We finished the loop on Sunday, and I've been back in Bangkok since Monday AM, taking a break on my way south to the tropical beaches of south Thailand.
The last two days of the loop were as spectacular as the first. After Mae Hong Son, we made our way to Pai, a hippy new-agey town bisected by a wandering river in a valley. Pai is a great place to have your chakras aligned over a cup of ocea butter, wheatgrass-infused, fair trade organic, buddhist monk-grown tea. The town is populated by sets of dreadlocked, moonshiney Thais interspersed with strung-out, druggie hippies. We stayed in little bamboo huts by the river, where I passed the night reading "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac (it seemed too perfect a book to not read on a trip like this).
Rising late the next day, we embarked on the last day of the loop, which was also possibly the most fun riding. As we climbed into the mountains near Pai, clouds gathered and the sky muttered thunder. Drizzle felly idly, until the monsoon unzipped its fly, and started pissing rain. Not Minnesota-nice, sweet summer rain, but fat, pregnant-with-twins rain drops. Slicing through it felt like climbing into needles, cold speed, adrenalin rushing, a happy to be alive kind of ride. Looking like tropical fish in neon orange ponchos, we swam home to safe harbor, riding past curtains of rain from behind which lurking mountains occasionaly peered like peeping toms.
On our way home, we made a stop at a hot springs site famous for a geyser which belches sulphurous warm water. Unlike other hot springs site I've seen in northern Thailand where taking a bath in the water requires having it piped into a jacuzzi and mixed with cold water (the hot spring water is ~100 degree C when it comes out), this hot spring spawned a warm creek, which rambles through jungle before emerging in a clearing where it forms three deepish pools. Here you can choose your preferred temperature, and bathe in sight of mist covered mountains. We did exactly that, enjoying the contrast of air spiced by the cool Thai monsoon, and the warmth of the hot springs, all amdist an absolutely deserted valley. To the add the ambience, the only other visitors that ever showed up were a band of Buddhist monks on a road trip; they bathed in the pool above us, bartering snippets of their English for snippets of our Thai, while laughing at me skid all over the algae covered rocks surrounding the springs.
It was a magical end to a magical trip as Naj and I were discussing, when my spacy travel buddy realized he had lost the key to his motorbike. After a fruitless one hour search, we gave it up for lost, and made our way home on a single bike through the vanishing day. It was a mad ride in the dark, pelted by an endless parade of insects before we arrived in Chiang Mai. The next morning, we rode back out with a spare key picked up from the rental shop, and retrieved Naj's bike.
The same night, I hopped a train to Bangkok, and the present moment. Next stop, tropical beach, and after that, tropical rainforest ;)