So Pai, its a sleepy, almost comatosed town up in the mountains a few hours drive from Chiang Mai. There is nothing really there but some hippies set up shop there in the 70s, combined with the local Thais and a mosque in the middle so it has a very chilled but distinctive vibe to it and is very much on the backpacker circuit. Also rather randomly it is also very popular with Chinese tourists due to a popular chinese film- Lost in Thailand- based in Northern Thailand. It is also worth noting the temperature drop of about 5°C, making it a much more comfortable temperature.
My main reason for going here was to go to the circus school and hang out do some fire, hoop and poi and a bit of slack-lining. Unfortunately we met too many backpackers who basically said to avoid it unless you wanted to hang out in a pool with a load of people with open wounds (from bike accidents or infected bites) smoking weed and getting drunk and not doing much of anything else. It quickly lost its appeal. Anyway we decided it was worth the trip and the journey to it as the road there was amazing 762 curves.
To get there you can hire a moped from AYA Service in Chiang Mai as one way hire, they do a bus so you can send your luggage on ahead and collect it in Pai leaving you free to enjoy the drive up. A perfect arrangement (and only 180 B +40 B insurance) ! We had attempted to reserve a bike but they didn’t have any so we had to call on the Monday and see if any had made the way back to Chiang Mai. Luckily when we called in the morning there were a few but they couldn’t reserve for us so we hot footed it down to the office and booked a bike. Then the fun started. The bike we wanted didn’t work so we had to swap to another, no big deal, then we tried to get a helmet. There was a choice of 6- two were horrifically cracked, 2 were way to small and 2 way to big. Despite kicking up a fuss and delaying our trip for an hour to see if a safe helmet would show up none did and we had to go as we were. I padded mine out with my Buff and strapped it on as tight as it would go. Not the safest. Normally the helmets are a bit big but they were even big on Gav!
Anyway off we went, the first hour or so is just straight motorway past Mae Rim then we got onto the road, it was quite fun to drive (or be a passenger) as we weaved our way up the mountain.
The map that AYA gave us had some tourist stops on the way such as a waterfall (200B/pax entry- drove to the office, had a coke and drove off, we hadn’t planned on swimming just looking and not for 200 B ($6) each), the next stop was a geyser. Sounded cool and we’d both not seen one in ages! So at the turn off we headed down the road at the sign which indicated that it was 13 km away. The road quickly disintegrated and became quite treacherous in places, including two ridiculously sleep slopes of gravel and a tree blocking most of the road.
When we finally arrived at the entrance to the geyser we were greeted with this slap in the face sign:
Had we planned to go into the national park for the day for a hike (not recommended in rainy season) and visiting the hot springs we wouldn’t have minded so much but again for a trip probably lasting 15-30 mins for something that we weren’t that bothered about to begin with we promptly turned on our heels and left.
Anyway other than these minor diversions the drive was great fun! Our only issue came in the last 40 km when, due to our off road dalliances up and down steep roads, we had began to run low on fuel! Then there was no petrol station or roadside seller for miles until we got into Pai. With a numb arse and praying for downhill slopes we eventually found an automated petrol kiosk by the Memorial Bridge.
Eventually we arrived in Pai, handed in our bike, collected our bags and got a taxi to our guesthouse as we had no idea where it was. A lovely secluded and remote spot of Misty View Guesthouse a 20 min walk from the town and we got a free upgrade to the larger wooden stilt houses.
It’s a great little town to wander around, grab some coffee and watch the world go by.
One day we went on a little tour of the local area by moped.
Gav dropped me back and went out for a spin on the bike on his own- as it was a manual it was easier for him to change gears without me on the back- he had a great time going up the road.
Every evening we pretty much went to the market or a local restaurant. After the markets in Chiang Mai, it wasn’t great but enough cheap and tasty eats to give decent variety. While here we had baked potatoes layered high with toppings, health shakes, dessert shakes, juices, smoothies, vegetable gyozas, kebabs, bacon and mushroom wraps (horrendously overpriced), chai tea, samosas, Indian mixed plates and curry wraps, mango and sticky rice and vegetable and meat skewers.
There were also a few nice restaurants- Dungapai (which was staffed by local deaf people, really nice cheap food), Cafe de Pai (burgers were great, good shakes and breakfast) and Charlie and Lek (great fried Banana leaf salad).
All in all it was a good place to relax and prepare ourselves for our next adventure- a week in a Buddhist Monastery.