Beautiful Pai

I can’t really begin to put Pai into words. The place was so beautiful, tranquil, and ridiculously laid back. When I visited Pai, it was hot. I mean really hot. It was pushing 40 degree’s most days towards the middle of March. It gets a little smoggy at this time of year, apparently down to the local farmers burning last seasons crops, in preparation to sow new ones during the wetter months of June and July. Although this restricted visibility over some distance (I’m talking  2-3km’s here), it was barely noticeable if you were looking up the street. We took a mini bus from Chang Mai. Prior to reaching the beauty Pai lays before you, you will need to endure a roller-coaster ride full of steep banks and big dips as your minibus driver races across the scenic mountain by-pass. And as modern as the mini buses were (air con, the lot), the unforgiving corners at stupid speeds were enough to disgorge 2 of the 8 passengers previous meals with the rest of us. We did also have electric windows…

Not that this short 2 hour shuttle service should ever put anyone off this idyllic little town (and it doesn’t, believe me). When you pull up on the quiet street, you’re greeted with small stalls on either side of the road, selling all sorts of hip goodies from bracelets and footwear to musical instruments and gemstones/jewels…it simply oozes cool. As soon as you walk down the street, you’re met with these incredibly built wooden bungalows available to rent, river huts on stilts by the stream, restaurants and trendy bars on either side of the street playing chilled out house and reggae music- far from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. And if I could give you one piece of information in this blog that you should act on, I solemnly hope it would be to stay at Baan Pai Villiage. Walk to the bottom of the street to the rivers bridge and turn right, about 10 footsteps away and it’s at your feet. The photos speak for themselves…

Once you’re settled in your little bungalow, go and get your bearings around town. You have about 4 parallel streets to check out, each filled with small shops and more bars and restaurants. Cross the shallow river over the bridge, and that is it. This is Pai, in all its beauty.

Now you’ve checked everywhere out within walking distance, please please go and rent a scooter from one of the many rental shops in town. Every place I visited whilst I was away, I rented a scooter to explore; with nothing but a few local phrases I’d learnt from my phrasebook the previous night and a local map. And Pai was by far the most enjoyable place to ride around. Ok, so you’ve heard terrible things about scooter accidents over this part of the world. With the exception of the odd pick-up truck (I saw about 2 an hour), I had the roads to myself pretty much all day. Shared with a handful of other tourists, the roads were mine. Honestly, if you were scared of riding in Thailand, let this be the one place you actually give it a go in the knowledge that, providing YOU know how to drive, you should be just fine.

With map in hand, and after a few pointers from the guy at the rental place, go and visit any of the 3 waterfalls this place has on offer. They are equally amazing, although if you’re here in the dryer months like I was, then don’t expect huge volumes of water to be spurting down them. If you fancy treading a little further afield, then about 45km (1 hour by scooter) over the mountains is a another little town called Tham Lod, which made for another great day trip. Again, get directions from the rental guys, but it was pretty much a straight road up and over, with fantastic scenic views over the valleys and mountains. Once there, you have 2 great caves to check out. One cave you’ll need to pay for a guided tour, but its ran by locals that know the cave very well, and who no doubt really need the money. After taking a small bamboo raft through the entrance of the cave and into the darkness, you land on a little beach inside. Its pitch black, and the guide leads you through the tunnels with a little gas lantern. She spoke very little English, but she was adorable none the less, and couldn’t have been no older than 8. Her idea of entertainment was to point out how the huge stalagmites rising from the floor resembled a ‘crocodile’ or ‘dragon’. The picture below, she pointed out was a ladies ‘breast’. Cute. I would definitely recommend the day if you have time.

If taking a scooter out really isn’t your thing, they have a great swimming pool a short walk or push bike away. I spent a full day lapping up the sun and a couple of late afternoons around the pool- again where they play some great chilled out house music and good food available to order behind the bar.

If you haven’t already established, I fell in love with Pai in a big way. My 2 night stay grew to 5, and I have some amazing memories of the place. Do not over look this beautiful gem…it really is as beautiful as people say, and you really will get sucked in…

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