Am I in love already?
Yes yes and one big fat yes.
Wait? With a guy? Pffft. Don’t be silly.
Despite meeting a couple of awesome guys where there has been a connection. Unfortunately, no love there.
North of Thailand, 3 hours up from Chiang Mai, up in the mountains lies Pai.
Backpackers paradise. Stoners dream. Food lovers heaven. Nature freaks second home. Hippy central and perfection.
It was love at first sight.
I don’t really plan my travels. I just go with the flow and see what happens. I have a route in mind, however, I go off recommendations, what’s going on, who’s going where and simply wherever the hell I feel like going. My choice is limitless and it feels awesome.
‘You have to go to Pai Leah.’
‘You heard of Pai? It’s ideal ‘
‘Still up in Pai, I can’t leave’
So, after 5 nights in Chiang Mai, I book the crazy bus drive up the twisted mountain roads, 762 curves, around 91 miles on route 1095 and it was one heck of a journey. Not that I felt I was in a great amount of danger, but it is one mad bus ride. Don’t think you’ll get away with it as every drive is as ridiculous as the next. I was prepared from hearing stories, however, I was taken away by the insane views. Driving up to the bright blue sky staring out the window to see unbelievable views of the countless green mountains. Getting closer and closer to the clouds it felt pretty surreal. Luckily I traveled with three Hawaiian dudes I had previously met who I sat with and we kept each other company.
So where/what/who? Pai.
North Thailand. South East Asia.
Pai (ปาย) is a small town near the Myanmar border, about 146 km northwest of Chiang Mai on the northern route to Mae Hong Son. It lies on the Pai River. The town has thesaban tambon status and covers parts of the tambon Wiang Tai of Pai district. With a population of 2,284. slowly becoming one of Thailand hippy, backpacker destination.
What makes one tiny town so good?
I couldn’t imagine I would find such a perfect place.
A vibrant, quirky, relaxed, unique and fabulous town, Pai is different.
I found a hostel, unpacked and called my friend Luke who I met in Bangkok who also arrived in Pai the same day. We ventured out to the night market and it was love at first sight.
The market was filled with cheap local food. Unlimited stalls of noodles, pad-tai, pancakes, fried rice, fresh fruit and more. What I also liked was they provided western food. I don’t mean greasy pizza and burgers. But real fresh local wraps, sushi, cakes, crepes, salads, homemade beef burgers, endless fruits and smoothies. For less than £2.00 I indulged in fresh sushi, a scrumptious strawberry smoothie and Luke and I fell in love with a bakery where I paid 50 baht (around 95p) for a huge piece of chocolate and banana cake. Oops.
Surrounded by the lush green mountains filled with waterfalls and jungles this small town was becoming more and more ideal. A stunning stream of water flows down near the bottom of the town with unbelievably beautiful bungalow guesthouses surrounding the fresh fields.
Due to the high demand of buisnesses a lot of the owners are also English and Pai is only growing with tourism which may lead to it getting a lot busier. You go because of recomendations however not everyone knows much about this surreal Thai village and most people find out about this surreal little town until you get out and start traveling and it’s always mentioned somewhere.
It’s the right balance.
Being on a tight budget I was worried this place would rinse me. So much to do, to see, to try, to explore. I was wrong. Again, it’s about getting the balance.
I stayed at two different hostels over 6 nights. Costing around 180 baht (£3.45) (less then 7 australian dollars) for a 14 bed mixed dorm. Both hostels had wifi, a pool, one hostel had a puppy pit with new born bulldogs. A bar serving cocktails and food, a treehouse with cushions, hammocks and mattress, yoga classes, circus classes, warm showers, and help from staff for all sorts.
I’m spending less then £10 a day on my hostel, smoothies, iced coffee, fruit, some type of street food for dinner and sometimes petrol for my moped. Depending on which city and what else I want to do I may be spending more on certain activities but there is so much to do for free. So many stunning drives, waterfalls, mountains to climb and temples and large buddhas to see. The hot springs cost me £3, my weed cost £10, my ped was £2 a day and any thing else I was extra careful with budgeting.
Huge bottles of cold water from the small supermarket 7/11 is 14 baht (8p) and if you need to buy toiletries, toilet paper etc it’s also very cheap. A large bottle of Chang beer is around 60 baht in most places which is just more then £1. Yoga classes and mediation groups can be found for 100 baht which is just less then £2. Talented tattoo parlours offering traditional bamboo and regular guns can be anywhere and will be cheaper then back at home.
Most places I’ve visited in Thailand have similar prices however for such a marvellous town where I could easily see myself staying, it’s nothing campered to home.
Feeling comfortable travelling solo, despite making so many new wonderful friends, there were people about. Wondering around in baggy vests, oversized travelling pants, dreadlogs, riding around Motorbikes and scooters. Everyone was getting on with there adventures. I felt as though I could fit right in.
The air was mild but the humidity from the daylight sun was slightly warming. Currently it’s mid December and it can get quite chilly at night. Especially if you’re coming from Cambodia and Loas and places like Bangkok. Fortunately they sell second hand jackets and hats which is actual quite funny to drive buy and see everyone buying warm coats to drive around in at night.
From there is history….
During my stay:
I wake up everyday with no idea what I’m doing. Do I want to drive up through the secret twisty roads and take in breathtaking views, do I want to go lie by the pool and soak up the sun or shall I wonder around the town and treat myself to a fabulous Thai massage for £3.
How about meet up with friends for lunch for less then a £1 and chill together watching the sunset.
Do I head to a reggae bar and roll a joint or 4.
Wonder around cafes and care for puppies and meet the locals.
Sit sipping sweet coffee and treat myself to the huge variety or cakes and pastries at the local bakery or shall I just disappear someone quite and blog like I’ve chosen to do today.
One of my favourite things is to put my headphones in, roll a joint and lie in the hammock and meet friendly and interesting people from all over the world.
When you’re travelling you can do these types of things all the time.
Never the less, there’s something about Pai. The people, the atmosphere, the vibes and lifestyle is so mellow and positive. So convinent and easy it’s hard not to just settle here.
Feeling so close to nature, yet managing to find hot showers, warm double bed bungalows, large cheap dorms. Having cheap but amazing foods or splashing out on fresh fish and cocktails it’s the perfect balance.
Meet fascinating people. Chill the heck out. Lay in the sun. Trek through the jungle. Swim in the waterfalls. Bathe in the hot springs, ride through the mountains. Indulge at night. Wonder down the stunning stream or just drink smoothies and lie in a hammock. Anything is possible and it’s bloody incredible.
Yes, due to tourists they have restaurants, bars, guest houses and souvenir shops. If you are looking for somewhere low on tourists this may not be the place for you however the people visiting are pretty low budgeting, backpacking, beer drinking, weed smoking peace lovers. I never felt like it was too busy and the places I hung out was just the right amount of people.
I have to continue my trip to my next destination and continue my journey but I will be returning. Whether it’s for a day or a month or a year. I shall be back.
Looking to travel to Pai?
My top places to go :
Sunset bar. •Night market • Mo pang waterfall •Earth tone • Hot springs national park • Edible jazz •
Been to Pai?
Comment below and let me know your recommendations on where to go.