BootsnAll Travel Network

Life of Pai

I returned to my guesthouse after writing the last blog entry and proceeded to become slightly ill. I spent the night suffering from nauseau and a very upset stomach. In the morning the upset stomach was mostly gone, but I was still dizzy. I had thought about postponing going to Pai ,but decided to give it a try anyway. I left most of my bags at my guesthouse since I was coming back anyway and set off walking to the bus station with my small backpack. I had plans to get a lift, but as with everywhere in Asia white face means overcharge and I was halfway to the bus station before I finally found someone to take me for a reasonable price. I could have finished the walk myself, but as I said, I was feeling a bit ill. At the bus station I bought a ticket for the 10:30 bus. The bus wasn’t crowded and I had a seat to myself. We left on time and much to my head’s delight we went to Pai along what must be one of the windiest roads in Thailand. The trip was pretty, going through lots of mountains and forest but I saw only bits of it as I tried to sleep as much as I could. The 130 km trip took about 4.5 hours due in no large part to all the stopping. Sitting in the seat in front of me was an Australian lady named Dominique. We spoke a bit but I probably wasn’t the best company. By the time we got to Pai, I was feeling better, somewhat due to the sleep I had gotten on the bus. Dominique had some recommendations on where to stay and since I had left my guidebook behind I went with her. We walked down the main tourist street of Pai which ended at a small bamboo bridge over the river. Across the bridge were many bamboo and leaf bungalows. Most of the ones directly on the river lacked porch hammocks, so I immediately ruled them out. We found some a bit further back set around a large circle. They had their own bathrooms. We checked in and laid about on the hammocks for a while before going back into town to eat.

Pai is a small community of about 3000 people. Despite it being in a pretty, but not super spectacular setting, it has managed to become a major westerner draw. The town sits in a broad valley with small mountains on either side. The surrounding countryside is full of rice paddies. It has become a hangout for artists, hippies, and tourists. There is a large live music scene and plenty of internet cafes, restaurants and bars. The main tourist part of town sits a bit back from the river with many accomodations across the river in what was once rice fields.  The river was quite low this time of year as it is getting late into the dry season now.

 After laying around a bit, Dominique and I went back across the river to eat and then went to a bar (Retox) run by an English guy. We sat around there for a while and visited. We decided to return to our bungalows at around 11:00 pm as I wasn’t still 100%. The next morning we decided to rent a motorcyle to see some of the sights around the town. We found a place that had 125cc bikes for about $3 per day for rent. I did all the driving that day as Dominque didn’t feel she could drive one that well. We first set off down a steep dirt road to find a waterfall. The waterfall turned out to be about 2 feet tall and a few inches wide as the stream had already dried up. After driving down the road a bit more to look at a nearby village, we returned to the main highway where we began to look for some hot springs that were supposed to be in the area. We finally found a sign pointing the way to a national park. At the entrance we were told that we would have to pay 200 baht to get to the springs which were supposed to only cost 50. We decided to give up on the springs until we saw a lady who told us that the 50 baht spring was actually run by a private spa down the road. The hot spring water had been channeled by pipe into a swimming pool. We changed and got in. Unfortunately, it was not as nice as it could have been as the day was already very hot. Leaving the springs we rode on further visiting a wat and trying to visit another waterfall. We gave up on this waterfall as it required a 6 km hike in and out. I didn’t really feel like walking so long to see a waterfall especially since you couldn’t swim at this one. Heading back into town, we went to a massage place to try a Shan massage. The Shan are local people that live in the area and this massage is described as an aggressive Thai massage (as if someone walking on you isn’t aggressive enough already). What sold me on this one was that it focuses more on your back and neck instead of lots of legwork. The massage was as advertised and seemed more like a yoga session than  a massage with the lady using body leverage to twist my legs and arms into unusual positions. When it came time for my feet she curled my toes foward making all five toes give a loud simultaneous crack (not my favorite part of the massage). Feeling exhausted from the massage, I spent the next hour or two on the hammock to recover.

That night feeling better, Dominique and I ate lunch from the food vendors that line the street. There are many selling corn, grilled meats, noodles, etc. We had Pad Thai and a couple of  kabobs from a grill. While eating I nearly jumped out of my chair when I felt a sudden and furry rubbing on my arm. I first thought it was a very large insect, but upon looking down found that a large dog had decided to help himself to a free pet.  He was rubbing his head under my arm.  We then went out again to see the night scene of Pai. We first went to the Ting Tong Bar to watch a fire show, and then bar hopping with people we met until finally ending up at the Bamboo Bar. I finally got to sleep around 3:30 am.

The next morning, I finally got out and about around 11:00 am. Dominique was going to spend the day at a gym/pool that we had seen during our motorcyle rides. I went into town to eat and then joined her a few hours later. I swam a bit at the pool and read, but left after about two hours. I returned to my bunagalow to read some more and then set off on a walk in the fields behind where I was staying. I passed a Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) training center. Most of the people practicing kicks seemed to be foreigners. The fields beyond the center were now dry and brown and had several Brahma bulls happily munching away on rice. I decided to eat on the street again that night. I found a lady grilling sweet potatoes and bought one. I also got a large ear of roasted corn, some fried pork, and more of the kabobs. After eating, I ran into to Dominique again. We decided to try to find a party that we had heard about the night before while out. There was a foreigner who was a party planner at home, and had decided to throw his own party where he was staying. We finally found it across the river where we were staying. He had a fire set up. There was a small bar run by a Thai lady that usually set up shop further up the river. She had heard about the party and decided to close her bar and move down to the party so she could mix business with pleasure. Some firetwirlers (seems to be the thing here) showed up  and did a show. They were actually much more impressive than what I had seen the night before.  Many of the people at the party I recognized from the night before. (Pai is small enough that after a few days you recognize many of the people walking around.) A Swedish guy from the night before showed up wrapped in bandages. He had taken a nasty fall from his motorbike. He had to go to the hospital and they gave him some antibiotics and painkillers. As he was drinking heavily, he asked me if he should take the painkiller. I told him I couldn’t say without knowing what it was, which he didn’t. (After telling people that my job involved pharmaceuticals, I sometimes get asked for medical advice. I have to explain that I just help make some specific drugs. My knowledge doesn’t extend to pharmacology.) He decided on taking the pain killer and spent the rest of the party looking quite dazed. I once again got to bed around 3:30 am. The party went on much longer, I think.

I once again had a late start that morning. This day was pretty uneventful with more looking around the town and hammock reading. In the evening, I decided to recreate my street stall experience from the night before and again ate roasted corn and sweet potatoes.  I had decided to have an early night that evening as I had been out the previous two nights and wanted to catch an early bus back to Chiang Mai the next day. Alas, it was not to be. Aftering meeting Dominique for a drink, we were handed a paper by the Swedish guy (again on the motorbike banadages and all) about a birthday party at the Ting Tong Bar for a Canadian guy who had decided to throw himself a party. We went to the bar and arrived at the time of the cake. A little while later the Thai bartender (from now on known as Mod which is her name) showed up. She felt bad about not remembering me from the night before despite having a long conversation about her upcoming move to the US. She claimed alcohol and meeting lots of people. A little later as I was about to bow out and go home, Mod said a group of people were going to another bar with live music and convinced me to come. At the new bar an acoustic band was playing what seemed a cross of Irish jig and Celtic music (maybe they are the same??). They were quite good and I spent about an hour there dancing. At one point, I was doing my best attempt at a jig with a Chinese girl. (One of those odd cultural fusion moments that traveling provides.) After the band quit, we went back to Ting Tong which had now been converted into a club. They were mostly playing techno which gets old really quick for me, so for the second time I decided to try to make an exit. Again Mod put a halt to my plans saying that she also didn’t like the music and was going to the Bamboo Bar and that I should come, quite persistently, so I relented and off we went. I stayed at the Bamboo Bar until about 2:00 am when I finally decided I really was going home this time. A whole night of dancing and the previous nights had worn me out. I held firm despite repeated attempts by several people to get me to stay. I told Mod that I had to stop by the 7/11 to buy water before going to sleep. She decided to leave, too and walked with me as she lived that way. After leaving the store, I walked her all the way home and then headed off to bed myself.

I managed to get up about 8:00 am this morning as I had to catch a bus. Going into town for breakfast, I found Dominique who was also leaving and we were on the same bus. At 10:30 am, we boarded the bus and began the trip back to Chiang Mai. The trip back was much faster, but I again spent much of it trying to sleep. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, Dominique and I parted. I went back to the guesthouse I had stayed at before, retrieved my bags, and got a room. I then set off to type this blog entry. Tomorrow, I will catch a train to Bangkok where I will stay until March 15 when I fly to Cairo.


1. I have uploaded Cambodia and Laos pictures. There are a lot in one folder, but it would take too long and be difficult to seperate them all out here. They are in order, though.

2. I saw lots of motorcyle injuries in Pai. Much more than in other areas where people rent bikes. I don’t know why as the roads are good. Many people were walking around with joints wrapped in bandages and large patches of skin gone from various appendages.

2. The blog hasn’t been full of a lot of rip roaring action lately, but my time in Asia is winding down and I am just taking it easy. My trip to Egypt should be back to my old standards as I am on a package tour which means my days will be full. I even plan to do a balloon ride over Luxir.

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One Response to “Life of Pai”

  1. Heidi Says:

    I was looking at the photos, and I saw the one of the man’s back with the effects of hot cupping. How cool! This is one of the things they teach us in medical school under “ethnic practices that look bad but are not considered child abuse,” but I’ve never actually seen it before. There’s another Asian one called “coining.” that I’ve never seen either. I grabbed the photo off Flickr, and I’m going to bring it to our next derm conference for show and tell!

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