Asia, in a way, is like the Wild West. There is no OSHA, no safety laws, and while this brings danger, it also brings a measure of freedom (and, perhaps, efficiency) lost in the civilized North Western hemisphere.
Here, pick up trucks with benches act as taxies. Motorcycles are fitted with a cart for carrying people and Americans who have been driving on the opposite side of the road for over ten years are allowed to rent a motorcycle without anything like a license.
|From Chang Mai|
Matt and I rented a motorbike for a day. The man who brought us the bike asked if we had ever driven one before. When Matt said no, he gave us a crash course – this is the o button, this is the throttle, here is the gas tank – the total extent of our lesson! Riding on the back, on the wrong side of the road, I felt a little wild, happy to be living this life. I never would have rented a motor bike back home! Riding through the jungle-thick hills, I felt like Che Guevara in motorcycle diaries.
We had a few scares – you’re not being adventurous enough unless you’re scared. At the top of a hill, our bike refused to start. We looked to be low on gas. We’ll be stranded, I thought, we’ll have to walk the bike all the way back down. It was hot and my neck was burning. Then two young German guys came to our rescue and showed us the kickstart on the bike.
Riding to the temple, we passed the motorcycle parking entrance. Matt got set to make a U-turn. We came too close to a parked pickup truck taxi- my side slammed into the metal. Just stay on, I thought, we’ll pull away. Then the bike started leaning. It seemed to fly away from us. We skidded across the pavement; pain shot through my left leg and arm. Get out of the road, I thought, get out of the road. In the skid I had seem two cars coming behind us, one an SUV. Get out of the road, they’ll run you over. I could stand, so I pulled myself with my arms and crawled on my right knee.
I sat on the curb. “Okay, okay?” asked a gang of pick up taxi drivers and Matt, who was scraped up more but who could stand. I hurt everywhere, I couldn’t say I was okay, but if I could just cry, I knew I’d feel better. “I just need to cry. Leave me alone so I can cry.”
I put my head down on my arm. Though the pain faded, the tears never came. The bike had taken a chunk of metal out of the pickup taxi, though it itself barely had a dent. Matt paid the guy 1000 Baht when the driver shoed him the damage. “We should get out of here as soon as we can,” Matt said, before they try to go through official channels. The driver gave Matt some balm for his wounds. I dreaded getting back on the bike, like a child dreads closing his eyes after waking from a nightmare. “I’ll walk,” I said. But I got back on, gingerly, and we cruised down the mountain.
The wat, or temple itself is overrated – it claims to be from the 1400’s, but it has a new, fake feel, like Disneyland’s Smalltown USA. We’re about wat-ed out.
More fun was the water fall. The sun was fading – it is winter here after all – so we had little time to explore. On the return trip from the waterfall, we hyper-miled, cruising with the engine off, key out, along the winding hills.
|From Chang Mai|
This morning, we went to the pharmacy to buy antiseptic and bandages for our skinned arms. Mine are small, because I was wearing pants and sleeves, but Matt’s new tan and golden hairs are spoiled. They’re not deep, just a skin, no blood, but I’ve got infections from less, and it’s a tropical environment where anything can survive. But now we have souvenirs with a story to tell – so much better than a tattoo.