“Moto-sigh, set layow. Moto-sigh, moht. Aya, mai me.” Our limited Thai was acknowledged with a nod by the three young locals who pulled over to help us. I had been hoping someone would stop since we started pushing the bike an hour earlier, but it soon became clear this wouldn’t quicken our journey home.
This group had passed us once before, the blue underglow of their bikes racing the opposite way only a few minutes prior. Well-dressed and on their way back from the Saturday night clubs, the drivers were amused at our predicament but only slightly less eager to try to fix the problem than their drunk passenger. He waved us back and had the bike on the center stand before I could say Sawadee ka.
After gesturing at our flat tire and a once-over from the group, we all seemed to agree that not much was to be done. There wasn’t room for us to get a ride into town, and even if there was, where would we go at one in the morning?
All we could do was push.
My fiancé and I have found ourselves in less-than-ideal situations before. To some, perhaps getting a flat tire on a dark and empty road in rural Thailand would fit in that category. But to people like us, we shrug, file it under “could be worse” and carry on. With the night warm and the sky’s sharpened diamonds above us, I would almost count it as romantic.
I laughed at that thought when, inevitably, the dogs came. None were aggressive, but every one we passed made sure we knew that they knew we were walking down their road.
Luckily, their road led us to a familiar 7-Eleven (which is a good sign anytime, in my opinion). This meant we could leave the bike in view of a security camera for the night, and I could call a taxi to cover the remaining distance home.
That is, if the door hadn’t been locked on the 24-hour establishment.
I knocked gently to pull pity from the cashier who was stocking shelves, but I remained invisible to her. I shuffled off the steps and over to my companion, who was waiting just beyond the gas station’s glow. The walk would be easier for him now that he wasn’t pushing our lifeless bike.
We put the kilometers behind us slowly as the night crept on. We were nearly to the bridge that would take us to the heart of town when we saw three people arguing across the street. Four lanes and a large median separated us, but we slowed anyway. After a few swings and shouts, I asked, “Should we do something?”
The answer, I knew, was no. Not only did a language barrier likely exist, but a cultural one, too. Soon enough the fight was resolved as all three people got on a single motorbike and left without issue. Again, it could have been worse. We crossed the bridge and entered our final hour of walking.
In this final hour, the place we’ve called home for six months showed a new side of itself. Weaving through Chiang Rai at nearly 3 a.m., we saw impeccably swept sidewalks and the soft blink of shop signs forgotten. The collected rubbish sat neatly, waiting for its morning commute to some distant lot. Stray cats’ tails swayed off the shingles, as the street dogs stretched near the closed doors of a favorite breakfast spot. We crossed Suk Sathit and glanced down to where the morning market was already taking shape beside the Old Clock Tower. Looking a few blocks in the other direction, we saw the Golden Clock Tower—a sight usually spoiled by the traffic circling its base. On this night, however, it sat triumphantly still against the darkness.
Less street lamps lit our path as we got closer to home, giving way to the sky once more. Exhausted, I pulled on Cody to stop and look up again before we slept off the last six miles. The rainy season had been hiding the view for a few months, but we were thankful for a glimpse of the stars.
“It could be worse,” he said, and we pulled ourselves up the steps to bed.