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Pai; I have found love in Thailand

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It is quite unusual to find any negative comments about Pai in  the web, I have never actually seen them. That fact deserves that if anything,  you spend some seconds wondering about what is it about a place that   has not gain any detractors through the years but just quite the opposite, has made people from all over the world fall in love with it.
I kept ignoring Pai for years even though I was many times close enough  in Chiang Mai to visit it (lack of time, tight budget, the  twisty road…) This time I knew that  no matter what, I would not leave Thailand without visiting a place that accumulates  such comments. Not only I am a sucker for mountain landscapes but I had been  under intense stress the last few days in Chiang Mai dealing with my Chinese  visa (that I never got) and Pai appeared just like the ideal place  to unwind if all the comments were to be believed.
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 Decision made and tight with time as my visa last day was dangerously  approaching, I purchased a transfer to Pai through my GH in Chiang Mai (Julies  GH at 180THB one way)
Please note that there are no big buses running to Pai (only minivans) so don’t waste your time getting to the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus  Station. Your best bet is to purchase a transfer directly from your  accommodation and do not pay more than what I did (actually, same transfer backwards to Chiang Mai from Pai cost me from the Pai “Bus Station” 150THB in 2014)
Now the bad news; the road is not bad, it’s actually BLOODY AWFUL!!!!  The facts; it has 762 turns and believe me, your minivan will be turning  non-stop for more than three hours (80 km) I was sick as a dog and a fellow Japanese traveller started  vomiting as soon as she got out of the car. But hey, is just a small sacrifice to reach one of the coolest and chilliest places in SE Asia so don’t let that fact to put you off.
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Take my advice and purchase for both ways motion sickness pills. I  didn’t take any on my  way to Pai but I certainly did it on the way back and it worked wonders, I took two and slept the whole way, ha!  Just think that if you normally get sick on roads that are slightly windy , you will definitely also get sick on this one because the trip is not only long but really uncomfortable.  Please do not let this to put you off visiting. Is it worth  it the struggle to get there? YES and YES!!

 

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Do not worry about not pre booking accommodation for Pai;   Guest Houses, bungalows, huts and even resorts are plentiful! And when I  say they are everywhere, I mean in town, outside town, near the river, far from the river, behind town, far from town, in the backstreets, in the middle of  nowhere… you name it.
 I hope my point is  clear, there are lots of places to stay thank you to the tourism boom from recent  years and the fact that two Thai movies were filmed in here, which also attracts lots of locals. This little town has become a holiday destination both nationally and internationally and  accommodation, bars and restaurants have multiplied due to the high demand.
Pai is not expensive at all and there is a vast range of  prices for all sort of pockets, but take my example; the first place I found was a bungalow near the river, super  basic at 150THB per night. Nice enough but terribly basic with the toilet in the middle of  a little garden/jungle which had always small visitors crawling! (see pic below of the luxurious place!)
Unfortunately and despite of its idyllic location near the river, the place was really close to some of the bars and the noise kept me awake the whole night, therefore I decided that after one night it was time for me to move on to a quieter place. I walked to one of the main streets and found a great room (pic below) at 200THB per night.
I spent in Pai a total of 4 nights but I could have stayed  forever. I felt happy, carefree and I loved being surrounded by green scenery everywhere.  I found Pai as a village, quite normal and yet incredibly  attractive, there’s definitely something about it. A big part of the town is covered in creative graffiti’s, shops and bars all have them and they look so cool. I saw good taste everywhere, some of  this places were picture perfect. For a photography lover like me, Pai and its surroundings  offered me several moments of creativity as there was so much beauty to  capture everywhere.

If I have to define Pai I would choose these words; creative,  colorful, tasteful, peaceful and sleepy.

The best way to see the Pai surroundings is by renting a motorbike; shops are everywhere in the town centre and they are cheap to rent, both bikes and bicycles. I rented a motorbike for two days at 100THB per day (they kept my passport and a 100THB deposit) and they also let you the helmet (Wear it!) I was stupid enough not to consistently wear it and I was stopped by the police and fined 200THB.  OK, I know that is not a big amount but it was the price of one night accommodation!! I was fuming with the police officer…poor man.

I’m normally a bicycle sort of person but here in Pai you must  absolutely rent a  motorbike as  it will take you to wonderful green scenery, waterfalls and other natural beauties. Truthfully, it does not matter much which direction you go in Pai, there are many things to see and places to enjoy pretty much everywhere outside town. Just ride!

 

 I experienced some of my happiest hours in life filled with absolute pleasure by just riding my motorbike alone through the valleys while enjoying the views. If you ever wondered what is freedom? Freedom is to be able to feel the wind in your face, to pass colourful trees through endless roads where  you are the only person driving and to stop anywhere and everywhere just because.

 Pai has many beautiful sights very easily reachable by bike;
The hot springs (note that the price has now increased to 300THB  that I paid and I strongly regretted later) Nice enough but not nice that is worth that money.
Mae Yen Waterfall
Elephant Camps (big no-no for me for the obvious reasons)
Pai Canyon
WW2 Japanese Bridge
Pembok Waterfall
The Chinese Village

 

The View Point

 

The Pai Canyon

 

The Mhor Phaeng Waterfall

Lod Cave

 

And the picture perfect “I love Coffe Pai” and the “Strawberry  Farm” on the side road but there are many more !!

 

Other than searching specifically for the above mentioned sights or any others, I recommend you to forget about the sights (which you will find anyway as soon as you step outside town) and allow yourself to wander riding your bike to wherever it takes you. I guarantee you that the Pai surroundings are a great example that sometimes getting lost is feels bloody great!

 

If Pai wasn’t charming enough on its own, as soon as the sun  starts going down, the night market comes alive in the main street; several food stalls  with delicious meals at extremely cheap prices, clothes, crafts, jewellery appear ….
Everyone congregates in this street in the evening and who  can blame them? It is colourful, entertaining, pleasant, vibrating… Locals are  friendly and smiley and life just feels wonderful.
Believe me, if I could date Pai, I would. It must be love 🙂

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