Within five minutes of the bus dropping us off in Pai, it was a unanimous vote that Pai is the “Asheville” of Thailand. Why might you ask? Well, we were surrounded by a beautiful mountainous area with a relaxed, hippie vibe. To say that we saw more dreadlocks than people sporting normal hairdos paints a pretty accurate picture. While we are far from calling ourselves hippies, we immediately fell in love with the city of Pai!
Unlike the other cities we visited in Thailand, the street scene was filled with less street food vendors and more sit down Thai restaurants. There was a significant Western influence which caught us by surprise as this is one of the smaller cities we’ve been to in Thailand. Several restaurants and bars were blasting rap, pop and even country music. We really missed hearing you, Jay Z and Toby Keith!
To be honest, neither of us had even heard of Pai prior to arriving in Chiang Mai. After hearing so many people talk up this small town, we had to see for ourselves what all the fuss was about! We only planned on spending two nights in Pai but six days later we were still taking in all the sights and sounds of the city!
Pai has no shortage on activities. For example, you can go jungle trekking, visit several waterfalls, check out the Pai Canyon (which is no Grand Canyon by the way but still worth visiting), go to the strawberry farm and one of our favorites, go elephant riding. However, Pai is also the perfect place to do nothing. In fact, we saw a bumper sticker that said “Do Nothing in Pai” and this could not be more true. After a few weeks of city hopping, we welcomed this change of pace!
So in honor of doing nothing, here are a few things we tried to avoid while in Pai…
Thailand Tattoos: Before you freak out, Brian and I did not get matching tattoos while in Thailand! Now that you’ve recovered from your heart attack, let me elaborate on these tattoos a bit. Motorbikes are the way to go in terms of transportation in Pai. I would advise against it in Bangkok or Chiang Mai as the traffic is too heavy at least for beginners like us. We rented a motorbike for several days while in Pai (only 3 USD per day to rent) and cruised around the city taking in all the gorgeous views of the countryside. Thankfully, Brian mastered the skill of driving a motorbike on the opposite side of the road fairly quickly. We managed to be one of the few to make it out without a Thailand tattoo, which is a term used to describe a wide assortment of beautiful bumps, bruises and scrapes associated with motorbike incidents involving tourists. Brian compared driving the motorbike around Pai to playing a video game – dodging pedestrians on the walking street, other motorbikes weaving in and out of the road, and the occasional tuk tuk or bus quickly starting and stopping to drop off or pick up tourists.
Chang-overs: Chang is one of the popular local beers in Thailand. Rumor has it that there are no quality control regulations on beer here so one Chang beer may contain 3% alcohol while another beer may have 10% alcohol. According to Chang’s label, the beer supposedly has a consistent 6% alcohol content. However, it’s a straight gamble. Drink one or two Chang beers and you could find yourself suffering from a Chang-over the following morning!
Getting Sick from Eating Insects: It’s a rite of passage here in Southeast Asia to consume a fried insect or at least that seems to be the case. We passed several street vendors with a large array of fried insects who were displaying them as if they were a delicacy. Seeing as that we had been traveling in Thailand for over two weeks we decided it was time to bite the bullet and do it. Knowing full well that it wasn’t going to be pretty, we bee lined it to the nearest Seven Eleven store to purchase a chaser. Brian was feeling far braver than I was that night and went for the mac daddy of the insects. I, on the other hand, opted for the smallest of the bunch. Here is the proof that it did, in fact, happen!
The Bermuda Triangle of Thailand: Pai is notorious for sucking you and turning your four day stay into a few months stay or even a few years stay. Just take our hostel, KK Hut, for instance. There were several travelers who had been in Pai for a month or more and these people weren’t even close to leaving. Our two day stay turned into a six day stay. We actually attempted to leave three times but each time we decided to stay a little longer! I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the breathtaking scenery, the laid back atmosphere or the fact that the bus trip back to Chiang Mai involves 762 curves. You heard that right, 762 curves. You better believe you can find tourist shirts advertising all the 762 curves on the main walking street. All I have to say is thank goodness for Dramamine! While Pai is a beautiful place to visit, there is even more beauty waiting across the border. Laos, here we come!