When a bunch of boys sharing the same interest get together in a foreign city, either fun or chaos will ensue. In our case, it was the former. Personally, I was having fun touring as a group, although I suspect this arrangement only works best for short trips like this. But today, we rest our steeds and opt for horsepower instead.
That’s what the 100B a day is all about — rental charges for 24 hours use of little scooters. Of course, when you step into the shop and reconfirm whether it really was 100B a day, the guy would give you his most polished honest look and say ‘yes, yes’ … that is, until the nice girl handling the paperwork tells us that actually, the (get-you-suckered-in-first) 100B is for the rental, and is not inclusive of another 80B for insurance. By then, Mo’s passport was already held hostage in lieu of our collective rentals. But even by cheapskates’ standards, 180B was still cheap. So we didn’t complain much about it.
That was surprise #1. Next, when we were starting up the bikes, we realised that the fuel gauge needle was at below zero. (I was sure they fill every ready-to-rent bike with just a few thimblefuls of fuel, enough to get you to the petrol station) Then, when you’re faced with a ‘how much?” nod from the girl manning the pump, you wonder ‘hmm..how do I give the bike back with the same pitiful amount of fuel?’. Unlike us fortunate Malaysians, fuel is not subsidised in Thailand. So the answer is — you can’t… and you’re not really expected to. I suspect the bike rental guys siphon off as much fuel as they can from returned bikes (leaving a few thimblefuls of fuel naturally) for the next unsuspecting customer.
The other surprise of the day had to do with 2 of our boys — Roland and Terence. For all their prowess in cranking up some very steep hills, they were motorcycle-challenged. ‘Don’t know how to ride la’, they protested and wanted to be pillion riders instead. Nothing doing, of course. We weren’t having any dead-weight on our bikes. These were puny machines; 100cc Honda scooters. Zippy but only if carrying scrawny cycle tourers like us.
The enterprising shop owner, sensing 2 lucrative rentals slipping away, happily exclaimed, ‘Don worry, don worry, we teach you to ride … very easy!’ and proceeded to get 2 of his guys to take our 2 boys out for a quick lesson.
And boy, was it a quick lesson. When they came back about 10 minutes later, Roland and Terence were riding like pros (ok, pros when they first learnt how to ride a bike). But Shang was most flabbergasted with the irony of it all — the number plate on Terence’s bike was 46. That, for the uninitiated, is the number of the world’s fastest man on 2 wheels — 500cc Moto GP Champion, Valentino Rossi!
It turned out to be an anti-climactic day on 2 wheels.
First, we headed out of town to a waterfall listed on a map given to us by the bike-rental guy. I should have known better. It was no different from back home — whenever a waterfall is listed on some official publication, it’s usually means it’s not so off the beaten track that it still unspoilt. And somehow it never quite occurred to us that the dry season was in full swing, which meant less than roaring volumes of water cascading over the rocks.
The morning’s excursion was getting more boring by the minute, so we decided that we should go for lunch at a place recommended by the bike-rental shop owner himself. He redeemed himself many times over — it was a simple thatched roof restaurant and it specialised in fish dishes. (The restaurant is located just outside of town opposite a Tourist Police station..look for the 133km milestone marker along the 1095).
It turned out to be the best meal we had so far. The steamed fish was so good even Mo, who until now was unable to handle spicy food, overdid himself and slurped up every last bit of gravy. From then on, Mo was a new man, a very hot one. In fact, we even ordered another steamed fish. In total, we had 3 different fishes.
After lunch, we all decided that we would go sightseeing at a familiar spot — the coffee place we stopped by the day before. It was just down the road not too far from the WW2 bridge. With the caffeine fix out of the way, Mo decided that we should try our luck with another waterfall that wasn’t too far away. In the lazy afternoon heat, nobody actually protested and so, we headed out for another watery (you guessed it) disappointment.
Hopefully the Pai to Sopphong instalment would be more exciting.