Pai, Thailand

June 16th, 2007

The LPB has some competition – Pai – my second most favorite spot in SE Asia. Pai is a little town 150km northwest of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, surrounded by clean air, mountains, rivers and waterfalls. The town is small (5,000 peeps?) but growing, plenty of tastee places to eat, sleep, have a drink, get a massage, check internet, or do some trekking adventures. Similar to LPB in that way, altho i found LPB more beautiful and better food. But Pai is better in other ways – more “untouched” (altho getting crowded), more friendly tourists, smaller so you end up running into same people over and over (i say good, but can be bad). According to a local Pai real estate agent, 60% of the people living in Pai are not from Pai – that includes expats (farang) as well as non-Pai Thai peeps. It was basically undiscovered till the last few years, and especially after being referenced in a Thai movie, its growing like crazy now.

The price point for me was the best in SE Asia. I found a place i really enjoyed staying – Baan Tawan. For $4.50 USD a night (150 baht), i got a big, clean bedroom made out of wood (and smelled like wood and the outdoors, not sewer or cleaning products like most places we stayed). The shared bathroom was also kept clean, with a hot shower big enough to park a car in (most showeres in SE Asia can barely fit one person). Communal space was relaxing – hammocks, a shaded balcony overlooking the river, manicured gardens, and even a mister on the path out to the road. Very nice since it gets quite hot in June.

And the food in Pai made me happy. I found 2 places i went back to repeatedly – Good Life for breakfast and Na’s kitchen for lunch and dinner. Good Life had bagels, pancakes, good coffee, dozens of herbal teas, but mainly a friendly environment – you could actually sit in a swing while having pancakes and fruit salad. And they had free wifi (well, once out of 4 times they made me pay 30 baht). And Na’s kitchen had really tastee dishes for about 30 baht. That’s under a $1 USD. Often i would get two, and a fruit smoothie, and the whole thing is just over $2. And this is a nice little restaurant, clean, wood tables, good people watching. I tried at least 8 things on the menu and most of them were soo delicious i could eat’em again and again. There were other places that were good and cheap, especially street food – for 20 baht i got fried chicken nugget things, rice, stir fried vegies, and a soup. Not bad. I prefered splurging at Na’s. And for 100-200 baht range you get chicken schnitzel, kebabs, falafels, etc. Good for all the Israeli’s that visit Pai. I think they are required to goto Pai after their mandatory military service.

But what kept me in Pai was the stuff to do. Hiking, Biking, Swimming, Elephants, Offroad motorcycles, Cooking classes, massages, and drinking. There’s plenty of people that go just to drink – very easy to drink till sunrise. Take a nap, then goto the big pool, rinse, and repeat. I did that a couple times, but it wears on ya. More fun to bike thru the mountain roads and look at the green hills, wooden huts, blue skies, and puffy white clouds. I really enjoyed my time alone here – i still miss shayna, but if i have to be alone, alone in Pai is the way to go. Here’s some of my favs – PTTM for massage (clean, experienced, strong hands), mushroom shakes at reggae place, Rent mtn bikes for 50baht/day, motobikes (scooters) for 100baht/day (look around), bicycle or motobike to Mo Paeng waterfalls, hike to Mae Yen waterfalls, ride motorcross near Myanmar border with Tip Offroad, Do 1 hour on an elephant (more than that will make your ass sore), Learn a little Pai Cookery, and drink at Phu Pai, Buffalo Exchange, Ting Tong, Bebop, bamboo lounge, and Fubar (last 2 go till dawn).

Besides Pai i spent a couple nights in Chiang Mai, which was nice. I had a nice Italian meal with good red wine (i miss good wine), saw a made-for-tourists boxing match, and ran into an old friend, Pius the jerk. We hung out most of the time, so i didn’t see to much of Chiang Mai. But after Laos, i wasn’t interested in Chiang Mai, i just wanted to go back to the mountains. I’m now in Bangkok and getting ready for India. I got here a couple days ago, got my airplanes sorted, and have a couple more days to chill and reflect. Its weird to be back in Bangkok, the place where i started my SE adventures. I find myself liking different things – i’m done with backpacker land – khao san road here in bangkok. I stayed there the first two nights cuz thats where the bus dropped us off and i was tired. Now i’m staying near the middle of town – i find myself loving these huge malls. There’s like 4 of them all next to each other, all like 7-10 stories with everything you need .. and its air conditioned. Did i mention Bangkok is super hot right now? Over a 100 F most days. Gotta stay inside.

I guess thats it for Pai. As always, check out my pics – a picture is worth a billion words or something like that

Oh, and itinerary is updated (for the last time, really).