A Piece of Pai, A Slice of Heaven
Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
37Trip End May 10, 2007
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The road from Chaing Mai to Pai offers beautiful views of densely forested mountains and plenty of opportunities to put your face in a barf bag. Constructed by the Japanese during WWII, the road curves and winds its way through jungle passes. Busses struggle to climb the steep upgrades, gears cranking and pistons screaming, tires nearly slide off the edges of the cliffs on 300 degree turns or come to a screeching halt in avoidance of cows roaming in herds. But, once you descend from the mountains, and your stomach settles upon arrival in this quaint village, you quickly come to say, "I love this place!"
Streets are lined with the typical Thai tourist attractions of river rafting and hill trekking, but more so attractive are the local hill tribes-women weaving purses and hats in brilliantly vibrant colors. Bakeries and restaurants galore offer international cuisine and coffee and internet shops offer a chance to retouch with those back home. The towns' aroma is a pleasant mixture of patchouli oil and Thai curry. Just outside town offers chances to relax in hot springs or visit waterfalls. But more than what this town offers to travelers, is its feeling and spirit which makes it so enchanting.
We settled into Villa de Pai, a lackadaisical little village of straw thatched roof bungalows with outdoor bathrooms on the banks of the muddy, racing Pai River. We arrived the night after a major flood and were welcomed to our bungalow with mud up to our mid-calves. At first, this was a deterrent, but quickly the mud became fun, shoeless we trudged through the area meeting many Israelis on holiday. I quickly re-named the Villa de Pai, the Gaza Strip, and once again felt like a minority. Villa de Pai became a picturesque community of backpackers, strumming guitars, smoking hand rolled cigarettes whilst sharing travel stories and watching the river pass by from our patios. On Sunday evening, a few of the men organized and prepared a community BBQ with fresh meats and vegetables, whisky and beer, and we all gathered around to eat and drink until the wee hours of the morning. It felt like living on a kibbutz.
Always the adventure seeker in me, I had the chance to learn to river kayak down the Pai River. It was my first time kayaking in a river and it was a rush to say the least. An intricate and almost sensual balance of body weight and positioning, I quickly picked-up the basics and off I went down the small rapids. I managed the small rapids while managing not to tip over which brought on cheers of praise from my friends on near-by kayaks. The river flows through the jungles offering stunning views of the outlaying mountains and bamboo huts along the banks. The low laying clouds sit atop the mountains as sprinkles of rain softly land adding to the force of the river flow.
They say that Pai today is what Chaing Mai was twenty-years ago. With the saturation of tourism, word will continue to travel, and many more will come to this enchanting village tucked in the mountains to experience its spirit first-hand.
Where I stayed