Thailand is phenomenal guys. I love Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas. The feel in the city is gentle and just-busy-enough. The mountains rise in the distance and the rain is heavy and dramatic.
Last weekend two friends and I drove into the mountains without a map [and at first no idea how to actually get onto the mountain].
We were on scooters, the preferred form of transport in these parts, but because I’m too chicken I don’t drive one myself, I let other people drive me.
Spending time with these two humans is one of my new favorite things. They’re both Dutch [although one insists he’s English because of his GB passport when it suits him… Nothing like this dual citizen I’m sure] and totally inspirational to me.
They are funny and kind and challenging and soul-full.
As we drove along the winding path higher and higher up the air became clearer again.
It was cooler too.
As a native British/American girl I’ve been missing the change in seasons and the opportunity to wear all of those cozy autumnal pieces of attire.
To enter into the land of the clouds brought me some relief.
Learning to trust your driver when your on the back of a scooter is a hard thing to do. I spent most of my month in Bali being terrified on the back of my brave friends bikes [which wasn’t a comment on their driving, more the chaos of the roads in Bali].
As we drove in those Thailand mountains I was gradually learning to lean in and sit close to those I’ve entrusted with my life and my body.
At about two hours in, half way up a mountain we still don’t know the name of, there appeared a small track to our left.
It looked like a farm track.
‘Health-and-Safety’ Hannah came out in my head. Something tugged in my intuition.
This wasn’t a good idea.
We had no idea where the path led.
We had no idea what the conditions would be, if there would be a tiger or an elephant herd or a huge cliff to drop off unexpectedly.
BUT, here I am of this journey of discovery and stepping out over boundaries. Every time I’ve said yes over the last few months I haven’t regretted it [and even wrote about it] – I mean, think of all the great things you might miss out on without a yes.
So, after a moment’s consideration and discussion we turned onto the path.
The path was very steep and pot-holey.
We had to get up to quite a speed to make it up there with the two of us on one bike, then as the track turned and plateaued I breathed a sight of relief.
We had reached what I considered to be a safer space. It was flatter, we had slowed down. The engine wasn’t roaring anymore.
For a split second I felt secure again.
All of a sudden I was on the floor.
We had skidded on a very muddy patch that our tires [which honestly had the grip of a silk bed sheet] couldn’t cope with and we were left in a heap of bodies and bike.
Then, there were those long and drawn out moments when I tried to assess everything.
Am I ok?
Is my friend ok?
Is the bike broken?
Did my phone survive? [terrible but true]
As we both stood up, shaken but thankfully only a little scratched, the adrenaline kicked in and I started to shake. I saw that we were close to a drop which would have certainly made everything more painful at best.
I looked out over the mountain side and the jungle that we were in and began to try and focus on the beauty, the majesty and the joy that it is to be alive.
It didn’t work.
My ankle was throbbing and my traveling companion was realizing that he had injured his back.
Our scooter was covered in mud and the path that we had chosen didn’t lead anywhere.
We would have to drive back down the steep decline and there was little that I wanted to do less then get back on our scooter.
It seemed unfair to me somehow that we would take the risk and essentially fail.
My heart was bruised with this realization as we climbed back onto the bike, took a deep breath and drove back down the path towards the main road.
My ankle was swelling a little more as I contemplated the reality that I hadn’t listened to my intuition, even though my intuition had seemed limiting at the time, and as a result we were worse off than when we started.
I didn’t have a triumphant story to tell about the breathtaking scenery.
Just muddy sandals and a torn t-shirt.
Maybe, though, what I needed was muddy sandals and a torn t-shirt.
To be reminded to listen to that voice, that intuition, even if it seemed limiting.
To be reminded that we can be injured when we take risk.
To be reminded that sometimes things come out of nowhere and we have little control of when or how it happens.
As we drove on the views became spectacular. We continued our adventure bruised and grateful for nothing worse. The night took us to villages and a hotel I’ve affectionately dubbed ‘Hell Hotel’ [WHO includes 666 in their WiFi password and CHOOSES bright red satin duvet covers for their deluxe room beds?]
Our journey went on with laughter and joy and more [sightly slower] driving. We continued to take risks and were richly rewarded with newly deepening friendship and experience.
My ankle continued to swell and a week later it’s still a bit sore but healing nicely. My friend’s back is ok too.
I guess it’s all about balance [quite literally in our case].
It’s about figuring out which risks are worth taking, when we should listen to our inner-caution, when not to stay in creepy hotels straight out of a horror film [even if it really is your only choice for miles and miles], when to take our own path and when to take the path well trodden by those who were wiser before us.
Go on all the journeys, but always listen to your own voice and where it wants to take you.
I don’t believe it takes us too far off course [and when it does the universe has a way of ‘gently’ turning you back around again]
Oh, and finally maybe check the tread on your tires before hiring a scooter in Chiang Mai.