it with soda water and I'd think I was at a local meat house in Argentina.
The butcher's clever thwacks through the pieces of meat I select, which are served with a northern-style crushed chili sauce.
With a little meat in the system, I yank on my wet gloves and hit the road.
Faster and faster I drive, leaning deeper into the corners, more and more confident in overtaking vehicles; I am again headed through the mountains and beautiful countryside toward Chiang Mai.
It's dark as I arrive on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. My phone is dead. I take the 121 loop around the edge of Chiang Mai looking for the turnoff to Emma's place.
So I just need to find the turnoff to.
Wait. Where exactly does Emma live?
Wrapped up in the idea of reaching Chiang Mai and confident that I'd recognize the turnoff to the small town she leaves in on the outskirts of the city, it didn't even occur to me that I don't remember the name of the place.
I do not recognize the turnoff. In fact, it seems that I'm getting further away from Chiang Mai now. I turn around and start to slowly retrace my track.
Mae Rim 8km, one sign says. Yes, that's it, Mae Rim.
Once on the road to Mae Rim, I know the way.
The bike comes to a full stop on the gravel path outside of Emma's house. I call out a hello.
Emma's there, as his her dog Cheetah, a beautiful, home-cooked dinner is ready.
She's cleaned up the guest bedroom. A big bottle of water is next to the well-made bed, the red curtains are pulled. The entire room floats in a soft warm light. I kick off my heavy ridding boots.
It feels like I've come home.