“Drugs?” he asked me again.
I was in Pai, North Thailand. About 3 hours from Chiang Mai and right near the Myanmar Border.
Nothing but beautiful mountains, plants, farmlands.
Cloud formations that came bellowing out from behind the mountains like steam from a witches cauldron.
Nothing but lush, beautiful green.
And here I was being asked by an officer about a different kind of lush green.
My friends and I have spent the day exploring Pai via motorbikes, our first stop was the hot springs, after hearing the mixed reviews about the “Expensive” hot springs ($9 USD), we decided to go for the cheaper ones ($1 USD) and were not disappointed. The water was a perfect bath tub temperature, so clear you could see your feet.
From the hot springs, we decided to explore a waterfall on top of a nearby mountain. We followed the main roads leading to the waterfalls, passing rice patty after beautiful rice patty, corn field after lush corn field.
The our way up the mountain, we passed serval villages. On a few occasions residents came out of their homes giving us the universal “Smoke” hand gesture, insinuating we could buy weed from them.
We ignored them, eyes on the water fall.
Oh, and the water fall…
Refreshing, clean, beautiful body of water just down a path, when you can hear it from the parking lot, you know you’re in the right place.
We spent some time at the waterfalls, wadding in the water, and checking out the views.
After a while, we decided to make our way back to our hostel and regroup.
About our hostel….
Travel Tip: When staying in a Hostel, always go for the bottom bunk: more storage, easier to move around and you don’t have to worry about climbing up any ladders after a night of drinking!
So back to the waterfall….
We headed down the same road to the bottom of the water fall.
There were 4 of us total, me, my friend Bobbie whom I came to Pai with, and two new friends we met at our hostel.
We coasted down the mountain, right when we got to the bottom there was a patrol unit of about 6 officers signaling us to pull over.
Initially, I thought we were getting pulled over because my friends didn’t have helmets on (I HAD MY HELMET ON, MOM!).
We were instructed to get off our bikes and open the seat compartment.
“Whats going on?” I asked Bobbie.
“They’re checking for drugs” she replied.
“Drugs?” asked the Captain in charge, “No” we all solemnly replied.
They started going through Bobbies things, some officers moved toward the only guy of our group and asked again “Drugs?”
“No, Waterfall” He replied.
They started patting him down, checking his pockets, pulling out his cigarettes and checking the contents.
child officer patting our friend down had braces, Jeez, how old are you kid?
Braces would pat our friend down, step away, the Captain would instruct him something in Thai, Braces would then go back to our friend, pat again, step away, be instructed, over and over.
Was it trainee day in Pai????
I’m not sure why, but I kept fighting the urge to laugh nervously, I made eye contact with the other girls in the group as we watched our friend being patted down.
Finally, they made my way over to me, I neatly handed over my backpack, my wallet was on the top of the pile, the officer picked it up and unzipped, and glanced in it, I carefully watched his hands as he did so to make sure he didn’t try and plant something. He put it back in my backpack, patted it, and said “OK”.
The Captain came over to me, “Drugs?” he asked. “No, Teachers from Bangkok, just came to check out the waterfall” I replied. “So, no drugs?” he asked again, “No, no drugs” I said.
“OK” he replied walking away, he waved to his team who immediately stopped what they were doing (patting down our guy friend of the 34587984753 time) and walked off.
We were free to go.
We sped off.
We later regaled our hostel group about our afternoon with the cops (and the molestation jokes for our poor guy friend ensued).
What we deduced from our Run-ins with the law…
-We were four caucasian young people on mottos in a highly tourist driven area, a dime a dozen, they police just to happened to pick us.
-The people trying to sell us weed whilst going up the mountain were obviously working with the police.
-Clearly, “Braces” was new and the other officers were training him, in depth. The amount and areas he searched on our guy friend, he will be a search master in no time.
It Could Have Been A lot Worse…
-The police could have planted something on any of us.
-They could have arrested all of us if they felt like it.
I told this experience to two Irish girls when we were out the following evening and they told me the same thing happened to them but they had to pay a bribe – something like $300 Bhat ($9 – but still).
What have we learned from this experience?
Don’t do drugs, or better yet, if you’re going to do them, don’t buy them from someone who is offering to sell them.
Different countries, different governments, different penalties – all add up to just avoiding the whole thing all together, seriously, remember the movie “Broken Down Palace”? Lets not do that.
Would I go back to Pai?
Absolutely. The views alone couldn’t keep me away.
Bad things happen everywhere, one little run-in with officers won’t stop me from exploring this amazing world we live in.