Despite everyone telling me Pai was amazing, I didn’t really want to go. It sounded like a town of tourists and filled by expats, not exactly a genuine Thai experience, however deep down I had a nagging feel I would be missing something if I didn’t check it out and I am so glad I did!I loved it! It was beautiful, quaint, incredibly friendly and the locals embraced the bohemian culture that existed there. Pai is North West of Chiang Mai and about 100km South of Mae Hong Son. The road to get there is twisty, curvy and steep and if you are inclined towards motion sickness it can be a little unpleasant. My trip leaving wasn’t the best but that might have been more to do with my physical state than the roads.
I stayed in KK Huts in the basement part of a dorm bungalow. It was a bit dirty but the upstairs area looked clean and sunny and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. There was an outdoor sitting area to get breakfast with everyone on site which was where I got to meet my next troop of amazing people that I would join for the next few days. Again the small traveller world reared its head as I met up with my friend I had met in Siem Riep, my first stop on my travels.
The best way to see Pai is by scooter. I was not brave enough to actually drive one thinking of my relationships with bikes I thought one with a motor might not be a good idea. But Zelia embraced the challenge and we set off to explore the area. The first day we did the Southern Loop hitting waterfalls which were partially dried up, the canyon filled with awkward paths and trees with gigantic leaves that looked like hearts, view points over looking valleys and farm fields and one very large Buddha on a hill where we sat through a thunder storm and then again for sunset,
Day two was my favourite and also the most challenging. We set off, 11 of us, I felt like I was in a motorcycle travelling gang, on the road to Mae Hong Son. It was quite the road and poor Zelia had to deal not only with controlling George, our bike, but me and my sudden intake of breaths as we rounded a sharp turn. By the way back I had decided singing was the best answer and we sang at the top of our lungs everything from The Beatles, ABBA, Cindy Lopper, a group rendition of YMCA to the Sound of Music. It worked like a charm. George unfortunately didn’t manage too well on the long journey and we ended up having three of the guys fall back and make sure our bike didn’t die on us, which must have drove them nutty as they all liked to go rather fast and we were a bit like old granny’s. So Thank you!
The views we’re spectacular! And stopping to save our bums I am sure made the photo breaks all the better. We spent two or three hours visiting the Lod caves which are pretty cool, massive and filled with bats. Also very dark. We did it without the tour guide or boats and used flashlights and phones to guide the way. I won’t lie I was pretty nervous at first but once we got past were the boat drops you there was a clear path and stairs, stalagmites and stalactites filled the chambers and although it was relatively cool, it was so humid in the cave I felt like I had had a shower after 20 minutes. They will try to tell you that you need a guide but as long as you have flashlights or mobile phones for everyone you will be fine.
The two days we were in Pai fell during the Thai elections. No bars or restaurants served alcohol unless you went across the river which fell outside the city’s jurisdiction. A little strange if you think about it but I hadn’t gone out yet during my trip so I wasn’t going to argue about where one could or could not buy alcohol. It is like they are saying city folk must be sober for voting, country folk either way will do. So obviously we headed to the other side of the river. In Pai, they seem to love trance music but don’t really dance which is strange. At the bar, “Don”t Cry” they played dance, or trance while watching fire dancers which was cool to watch but no one moved. Eventually some people began but only between shows.
All in all Pai was great and definitely a highlight. Everything and nothing I expected it to be and I am positive the reason I loved it so much was the people I was with and the opportunity to get out of the city. Travelling on your own is fantastic. -you get to meet so many new people and as silly as it sounds discover yourself at the same time but to be part of a group for a few days and do things I wouldn’t normally do on my own and having the craic was a welcomed change of pace.