Number 2 – Visit Thailand (Two of Clubs) – Monday 29th January
Part 3 – Pai
I understand now why Pai is recognised as the backpacker’s paradise. From the moment we stepped off the minibus, you could just feel the atmosphere: friendly, relaxed, and so laid back. Even the 1.7km walk to our accommodation was enjoyable. We had arrived pretty late from Chiang Mai, and our accommodation was outside of the centre, but the walk there was just beautiful, along country lanes with the most amazing stars shining down on us.
Pai is around 150km north of Chiang Mai, close to the Myanmar border, in the northern Thailand mountains. There is only one road from Chiang Mai to Pai, which takes 3 ½ hours, has 762 turns and isn’t the most comfortable! But as soon as you arrive, you realise how worth it it is. The first thing we realised was the temperature. Arriving at 9pm, and being in the mountains, it was actually cold, to the point where for the first time since being away I had to put my jacket on. This was actually enjoyable, as it meant we could sleep without being overheated. Our accommodation (Pai La Mer) reflected the area we were in as well, with a private bungalow on a sort of campsite. We got ourselves a bit of food and then retired to bed.
Day one – 25th January
We had an early start today. We knew what the plans were – get to the pool and relax! Our first stop was Fat Cat Restaurant, a really beautiful little café style restaurant with bamboo shelters and traditional seating, serving a whole host of healthy organic breakfasts. And what’s more the value for money was incredible, and the coffee was even better! From there we headed to Fluid swimming pool. Entrance was 60THB (around £1.50) including a mat to lie on, and you could come and go as you pleased for the day. The grounds were beautiful; there are hills all around you, no sounds apart from nature, and a decent swimming pool as well. The food and drinks were reasonably priced as well, so it was a great place to spend the day and unwind after the craziness of Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
At the end of the day, we headed back to our accommodation to get cleaned up before heading out to see what the Pai nightlife had to offer. Once again, the atmosphere is very different to the city; everything is in slow motion, and it’s very artsy and geared towards the traveller. As long as you embrace that you will definitely enjoy it. There was live music in a lot of the bars, but definitely check out the Edible Jazz Café. For late night partying, Don’t Cry is a must, really fun place, even if I didn’t rate the music!
Day 2 – 26th January
Ok, I need to start today with an apology. I promised my parents I would stay safe. Today’s activities involved hiring a scooter for the day. So I’m sorry mum and dad, but I promise I did stay safe! Ok, now that’s out of the way – if you ever come to Pai, rent a scooter. Apologise to your parents/significant others afterwards if you need to, but the positives outweigh the negatives tenfold! It’s super cheap (around 150THB/£4 for 24 hours), and the roads are a lot safer than the cities. I have only ever been on a scooter once before, but that was enough to convince the lady I knew what I was doing… until I couldn’t switch the engine on! Still, we overcame that hurdle and I got on my way! I headed southeast out of Pai towards the hot springs and the memorial bridge, not for any reason or with any destination in mind, but just to drive. It was really liberating, and it is seriously some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen. You find yourself having to stop every few minutes just to fully take in your surroundings.
I finally stopped at Pai Canyon. I had read somewhere that this was Thailand’s answer to the Grand Canyon; that is extremely optimistic! But if you set aside those comparisons and just take it for what it is, it is still pretty breath taking. The views are insane, and in the absence of any sort of safety equipment you can feel pretty at risk as you navigate some of the paths. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get back there for sunset because of conflicting plans, but lots of people recommended it, and I think it would be spectacular. Close to here is Pam Bok Waterfall, so that was the next stop. You have to navigate an extremely bumpy road and it feels like there is nothing there. A few times I thought about turning back, but eventually I arrived. This was pretty beautiful, but no chance of jumping off it (sorry 9 of diamonds!).
From here I decided just to ride the scooter with no destination in mind. I ended up riding through little villages, a mini Chinatown which was preparing for Chinese new year, and a host of other places, before seeing a sign for another waterfall. I decided to follow the signs to Mo Paeng waterfall. At first sight I was a little like, ‘oh, that’s it?’, but as I explored the area I fell in love. The waterfall itself is more of a waterslide, and at this time of year, it’s pretty much just a trickle, but the surrounding is so serene. I spent a long time here just taking everything in, and feeling extremely relaxed.
After that, I returned to Pai, dropped off the scooter and headed back to the bungalow. I could have kept it overnight, but I had plans for the Friday, so needed to get it out of my hands. In the evening, we headed back into the centre, where I met up with a few Spanish guys that we had met in Chiang Mai. We played a little bit of cards, and inevitably I showed a few tricks; one involved my favourite piece of jewellery, which completely destroyed everyone. Maybe if you ask nicely, I’ll show you some time. Overall a great day!
Day 3/4/5 – 27-29th January
Unfortunately you’re going to have to read about this in another post; I managed to tick off another thing from my Apocalyst; the 4 of Clubs. Make sure you check back later this week for this, it’s been pretty life changing.
So that was Pai. It’s Sunday evening, and I’m back in the centre for one more night, before heading back to Chiang Mai tomorrow to catch a flight to Krabi. I’m about to head back to the Edible Jazz café as I have heard there’s a pretty good open mic night on a Sunday night and I’m itching to perform again! I’m going to try and combine all of the islands into one post, and that will mark the end of the 2 of Clubs. What an amazing few weeks! Rushed, but incredible. I was right to put Thailand on the Apocalyst; the culture is incredible, it’s so much safer than people make out, the weather is great, and there is so much to see. And I haven’t even finished yet! Bring on the islands!
NB – I’d like to give Pai Phu Fah resort a bonus mention. It’s just outside of town to the south east, on the main road out of Pai. I ended up there twice for breakfast and twice for dinner, and it’s just a beautiful setting, with panoramic views of the mountain. The main bartender is great as well and was more than willing to give advice and help out on more than one occasion. So go check them out!
Carpe that Diem!