The route: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/186151403 (98km; total 5165km)
The chat: Apologies once again for the paucity of photos; in today’s no blame culture, we’ll put it down to a system failure at this juncture. The obligatory root cause analysis is under-way, which I suspect will conclude that someone was in fact to blame.
In a reversal of the old cliche, I ought to use a thousand words to paint a picture but frankly that seems like a lot of typing, so I’ll use (gentle) expletives to make my point. Today’s route is infamous, and for good reason – it’s bloody bloody hard. A road noted as being ‘exhausting’ by the Lonely Planet (they’re referring to doing it by car or motorbike – c’mon guys) already had alarm bells ringing, and after 2500m of climbing, and nearly as many switchbacks, we can confirm it’s also exhausting by tandem bike. Still, it’s a beautiful road, and not too busy despite the throngs of tie-dye wearing wannabee hippies (too travel sick to Tweet the world about how tough the journey is) being bussed to Pai, a traveller ghetto in the hills.
The morning was made more interesting when we (briefly) tagged along with a bunch of very fit looking Aussie cyclists on a fully supported tour; Micaela from http://crouchingtigertours.com kindly fired off a few shots of us in action before she had to hoon up the mountain in pursuit of her guests. Thanks Micaela! We never saw them again – maybe we passed them in one of the numerous cafes en route, tortoise to their hare, but their barely-out-of-breath chat of average watts and body fat percentage suggests otherwise.
Pai is another of those semi-mythical places (along with Sapa, Sihanoukville, dare I say Lunag Prabang etc) about which one suspects there is nothing inherently more special than its neighbouring towns, but a combination of local and not-so-local enterprise has brought it the benefits and otherwise of rampant tourism. There are apparently 500 hotels and guesthouses here, along with a similar number of cafes, burger joints, rasta-esque bars and t-shirt shops vying for your custom. Having checked into the very pleasant Pairadise guesthouse (pun-wise, certainly one of the least tenuous plays on the town’s name) we donned our harem pants and ‘I survived Vang Vieng’ vests and compared fresh tattoos with like-minded travellers whilst stuffing ourselves with falafel and hummous in a lantern lit, low-tabled eatery*. When in Rome and all that…
*Only some of this is true – panic not dear mothers!