Pai! Pai! Pai! Crash!

My scooter rental. 

Pai is pretty small and most of the “attractions” are just outside of town. Motorbikes and scooters are very common there and it’s pretty much the best way to get around. I was bit disappointed by this because I really did not want to rent a scooter. I’d never driven one and doing it for the first time in Thailand didn’t seem like a good idea.

I noticed a shop during my walk to the hostel advertising scooter lessons, I considered it as I walked by. An Australian girl was in my room when I arrived and she said she had taken the lesson and  it had really helped. I decided at the very  least I would do a lesson even if I didn’t rent a scooter. I settled in and headed back to town. The walk was really enjoyable without the pack!

I caught the guy about a half hour before his shop became a small pub. Ya, I know what you’re thinking. I asked for the lesson and off we went. He took me just off the main area so there would be few other on coming vehicles. First he gave me all the basics including some safety tips. Which brake was which, which way the handle accelerated, how to lean in a turn, etc. Then I drove very slowly a few feet at a time. When he was confident I had that down, I started to learn turns. Then he rode on the back of the scooter and we were off. He taught me some hills, a hill start, a u-turn and sharp turns and quick stops. For a 50 minute lesson, I thought he was very thorough. When he felt confident that I had it, I drove back to his shop with him on the back. He recommended which bike I should rent and off I went walking down the road to the rental place. It was a quick turn around. I went from I’m not going to rent one to I am actually renting one in a short hour.

It couldn’t be easier to rent a scooter in Pai. They didn’t even ask me if I had ever ridden before although I hear that is the only standard question. They ask you to pick a type of bike, pay, get insurance if you want, pick a helmet and then they keep your passport until you bring the bike back ( I was obviously less than happy about that last part but it is what it is).  It cost me 140 baht, including insurance and helmet per day. I felt nervous but excited and terrified.  I got the bike, tested out the controls to see how different it was from the one I had just practiced on and then started slowly riding. The rental place only gives you enough gas to get to the gas station which is at the other end of town. I only sort of knew how to get there, so I took my first left. At the end I came out at a precarious spot. It was a slight hill and a tough right hand turn into traffic (they drive on the left in Thailand). I got nervous and wished I had picked a different street to take. Other scooters were passing me on both sides as I waited for the coast to be clear. I thought it was, so I went and immediately crashed into two parked scooters with a wide turn. A truck had appeared out of nowhere so I accelerated too much and couldn’t turn all the way. I was dumbstruck. I had had this scooter less than five minutes and I crashed. Luckily I was unharmed, except for a miniature scratch on my ankle that I didn’t notice until the following day.  However, the bike I crashed into, I really only hit one of the two, didn’t seem like it was ok. I slowly dragged the bike back and was relieved to find that there was no damage to the other bike as two Thai women came out of the building furious, as they should have been. They checked out the bike and waved me off when they realized no harm was done.  I was rattled but I still needed gas. I went uber slow to the station and then drove the few kilometers back to the hostel. It was only then that I examined my bike. The front fender was damaged but I noticed some zip ties on it, so I determined that wasn’t from me. There was a hole in the front of the bike that looked like it could be from me, but I didn’t thoroughly examine the bike when I got it (mistake) so it was hard to tell. I made it back to the hostel and didn’t drive the scooter the whole following day. I was freaked out.

Having a crash in Pai on scooter is extremely common. Most people in my hostel had some sort of bandage or other on. Injuries are called Pai tattoos. It took me a whole day of not driving to muster the courage to drive a day and a half after the crash. I considered just walking the bike back to town but I really wanted to see some of the surrounding area and I had determined it was much worse for me as  a person to be on the back of someone else’s bike as opposed to driving. I set out very, very slowly that morning. My journey took me on a road that was much less populated and allowed me to practice some slow going. I ended up driving more than 20 kilometers on the scooter that day and it was glorious.  The greater Pai area is why everyone loves Pai so much. The mountains are lush green, fields of yellow flowers appear out of nowhere and you generally spend a lot of time enjoying the landscape all at a relaxed pace. I am glad I decided to drive again, it was worth it all around. I had fun and I had always wanted to drive a scooter.  In the end I returned the scooter without further incident and they barely took a second glance at it. They even gave me 100 baht back!   


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