There seemed to be more people eager to leave Pai than were arriving : had a struggle finding my way off the bus through the crowds getting on! I also had a struggle finding somewhere to stay within my price range : i must have wandered around Pai’s traveller-filled streets for about an hour and asked in about 20 guesthouses, all of which were full. I finally settled upon one (The Swan guesthouse) a little over my budget of 200THB per night but as i basically have my own apartment (missing any kind of furniture in what should be the lounge!) then 250THB isn’t bad considering!
Once i had settled into my accommodation, i took the east road out of Pai, to reach the temple on the hill (Wat Phra Tat Mae Yin) in time for sunset. There are several guesthouses, eateries and quality handicraft shops you pass on the walk out, which are well worth checking out. The view from the temple, of the surrounding valleys, is pretty awesome, especially if you catch it just at the right time as the sun is disappearing behind the clouds, giving the sky a wonderful orange hue.
Today i decided to make the 8km (i’m sure it was more than 8km!) journey up to Nam Tok Mo Paeng waterfall, and stop of at a Lahu and Lisu village on the way back. I’m very relieved now that i decided to hire a bike for the experience, as although it was all uphill on the way there (i ended up pushing my bike for much of the time!), it was a breeze on the bike on the way down! I had to keep my hands on the brakes for the majority of the journey to prevent myself from tumbling rather violently into the nearby rice field!
I’m not sure the waterfall was worth the physical effort it took to finally reach it, but it was a pleasant place to do a spot of sunbathing (you can also swim in the pools if you remember your costume, which i didn’t!) and the scenery along the route up was beautiful : lots of rice fields, banana trees and sugar cane plantations in lush green valleys. I failed to locate the Lahu village and there were more Lisu people in Pai than there were in the Lisu village! Moreover, it wasn’t the kind of village prepared for tourists so i didn’t feel comfortable playing voyeur and snooping around in these people’s lives. So i returned the bike and spent the remainder of the afternoon perusing Pai’s art shops.
This evening there was a powercut in town so all the streets were candlelit, creating a lovely peaceful atmosphere. However, businesses continued as normal : shopowners served by candlelight, restauranters cooked by candlelight, the only traders made redundant were the internet cafes! I had a delicious meal, eaten by the light of the oil lamp on the table before me, at Ginger’s house, a vegetarian restaurant just off Ratchadamnoen Road. The only sounds around were the odd motorbike passing at the top of the street and the quiet conversation between travellers at the tables beside me.
After my meal, as i wandered down to Edible Jazz to savour a nice cold beer Chang whilst writing a few postacards, the power was briefly re-instated. I say briefly because after about an hour the skies opened and it poured with rain! It hasn’t rained in Thailand since September! Subsequently, this downpour knocked the power off again, so i continued to write my postcards in candlelight while i waited for the rain to stop. It didn’t, and the ground was still wet this morning . . .
Pai corner. Owned by a Thai/German couple. Cool, chilled out atmosphere and the best green curry i’ve tasted to date. Perfect consistency, perfect spiciness, perfect almalgamation of flavours, and they serve it with sliced banana which compliments the spiciness of the dish
Ginger’s House. Owned by an Australian guy. It’s a vegetarian restaurant, all dishes served with brown rice (which makes a refreshing change), the veg/fruit juice mixes sound really tasty (unfortunately i couldn’t try one due to the powercut), and the food is delicious. The place has loads of character and all seating is on the floor Japanese style.
Edible Jazz. Lovely setting just off the road and surrounded by bamboo gardens. Chilled out staff, chilled out atmosphere, chilled out tunes.
All About Coffee. Huge variety of real Thai coffee, as well as teas, the iced variety of both, and fruit & yoghurt shakes.
Mitthai Art Shop. Quality and unusual postcards and prints and customised handmade t-shirts & pants. The shop next door (the name escapes me) sells much of the same, and both are well worth a look.
Final thoughts on Pai
Pai, in my opinion, isn’t the place to come if you want to do anything particularly constructive (the treks offered are pretty much the same as you’d get in Mae Hong Son and Mae Saraing but with many more tourists (so i’m told!)). However, if you want to spend your days perusing art galleries and sipping coffee (and it’s real coffee, none of that nescafe s**t!) or fruit shakes and watching the world go by, or sampling some of the tastiest food in Thailand and soaking up some real music (Pai has an excellent live music scene) then pay Pai a visit and you may end up staying longer than you’d planned.
Photo is of the sun setting over the valleys outside Pai, viewed from Wat Phra Tat Mae Yin