I just spent 8 nights in Pai, known as the village of hippies, vegans, hot springs and drugs. The village is north-west of Chiang Mai, approx. 3 hours on a windy road through the mountains in a minivan. It’s mainly 2 roads (3 traffic lights), lined with shops, bars, restaurants and street food vendors. Everyone is hippied out and looks incredibly relaxed. Like a beach town minus the beach.
Most hostels and hotels are located just outside of the village. I’m currently traveling with a friend from Calgary. The hostel I stayed at my first and last two nights is called Common Grounds. It has an outdoor common area with pillows on the ground, tapestry draping from the ceiling, white Christmas lights and plants all around. In the middle of our week there we stayed at SpicyPai Backpackers, which is bungalow style. Multiple dorm bungalows and a few lounge bungalows, with a fire pit outside. The hot springs are located just up the road.
My first night I got a hair wrap (red, taupe and aqua.) Our second night we ate dinner at Mama Falafel, an Israeli restaurant that was recommended by Lonely Planet. The hummus wasn’t real hummus and the service was slow. I definitely won’t be going back there. That night the bar street was packed with people and late night everyone shifted just over the bridge to Don’t Cry- an outdoor bar with 2 fire pits. The next morning we actually found lox and bagels, which was delicious.
The foreign works at out hostel don’t wake up until around noon and then they lounge around the common area all day and night, just like the guests. One worker said that if he writes two emails in one day that he’s done a lot and takes a nap. If he told me that while I was home I would think that’s ridiculous, but here it makes complete since. Our first day we woke up at noon, went out to breakfast, inquired about trekking, had a papaya shake, got a thai massage, had a banana passion fruit shake, and shopped around a bit. The whole day was exhausting. It definitely has to do with the heat but in general the culture in Pai really is hippie.
Even the dogs are hippies. Dressed up in crazy outfits, lounging in guesthouse common areas, bar seats, on top of motorbikes, etc. They’re all adorable.
We moved out of town to SpicyPai on our third day. The hostel is in the middle of mountains and has amazing views. Directly behind our dorms sits the white marble Buddah in the middle of a mountain. It’s about a 20min walk from town but too hot to walk. I hired a motorbike taxi to take me to the hospital one day and up pulled a motorbike with a cage attached to the side. The cage had one bench on the side and a few bars around to hold onto. It was more terrifying than a tuk tuk. I kept feeling like he was going to smash me into something, but luckily I survived.
I made the decision not to rent a motorbike. I’m not comfortable driving one and I know I’ll wind up hurting myself and possibly whoever I hit. Unfortunately having a motorbike is the only good mode of transportation, and apparently in Vietnam and Cambodia too. To get to the hot springs from downtown Pai it costs around 600 baht, versus a motorbike which is 100 baht for the whole day. However, literally every single person I’ve met who rides one has crashed at least once, and many people walking around the town have bandages on their arms and legs. At the hospital I saw about 30 people come in post-crash. One guy broke his arm, another girl scratched up half of her body badly, including her face. This one guy was in a wheel chair and couldn’t stop heavily breathing and crying. And yet even with all these crashes everyone continues to ride, most without helmets.
On our fourth day we rented a taxi for the day with some girls from our hostel- a girl from Queens, an Aussie, and a Brit. We went to the Mae Paeng Waterfall first. I went swimming in the middle part of the fall and had the hardest time getting out because the rocks were too slippery. My other friend from Queens had to drag me out, funniest thing ever. Next we went to the Chinese Village where we ate Chinese food (I had my favorite wonton soup from Guangzhou that I used to eat at the trade show everyday) and we rode a 4 seat wooden Ferris wheel pushed around by two guys. Then we went to the WWII wooden bridge and headed to the Canon for sunset. The canon had a bunch of small pathways which led to farther points to walk on. Beautiful scene although the sunset was pretty unimpressive. The sun disappeared but there was no coloring.
The next day we went to Fluid pool. 60 baht to get into the Western haven. A large pool with a long patch grass down one side. Colorful tweed plastic mats are provided and are spread throughout the grass, everyone overlapping. We went for our friends Bday and seriously enjoyed the decision to go there. Everyone is good looking, the drinks and food are delish and the music is like a quite DJ. We went back again the second day. We closed the pool down on both nights after sunset, and I saw the most amazing sky at the pool on the first night- thick blue and white vertical streaks.
The next day I left for a white water rafting/ stay overnight at a village/ trekking trip. Our tour guide for all the activities was Jako from Pai Adventures. Jako spoke English almost fluently, which he taught himself from speaking with tourists. He’s 33, has a girlfriend and 2 kids, a boy and a girl. His origin is Tibet, from the Lahu tribe.
The white water rafting was really fun. 6 hours long with about 20 patches of white water. Nothing too crazy but well worth it. Jako kept steering us into rocks to make it more fun. At one point we all jumped out and floated down the river on our backs for about 20 minutes with the current. There was one patch where we got stuck on a rock with a strong current. Three people initially fell and got tumbled along. I fell trying to get us off the rock, and then I fell again when we got stuck on another rock. But my first fall was epic. My Canadian friend tumbled into me and we both fell backwards. My camera panel snapped off when Jake was dragging me back onto the boat but luckily the camera is still working. Along the river we stopped at a waterfall and then at a hot spring. The hot spring was just a small stream of water but it was cool to touch and see- it was at least 110 degrees. The highlight of my day was when we spotted a black monkey swinging from a white bridge. He then jumped onto the bridge and quickly walked off, like a little human.
After rafting we went with Jako back to his village, called Lookaulam. The village has 600 people, 150 families. There’s a general store, a school with a volleyball net, and a rice sifter machine in a shack. That’s it besides the homes. There were 6 of us who stayed that night. Me, my Canadian, 2 boys from Madrid, and 2 girls from Holland. We slept in an empty house that Jako built. Thin mattresses, sleeping bags and mosquito nets. We ate dinner that night on Jako’s porch. Yellow curry chicken with potatoes, and mixed vegetables and wild mountain rice (from his village.) After dinner we bought some of the village local whiskey, which tasted like tequila, and drank and talked with Jako and his male friends all night. Thai girls don’t drink and socialize, they can’t be hungover at work.
It was impossible to sleep. There were a million roosters crowing all through the night, and a few dog fights. Jako says he can’t sleep in the city because of the noise. The village is far worse.
We woke up at 7am to take a walk through the village and then headed to Jako’s house for breakfast. He made us an American breakfast, scrambled eggs with toast, tomatoes, onions and chopped pineapple. It started to downpour while we were eating but luckily the rain stopped just in time for our trek. Unfortunately all the mud was wet when we started so it made the beginning of the trek twice as hard. The first 45 minutes was straight up hill. It was definitely a struggle. Halfway up Jako’s fat sister passes us with a huge basket of water, food and working tools on her back. She was going to work in the rice fields for 4 days. If she can do the climb so can I. We trekked for 5 hours through the jungle. We saw a canon/cave, the tallest corn stalks I’ve ever seen (I’d guess 20 feet,) the rice fields with the locals working, bamboo, a massive spider in it’s web, 2 new puppies who tried to follow us, and much more. I gave myself a war paint face but by the end of the hike I was completely covered in mud, bug spray, sunscreen and sweat.
That night back in Pai Canada and I went back to Almost Famous, our regular spot. Here I met two guys from Bordeaux and had the chance to practice my French a little. From there I went to a reggae bar called Roots, which is located along the river behind town. There was a gymnast and fire performer who performed solo and together. He’s from Cali and she’s from Switzerland and they’re living together in Pai now.
On our last night Canada and I met up with some girls from SpicyPai for drinks at Spirit bar and we finally got to sit in the tree house and drink. From there we met up with the guys that work at our hostel. We drank with them for the rest of the night and listened to live music at a Jamaican bar called Irie.
Had a dragon fruit/ passion fruit shake, and our last breakfast at Om Garden- 5th breakfast there. This time I got a BLT with bacon and a friend egg on top. Yum.
Off to Chiang Rai today.
Almost Famous (laid back and only 50 baht for a cocktail, 150 for a bucket). 20 baht deposit to take bucket out of bar
Roots- Jamaican bar along river
Late night bars:
Don’t Cry (just out of town, has fire pits)
Sunset- fire show, Jimmy
Om Garden – breakfast and lunch
Hemp Healed the World- nighttime veggie lady outside