Pai came highly recommended. Then again, so did Koh Phangan. Some people get stuck in Pai and find it hard to leave. Some people stay for a long, long time. It’s a backpackers dream. I can fully understand how easy it is to overstay here. Pai has its magic.
I stayed here for four nights. I could have stayed longer. Pai isn’t full of wonderful culture and isn’t loaded with an interesting history. It’s not a Hampi. But it does have lots of backpackers. Cool backpackers. Not the Koh Phangan dickhead variety either. And it has lots to do. Plus it’s relatively cheap.
Pai has many restaurants and quirky bars, shops and stalls. The pace of life is relaxed and slow. The whole town was designed to cater for back packers needs. At a guess, tourists out number the locals. But this doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Pai has got the balance right. The scenery and mountains surrounding Pai town give endless options for day trips on a scooter or bicycle. Internet and WiFi is easily available. 7/11’s make drinking cheap. Accommodation is cheap and offers cute little bamboo huts in a back packer friendly environment. Hammocks galore. Chill out areas. Socially focused. Pai tends to every need.
The mini bus took me through the mountains, through 770 curves and into the beauty of Pai. Thailand is beautiful. I arrived to find the backpacking gods had given me a little present, long time traveler champions, Guy and Tim. Before I knew it, I was signed in to the mini Glastonbury style living quarters down by the river called ‘Giants’. I met some Kiwi’s, an Argentinian, some British, even a northerner, some Ozzies, a German, some Dutch, the list goes on…
We drank in the cool and hip bars of Pai. I felt at home immediately. Everyone was proper nice. Chang’s ahoy.
Living in Giants was easy. A comfy mattress in a bamboo hut, with a mosquito net. Basic but comfortable. Outside was a kitchen area with free drinking water, tea and coffee. This was the social meeting point. There were PC’s with free Internet use. Tables and chairs surrounded the living area for the family who owned Giants. There was a large field with a bar and chill out area by the river. Bamboo huts scattered the grounds. It was quiet here. Tranquil. You could party as well as sleep. Perfect.
On the first day in Pai we struck up a friendship with the local football team. There was a slightly rough looking full sized pitch next door to Giants and we were invited for a game. Thailand v The Rest of the World. We played a strong and sometimes heated game at times and lost triumphantly, 5 – 0. OK the result sounds worse than what it was. In truth it was a fair and challenging game. One irate Dutch player fouled and wound up every Thai person on the pitch. Maybe he’d inherited his nations blood thirsty playing style they displayed against the Spanish in the World Cup final. We thought it may get out of hand but the peace was kept. Tim’s constant overly passionate shouting made my day. Especially when Guy was the focus of his outbursts. My ‘Pheobe from Friends’ style running amused the masses, I still have no idea what they are talking about. Meanwhile, their team of 11 seemed to grow into 17 without a single sub being made. Players were added and taken away regularly. Only when the pitch got crowded did we twig onto their tactics.
After two nights of football without a goal, we suddenly got lucky. I lobbed a route one ball down the middle for Ireland striker Rory to chase, neatly dink past the keeper and slot in from close range. Our first goal provided a moment of pure ecstasy. A mass of happy smiling back packers had spent hours of gut busting hard work for this moment. We’d done it. A goal. And I won’t let any of you forget who provided the assist.
The Thai players were strong and demanded respect. I liked them. We bonded. When the national anthem was played at 6.30pm every night we had to stop and stand still, as a sign of respect. They liked our participation. The Dutch fella didn’t play game. Twat.
Dressing myself one morning I found a gekko in my bag. Slippery little bugger scared the life out of me and it proved to be one of many meetings I was to have with these little four legged fellas. Pai seemed to house a fair few of them.
Hiring a scooter cost £4 a day. I had one for three days and explored Pai’s mountains and surroundings.
The growing Giants family drove out to the Mor Paeng waterfall for an eventful days activities. Firstly I cannon balled into the pool and smashed my left arse cheek on a rock on the bottom of the water (which still gives me problems now, three months afterwards). Then an Irish girl slipped on the rock and fell half way down the waterfall. This waterfall was the lower one that no body dared to slide down. She got stuck. It looked painful. It took thirty odd people and two brave local lads twenty minutes to save the startled girl.
Meanwhile, someone was stealing Pedro’s wallet and phone. While trying to solve the ‘how do we get this girl out of the waterfall and to safety’ mystery, an American girl asked me the question, ‘were you that guy from last night?’
Now I double looked her and hope to God we didn’t have any form of romantic relationship, in any form. Admittedly, I was a little tipsy the night before and my memory was short, but surely I would have remembered an encounter with a particularly unattractive American chick. Luckily for me, we didn’t get involved romantically. In fact, according to her, I’d shouted at her. We’d had an argument and I’d told her she was a stupid republican twat. Weird, because I’m not fully understanding of what being a Republican is all about.
I felt bad. I don’t usually shout at any one. I’m Mr Nice Guy. I was gutted. Even more so when I realise she was hanging out with a bunch of hot chicks I’d been talking to. After the waterfall, the Giants family jumped on our scooters and headed towards the hot springs, with the hot chicks, who all thought I was a grade A knob for abusing their mate. Class.
That evening, we chilled out and dipped in the pool. Good times were had. When in the toilet, I almost urinated on a large gekko who’d found a resting spot in one of the urinals. I screamed momentarily, like a girl.
The signs in the hot springs were hilarious. I’d seen a lot of signs with dubious English spelling, but these ones win hands down.
I spent all that day feeling awful about how I’d behaved last night. It was only after the pool that night, at the Rasta Bar, that I found out it was actually Ben that abused this crazed yank and not me. I was not guilty. False identity. I’d also been told by trustworthy sources, that she had asked for her verbal drilling as she was acting a spoiled and opinionated, pompous twat. She had many outbursts about how everyone in the world hated her because she was American. She had serious issues. Everybody hated her because she was a self obsessed muppet. Some people need to learn a lesson when the behave in an inappropriate manner. I wish I had shouted at her. But by this time it was too late, the hot chicks who were previously ‘Team Michael’ had moved onto someone hotter and less argumentative than me and my chances with any of them were lost. Thanks you Republican twat.
The team at Giants were cool. Clive had lived at Giants for over three months and organised a BBQ one night. To his surprise, 51 people paid and signed up. Needless to say it was an epic BBQ, I was surrounded by nice peoples.
During my time at Giants I mastered the butt gun. A notable change in my toilet habits. Enough said.
There was a swimming pool in Pai. This place also took over two hours to produce my club sandwich. It was nice to chill out at a pool, but not so nice to be starving.
One day saw a sober Tim and I hit the road on the scooters while everyone else slept off their hangovers. Tim drives like a girl and has a long history of smashing up motorbikes in Thailand. I knew I had to be on my guard. However, Tim proved me wrong and put in a sterling shift whilst we manoeuvred Pai’s surrounding beauties.
We came across a little Chinese village, which had been built specifically for us tourists. The village was full of colourful lanterns and bizarre and very empty looking shops. The highlight of this treasure in the mountains was a massive plastic Chinese castle. A strange construction that baffled us as to it’s uses. The 25B charge to use a wooden swing threw us as well. Needless to say, not many tourists were viable. A bizarre little place that has to be seen to be appreciated.
Quirky little parks with miniature houses and view points entertained us for the rest of the morning. The monastery with a row of cock statues produced a short giggle. Cocks as in cockerels.
We drove through the lush mountains, taking in its beauty and stopped in small villages to high five the local kids who should have been in school. We found view points and a British style post box.
Elephant treks are big business in Pai so we stopped to say hello to Nelly and his gang. It was fun at first. Fooling around. They tried to lift me up with their trunks.
However, they were chained up. One was trying to loosen his chain around his ankle. I felt bad for the little fellas. People pay big money to ride these guys but in reality, they are kept against their will to make big money for their owners. I made a pact, with myself, not to pay money to any organisation that is cruel to animals, or humans.
That evening we picked up Rory and stumbled across a hilltop temple. A brief walk up to the top and we admired to the views of Pai. We found a little green dude too.
I could have spent many more days driving around. Pai had a lot to offer.
Western food restaurants were everywhere. Burger Queen was my favourite. A real burger, real bun, real mayo, real salad, real cheese and real bacon. The chips were homemade beasts served with a handsome dollop of mayo and sweet chilli sauce. Heaven. My guilty pleasure.
My last day in Pai was spent exploring. I went to the beautiful Pambok waterfall first. it was early and I was on my own. I walked up and around the waterfall. A short and peaceful trek.
I then drove through the valleys and small villages. The greenery and fields were lush. The road was dusty, winding and the drive was a pleasure. Rural Thailand away from tourism. I found it at last.
Later that afternoon, after a cheeky visit to Burger Queen, I checked out Pai Canyon. Another Pai beauty, the canyon was overgrown and boasted lush greenery. The views were amazing. I was again alone. I meditated at the top. Blissfully peaceful. And very hot. I reflected on my time here. Enjoyable but not an education, I fell in love with Pai. I could live easily here.
On my way back to base camp, I stopped off at an organic farm where Tim was enjoying fresh dragon fruit, banana crisps, potatoes and farm made wine. No money was asked for, just a donation. How surreal. I then picked up the Argentinian mother of our group Guchie and drove back to get my bus to Laos.
Several goodbyes we’re made. I’d met nice people here. Contact details taken. I was sad to leave but happy to start my Laos adventure. Back to real back packing. Back on the road. One day bus journey through the mountains and two days along the Mekong River by boat. Destination Luang Prabang.