“Eat well before your journey to Pai because the journey will make you feel sick.” Exactly 767 fast bends in the mountainous road later, both us and our bags had made it from Chiang Mai to Pai in separate cars.
Even during the 10 minute walk from the bus station to our hostel I already liked the look of Pai. We dumped our stuff and went a few minutes down the road to walking street which was full of market sellers and street food vendors and, as Pai is so small, it wasn’t too busy. We went to a small restaurant and ordered a dish called Khao Soi which is typical to northern Thailand. It is a noodle curry with crispy noodles on top and it was nice but I left most of the crispy noodles once they had gone soggy.
We went for a few drinks at a bar afterwards which had pretty weird music, occasionally broken up by the black eyed peas. Neither of us fancied staying out too late because we are definitely in granny mode at the moment and always want to be in bed.
Granny mode developed into sloth mode in the morning and just after midday we eventually made it out and walked down to Big’s Little Cafe for a late brunch. Ammun has musli and yoghurt and I had eggs, hash browns, toast and beans. It was so so tasty and the restaurant was set out so that we all sat around the kitchen and could see the care he took when preparing the food.
Once we were fully fuelled, we went back to our hostel and had a major admin day. We got our visas for Myanmar, booked our flights in and out of Myanmar and another hostel. I think Myanmar is going to be the most challenging country to travel in for us because it only opened its borders recently to tourists so we couldn’t enter via land (which would have been a lot more convenient) and we are more exposed to diseases such as cholera, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever which we haven’t been immunised against.
About 5pm, a group of us from the hostel made the small trek up to the big Buddha on the hill for sunset. There was us, Jiri (Czech republic), Joe (S. Korea), Max (Argentina) and Christine (Singapore). It took us around 30 minutes to walk all the way to the top including a quick pit stop for beer. It’s clear that it’s is currently under renovation as everything looks very clean and there is still some scaffolding around but that wasn’t a problem. We stayed at the top for quite a while watching the sun go down over Pai.
On the way back we stopped for some dinner together and asked a lot of questions about each others’ cultures and what it’s like to be a 20 something year old in our country. We walked back through the market on the way home where I stopped to buy my new favourite Thai dish, mango sticky rice, Ammun got a crepe and we all got some beers to drink back at the hostel where we met a German guy called Mario and we all stayed up talking together for ages.
Once again, the two sloths stayed in bed til midday and then emerged to get another late lunch. Ammun had eggs and avocado (even though we’d been told the day before there was a countrywide shortage of avo) and I had pancakes with syrup, chocolate sauce, mango, watermelon, apple and banana. We washed it down with an orange juice and iced mocha and then spent another day trying to work out what we wanted to get out of Pai.
One thing a lot of people had told us about Pai was that we needed to hire motorbikes to be able to be able to get around anywhere so we were brave and went and found somewhere to hire one each. After signing away our lives and our money and trying on every single helmet before settling for one that was still a little bit too big for my small pea head, we were ready to go. As neither of us had ever been on bikes before, we were given a 10 minute lesson by one of the staff. She drove us on the back of one of the bikes to a nearby field and then talked us through the bike and showed us how it all works. I had a go first and did about 5 loops of the small bumpy track. Although I always felt safe and secure on the bike, I found it really hard to get the acceleration right as my hand kept moving every time I went over a bump.
Next, Ammun had a go. As I mentioned in my blog about Luang Prabang, she has only just learned how to ride a normal bike and even on that she’s not very comfortable turning corners. Sadly, motor biking just wasn’t for Ammun. The lady suggested that I ride and Ammun goes on the back with me so we did a few laps together and it was only but we decided I wasn’t confident enough to be responsible for both mine and her safety. Luckily, the company was nice enough to give all our money back.
To pass the time, we found ourselves wandering through a bookshop. There were so many books there and I think we looked at every single spine in the room. I enjoyed looking at the classics section and I was impressed at how many I had heard of or read. It made me very motivated to go back and read my kindle as I knew I had downloaded Gone Girl a long time ago but never read it.
Once sunset was coming, we decided to get some beers and sit by the river that we had seen on the way to the field. It was slightly away from all the tourist areas so it was us and a load of local kids who were just playing in the river having the best time ever. We couldn’t really see the sunset but we felt very relaxed, just chilling.
For dinner we went to get some street food and we shared a big potato cheese ball with all the sauces and then I had a BBQ chicken skewer and more mango sticky rice and Ammun had pad Thai. That evening, my phone wouldn’t connect to the wifi for hours so I took the advantage and started reading Gone Girl in bed. Once it did pick up, I skyped mum for a bit and then went to sleep.
The next day we changed hostel because neither of us had been sleeping well in the last one and we wanted a change of scene. We tried to go to Big’s Little Cafe again but were distraught to find that it was closed and we couldn’t have the paninis we had been talking about all morning. Instead we went to the cafe across the road where we were served by the most happy, cheery woman ever. We both got paninis and mine had chicken, bacon, tomato and mozzarella which are two of my favourite combinations put together!
As it was still to early to check in to our new hostel, we went to a different cafe called I’m Fine Cafe. We tried to rethink our plans that all involved motorbikes. As we were sat there, a couple walked in and sat on the table next to us. She was on crutches with a bandage on her knee, a bandage on her elbow and scabs all over her hands and he had bandages on 3 toes (both feet), his knee, his hand and wrist and his face. As we watched them drink coffee from a cup with the ironic I’m Fine Cafe logo on it, we felt a lot better about not riding motorbikes. Mum, I’m sorry for ever wanting to do dangerous things. I promise I’ll stay safe from now.
As Ammun’s phone was the only device that could connect to the wifi, we went back to the hostel, checked in and sat in a treehouse finishing our plans. We wanted to do a trek but it was so hard to find one that did everything we wanted but didn’t involve the option for elephant riding which was hard. Eventually we booked a tour for the next day, seeing everything around Pai and we emailed a trekking company for the day after.
As we’d only been spending a few pounds a day on food and nothing more, we decided to treat ourselves and go to La Reve De Pai restaurant which has excellent reviews on trip advisor and apparently really nice wine. As big lovers of all wines, Ammun and I had our second disappointment of the day to find out that it was closed for the festival. So we went for our second favourite thing after wine; Mexican food. We had walked past Primo’s Mexican a lot of times and I was finally able to devour a burrito.
We then took our bebés de comida (food babies) to Yellow Sun bar where we met some people from our hostel for drinks. After almost a month in Thailand, we finally got to try Sangsom which is a Thai rum that’s way cheaper than any other spirit. After a few drinks with an English guy called Joe and a Brazilian guy whose name I forgot, Ammun Joe and I went to Don’t Cry Bar where we partied until 4. The music wasn’t very loud but it meant that we could chat and it was nice to chat to another English person who has the same type of humour. We chatted with quite a few other people too, most of which were a lot drunker than we were and had a good laugh.
It was all fun and games until we saw a girl who had climbed up a lamppost and was sitting on top of it about 20m off the ground, off a bridge. This is sort of how our conversation went.
“Please come down.”
“No. I’m enjoying the view.”
“It’s pitch black you can see nothing.”
“But I’m totally safe up here.”
“Nah you’re drunk.”
“I’m sober. You’re drunk.”
There was only so much reasoning we could do with her and I bet you anything she drove a motorbike home afterwards. On our way back we feasted on 7/11 toasties and went to bed.
Sometimes I get insomnia after drinking alcohol and it always happens at the worst times. I didn’t fall asleep until about 6/6.30 and then naturally woke up at 8 before my alarm at 8.30. I forced myself out of bed and forced some eggs down me before being picked up at 9.30 for our day trip around Pai.
After collecting us and 2 German girls who were really lovely, we went to the first stop which was Mae Yen Temple, aka the big white Buddha that we went to on our second day. It was nice to see Pai in the daylight but the stairs were definitely not as nice as we were dying.
Then we went to some a natural hot spring which was pretty and we sat on the side with our feet in. Weirdly, Ammun saw two guys that she recognised and it turns out we had chatted to them in our hostel in Luang Prabang! We made a joke about something we had said in Luang Prabang and they recognised us straight away after that! We had some lunch and got to know the German girls before getting back on the road again.
Next, we visited a waterfall. Because it’s the dry season, there wasn’t much water but this meant that we could climb up to the top and I was in my element. We climbed higher and higher and on our way down took lots of pictures of the wildlife we saw. This is when we stopped feeling sorry for ourselves and perked up a bit.
Despite our driver going the wrong way for a little while and having to do a turn in the road whilst giggling at himself, we got to Yun Lai Viewpoint. There was no one else there so we had lots of photo opportunities and looked out over all of Pai.
Our next stop was one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing; The Chinese Village. I had brushed up on my basic Mandarin and I was ready to speak with native Chinese people and introduce myself. I was disappointed. I’m fairly sure that most people working there were Thai and a lot of it was shut. It looked like an abandoned little hamlet with nothing but 3 shops and two people fanning their donkeys that were dying in the heat. However there were some cool things. There was a little moat absolutely filled with golden fish and a bridge over a small lake that again, was filled with coy fish. You could buy a bag of fish food for them and they all went absolutely mental, jumping on top of each other for this food. We walked a bit further and found a castle looking thing that was actually just a gift shop. I walked away, feeling a bit sad about my monolingual experience.
The next stop was even quieter and we saw only 3 other people. This was at the Long Bamboo Bridge that is a few meters off the ground so that farmers can walk over their fields, observing their crops and cattle, with ease. It didn’t feel 100% secure but we knew it must have been. Eventually we got to a small temple so we couldn’t walk any further in our strappy tops and shorts. Instead, we decided to have a rest on the four benches that were either side of the bridge, in the shade. We could have stayed way longer than half an hour but we knew we wanted to see sunset on time.
Our penultimate stop was at the land split. Here, a poor farmers field was completely when in 2008, tectonic movements made his land split with a deep crack. In 2011, he had the same again and he is completely unable to grow anything here. The entrepreneur within him turned it into a tourist attraction for donations.
Our final stop of the day was Pai Canyon where we had originally wanted to go on our motorbikes. The canyon was beautiful and there were long stacks that you could walk/climb along to get a 360 degree view. We clambered along one of them and sat watching the sun go down. The vibe there was so chilled as it was all tourists from all over, about our age. Everyone enjoyed all of the good photo spots and we particularly enjoyed watching a group of Asians (not sure where from but not Thai) use a 10m long selfie stick to get pictures of them in graduation robes. Very strange.
After our tour we walked to Bamboo House & Trekking where we met Mr Chart who does a jungle survival style trek. We booked this for the next day, ate some panang curry and went to bed. If you want to know how two girlie girls survived like Bear Grylls, you’ll have to wait for the next blog post. Trust me, there are some weird things in that blog…