|We knew we wanted to get to the Cave Lodge today-- it's a guest house (many bungalows) on a wooded hillside above the Nam Lang (9km north of Soppong), and in addition to being beautiful, it's a great base for kayaking, caving and trekking. Our mode of transport ended up being a really great part of the day!
It used to be that you could learn to ride a scooter/motorbike at the main rental place in Pai, but supposedly the police complained enough that they stopped "teaching". So I decided to try to get us a quick lesson just by being friendly, and it almost worked! I started talking with an English-speaker (a Canadian) at the rental place, and he agreed to show us the tricks, but then it turned out there were no bikes available...
So we all had breakfast together instead (noodle soup and pad thai, yum!) and then separated to check out of our respective guesthouses. We had mentioned to the owner of our guesthouse that we were looking to ride, and when we checked out she put us in touch with a friend of hers who had scooters to rent and was willing to teach us. He specializes in off-road dirt-biking (and goes by the name Tip Off-road), but scooters were also available. SO MUCH FUN!!! First, he gave us a ride to his place. It was my first time ever on the back of a dirt-bike, and I enjoyed it! It's exciting!
As we expected, automatic scooters are extremely simple: the kickstand must be up and you have to hold the brake while starting, but other than that, just give it some gas and go!
And go we did! ~50 km to Soppong, and on extremely hilly and windy terrain. It was BEAUTIFUL. Very little traffic (it's beyond where most tourists stop) and I really enjoyed the trip. I think we may continue to Mae Hong Son tomorrow for the day (~120 km round-trip).
When we got to the Cave Lodge, we ran into the friendly Canadian (he was just out for the day). Together, the 3 of us decided to check out Tham Lot, an impressive, giant limestone cave not far away. A slight adventure biking there, as Blaire sort of crashed (slow motion) into a fence. But no major mishaps, and no injuries.
We avoided the 150B fee for guide and lantern, as we had our own headlamps, and we explored for a couple of hours. We even paid to take a bamboo raft down the river in the cave, and then hiked around from the other side. All in all, a great excursion.
Ate dinner at the Cave Lodge (delicious!) I had tofu with garlic, ginger, and onions over rice. I am really looking forward to sleeping on a clean bed tonight. We have our own bungalow! Wahoo!!