The loop turns out to be a trip to a cave, a forest temple, and a homestay before I even reach Mae Hong Son. From May 15 to May 21 I drive around 300 km on all kinds of roads through rain, fresh air, misty mornings, bursting clouds, burning sun. All in all the greatest motorcycle training and the best ride I experienced during my stay in SouthEast Asia. The crowning pinnacle! So happy to have this happen in the last week of my stay here. Breathtaking hillside scenery. Amazing views over valleys and villages on this precious green earth.
The cave I visit is called Tham Mae Lana. It is allegedly the longest cave in Asia. Twelve kilometres long. We are inside this cave for two hours. A guide, two monks, a child (mini monk) and me. There is water inside but not deep enough to be forced to swim. The cave is OK. Not overwhelming.
After a while I reach the forest temple.
Wat Pa Tam Wua
As a meditation technique they use breathing in with “bud” and breathing out with “dho”. And after that developing the knower (cittānupassana).
Given i find so many westerners here I think the place is quite well known. It is located about 35 km before Mae Hong Son. An appropriate place for beginners. Dhamma light is served cool in a wonderful wonderful setting, embedded in nature with river, lake, forest, caves… it makes it easy to be in love with dhamma, with life!
For me it is a nice holiday here. Emphasis on being relaxed and natural about life and practice. Very leisurely. One ‘free time’ follows another. Talk is not encouraged but allowed. There are badges for those who prefer to remain silent. Two times a day formal meditation – morning and afternoon. Including lying posture (no kidding). Happyhappy joyjoy abbot always smiling crackin jokez. University campus atmo. Be your own instructor. Read, chat, sweep, help, or just drink some coffee if you like. You get the idea… one day I also meet a young monk there. During our conversation he highly recommends practising under the guidance of Tan Martin, a German monk, at Wat Pa Ban Tat (Udon Thani). So this is how one thing leads on to another. First we are pleasure seeking robots. And then lost souls searching for peace. In the beginning and the end of course a sincere practitioner is what he seeks and seeks what he is. A peaceful robot? Someone roboting for peace? (Where to begin? Where to end? … nibbāna – cool and bottomless!)
After three nights of investigation into the centre of the cyclone I get grounded on two wheels and take on the road once more. I go in the direction of Mae Hong Son. About 15 km before that town I take a right turn and head towards the Myanmar border. Again and again I am washed down by rain. I find shelter in a village at Ben&Ten Homestay. Ben also arranges trekking tours and leads an English evening school. He says I can join him and teach the children some proper language skills and that’s what I try to do before joining in family dinner and going to sleep. Rain during the night.
Next morning I get up and get going. Towards Pang Oong, a beautiful rainforest nature trail and lakes to swim in. Oh me Buddha! So beautiful!! Many places I visit are hard to leave and that is about the only bad (?) thing I can say about them.
In the far north there is a place called Baan Rakthai. It was recommended to me by a local woman when I got to Wat Pa Tam Wua. I get there around noon. Have some soup and tea tasting session. There are (too) many Chinese stores. All of them selling the same stuff: tea, accessories, china, dried fruits, junk food and souvenir trinkets.
On my way back to Pai there are numerous hills and two mountain peaks to overcome.
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After some hours I reach familiar territory again.
I get soaked by the rain for so many times that I lose count. One time there is a long long line of police cars and pickup trucks parking at the side of road. Slowing down and halting I see they are a rescuing squad taking care of a jeep that got off the slippery road and crashed down into the thick jungle below. I could only make out a tire. I drive carefully yet swiftly and arrive in Pai in the evening to return the rented scooter. I sleep in a friend’s bungalow. (Thank you so much, Lidia!)
I enjoy my last day in Pai. A bicycle day. Pumpkin curry. Raw chocolate cake. Papaya shake. And so on and so on 😉 There are several reasons to come to Pai at this time. It is low season so prices change. And there are lots of activities and special events to attract people. And: it’s lynchee and mushroom season. Yeah baby.