Little Slice of Pai
Pai, a small town in Northern Thailand seems to be on every backpacker’s list these days. Although I’d spent more time down South than I’d planned, I knew I wanted to see the town even if only for 4 days.
From Ubon Ratchathani, I took a 16 hour night bus to Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. My favourite part of the trip.. watching a hilarious Vietnamese movie. No English subtitles, but I had fun trying to guess the story line based on body language. I laughed at the same time as everyone else on the bus, so I think I got it! From Chiang Mai, I opted to go straight to Pai, as I had heard so much about the town and knew I’d be coming back to Chiang Mai for Songkran in April. The mini-bus ride from Chiang Mai to Pai was like being on a roller coaster… for three hours. In total, there’s 762 curves, up and down, side to side. It’s so common for people to get sick on the trip that the drivers give out bags to each row. Thankfully, neither of my trips needed them!
Sadly, my time in Pai did not go as planned. On my second day there, I had a bad fall, which meant I spent the next 2 days on best rest while I healed.
I loved my stay at this hostel. The first night I booked a private room, because I figured I wouldn’t sleep well on the overnight bus. I slept better than I thought, but it was still lovely to have a private space. After that night I moved into the dorms. At first, I didn’t like the lack of nighttime atmosphere and found it hard to meet other travelers. Once I fell though, this place became my sanctuary. A 5 minute scooter ride of of town, this place was very quite, and surrounded a beautiful lagoon. The dorms were a great set up, 3 beds and a bathroom upstairs, and a bunk bed and bathroom downstairs. As I didn’t have a person above me, it felt like I had a private space, with built in friends up the stairs if I needed anything! Charlie, the owner, is beyond amazing. He picked me up from the hospital, brought me food in bed, drove me into town to do my laundry and even helped translate and get me 500 baht back from the scooter rental. If you’re looking for a party place, Pai Laguna isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a quiet space, beautiful setting and an amazing owner, this is your place!
Meeting Old Friends
My first night in Pai, I was feeling a bit down and missing the community spirit I felt on Koh Phayam. I wasn’t in the party mood, but there was no one in the hostel common space, so I figured I’d just spend the night writing. Then – in stepped Lek! He saw that another guest from Rabbit Bungalow was staying in Pai. It was Matthieu, the awesome French guy who taught me how to ride my scooter. I immediately messaged him and we met up for some delicious food in town.
Every night, Pai transforms. Vendors bring their carts and food, and the tourists come in swarms. I personally didn’t love it, as I’m not buying any gifts or souvenirs until the end of my trip. I enjoyed the people watching though! And what I really loved was the food. For less than $1-2 CND, you could sample 3 or 4 different stands. So delicious. I had spring rolls, falafels, gyoza, strawberries and grilled pork. It was far cheaper and more entertaining for me than going into a restaurant. Plus.. doughnuts…
Day in the Life
I spent my first full day in Pai catching up on my blog posts, and enjoying being still after a busy week with Lek. Pai seems to be the place to go if you just want to relax and do nothing. That seems to be what most people were also there for, which I could appreciate. It’s one of the things I liked about Pai.
Pam Brok Waterfall
After a full day of blogging, I hopped on my scooter and headed out of town. I didn’t have any plans of where I’d go, I just wanted to explore. I ended up visiting a small waterfall. For me, the more exciting part was crossing a bridge that I was pretty sure would fall immedistely if I stepped in the wrong place. It was near sunset so I had it almost to myself, there was only one other couple there. The woman was terrified of going too high, but her boyfriend and I both encouraged her, and in the end we all go to the waterfall. She kept thanking me, once she let go of the death grip she had on my hand!
I really wanted to explore Pai Canyon, a place where a farmer turned his biggest nightmare into a tourist attraction. He woke up one morning to discover a small earthquake had split his land. He eventually started inviting people to see it, created a pathway, and would bring fresh fruits while you hung out in the hammock. All he asks for in return is for you to donate whatever you feel it was worth. Unfortunately, I got there just as he was leaving for the day. A couple suggested that I come back the next day, and wear good runners because my flip flops would be dangerous over some of the terrain. Unfortunately because of my fall, I never made it back but it looks amazing!
Friday, February 3
On a suggestion from one of my dorm mates, I went into town for breakfast and discovered a well loved tourist spot. Om Cafe was definitely worth the hype! Thankfully I got there around 10:30, because by 11, every table was full of hung over backpackers. Because of that, I had a lovely German guy sit down to join me in breakfast. I’d planned to be there for an hour or so to work on my blog, but we ended up chatting for over an hour and half. I ended up having lunch there as well, a beet, avocado and pesto sand which was delicious!! By the time I got back to the hostel, I decided I’d watch the sun set at the hot springs spa that Aya recommended. Thank goodness I left early as the google address for this place was wrong. After finding the right address on their Facebook page, I headed off again. Thank goodness I stuck with it, because the reward was a stunning view. I had the first 45 minutes or so to myself. I spent most of the time talking to my new friend, Apple. I commented on her awesome “Super Mom” shirt and then we became fast friends. She had come to Pai to drop her 24 year old son off to be one of the 4 onsite monks. They run meditation retreats every weekend, and she loved it so much she was thinking of staying with him. As a few other people came, they mostly stuck to the hot pools. I loved swimming, well floating, in the large cold pool, looking up at the sky as the light fell away and the stars and moon shone bright above me. It was so peaceful and relaxing. I loved it. Then my peace ended. I had just finished showering and getting dressed when I slipped in their shower. My left leg went to one corner and my right to the other. This body is not capable of doing the splits under normal circumstances. I heard pops in my hips and my right knee and before I knew it I was face first on the floor, terrified. Thankfully, there was another woman in there, who immediately came to my aid, and I asked her husband to go find the owner and Apple. After some of the shock wore off, and a quick internal assessment, I let them help me up. Thankfully, nothing was broken. I was pretty sure I’d sprained my knee a bit as it was already swelling, but I could walk. I was so grateful for the Universe bringing Apple into my life as I knew I had a friend, and someone who could translate for me as needed. The next hour showed me how amazing Thai people are. A volunteer police officer happened to be there, and was leaving at the same time, so he offered to drive me to the hospital just to get checked out. I’d texted Lek and asked him to be on standby in case I needed a translator. The lovely, English speaking, doctor looked up my resort phone number and helped me call the owner. Charlie came right away to pick me up, and even stopped to get me dinner at his favourite restaurant. I didn’t stray far from my bed for the next two days. Did you know you use your hips with almost every movement? I sure do.. because all I can say is OW. I was quickly regretting not taking the doctor’s offer of stronger pain medication. Thankfully, with a lot of rest (and patience!) I could slowly make my way around again. Which I was grateful for, because I had bought a ticket to Hanoi, Vietnam before leaving Canada and I was eager to continue my trip!
I didn’t love Pai at first. There were too many tourists for me and it felt like fake Thailand after spending 3 days in Ubon, where I’d go all day without seeing another white person outside our group. Each day I felt a little more at home, and the relaxed vibe of the city started to resonate with me in a new way. I was truly touched by the generosity and care I received in Pai. I think, had I not injured myself, I would have grown to like it even more.
There is so much more that I’d wanted to explore… the slide waterfall, the coffee bean place, the beautiful idyllic countryside that I’d read about. As I left Pai, pumped up on extra strength Tylenol, I told myself I’d be back. There was something about this town that intrigued me, and I want to come back to explore.