Northern Thailand continued…
A bus from Chiang Mai took me north into the mountains via a windy, horrifying road. You know that famous road in San Fransisco, California? Imagine that for 2 hours. Advice, don’t eat beforehand.
I hadn’t originally planned to go to Pai, therefore I hadn’t considered accommodation before leaving. This is a pretty common practice for backpackers, so when I arrived at Common Grounds Pai, a hostel a short walk from the bus station, I was relieved they had a bed for the night. It was hot as hell and I sure as shit didn’t want to walk around with a 25-pound pack on my back in the mid-afternoon sun. Plus, Emily and Harriet were waiting for me to get lunch.
Pai, in a sentence, is backpacker spring break. It’s basically a few streets sewn together allowing the sightseeing weary a chance to recharge and mellow out. Streets are filled with bars, restaurants, shops and at night, the best street food I’ve had. Cheap, delicious street food. You can get anything from homemade breaded pizza pockets to sushi to chicken and veggie kabobs all in one, walkable square.
Pai is also beautiful. Rent a motorbike. Just do it. (Yes, in a previous post I said “any idiot can rent a motorbike” and I still stand by that). Emily, Harriet and I rented a few bikes, had a mini lesson around a dirt track and off we went!
Pai Canyon, a waterfall with wading pools, expansive fields, winding roads, a view of Big Buddha… spectacular! I actually didn’t think I’d enjoy the motorbikes, I’m a giant baby, but it was a blast zipping along, trying to find these out-of-town destinations. One unfortunate sight, however, was directly on the side of the road. Two elephants were tied up with a sign inviting tourists to ride them. I’m really not sure how someone can legally run a business like that, but that’s also why I don’t participate in dodgy animal attractions (and neither should you!).
Pai’s nightlife is another big addition to the spring-break-like culture of the town. Bars host pretty impressive specials accompanied with live music and/or a dj. It’s easy to sit down somewhere, make a few new friends and get pissed. Then, when the bars close, head to the real party at Don’t Cry. Buckets, fire shows, body painting and typical drunk debauchery.
I actually headed home quite early on my first night in Pai. I was excited to be the only one in my hostel at the time of arrival, and even though it was a 6-bed dorm, I knew only 2 other beds were taken by guys I sort of previously knew existed. I was woken up an hour or 2 later, but by 3 people entering the room. Great, I thought, someone is gonna have sex and it’s gonna be really annoying. Well, to my surprise, the “couple” climbed into the bed next to me, not into the bunk previously acquired. I thought it was strange, but put in my earbuds, put on my eye mask and tried minding my own business. But then, who can ignore terrible pillow talk? Like awful, awkward pillow talk. The voice of the female was surprisingly familiar-an Irish accent, accented further by intoxication. I met her earlier – at check in – because she works at the hostel.
Now I’m not one to judge, but wtf is going on here? This is clearly not your bed and you’re just going to stranger snuggle in someone else’s room, even though you work here and probably have a private suite?
About an hour later, Ivaan got home. Ivaan (and his friend Joe) were my bunkmates and they, too, didn’t know another guest had checked into our dorm. So, Ivaan walks in, the Irish lass suddenly springs into action saying she’s sorry she’s in his bed (she wasn’t), she says to her bed buddy he wants them to leave (he didn’t care) and then the “couple” get out of bed, him calling her crazy all the while. For the record, it’s gotta be like 4am. Ivaan leaves the dorm again, the couple is gone, back to bed for me. Until about 45 minutes goes by when I wake up and Ivaan is sitting on my bed starring at me…
I checked out of the hostel a few hours later and graciously accepted an invitation to share Emily and Harriet’s private room for the night at Namu. Ivaan came, too. Turns out him and Joe were actually really cool guys who also thought the night’s surprises were too much to deal with. (Ivaan will later deny all claims to bed creeper 2016)
Emily and Harriet checked out the following day and Danielle and Sara checked in. Another invitation extended to crash a private room. Have I mentioned that I’ve made some really terrific friends on this trip?
On my final night, the girls and I were going to meet to watch the sunset over Pai from the Big Buddha, but they were on motorbikes and I decided to go for a run. Underestimating the mountainous terrain and unending stairwells, Danielle saved me with a bottle of water about halfway to the top. (Sidenote: At time of writing, I’ve been traveling for a month and this is the ONLY time I’ve worn my trainers. They take up so much space, I should toss them. But then I remember this run and think, I’ll run again.)
This run was the highlight of Pai. Exhausting and refreshing and reflective and exactly the kind of thing I wish I did more of. Why don’t I? Which excuse would you like?
Anyways, Danielle, Sara and I went out, had fun and got educated! I had wondered why wine, a personal favorite of mine, wasn’t offered very often. Alcohol in general in Thailand is expensive. You can get an entire meal for 65 cents but a gin and tonic is like $3. Turns out alcohol has a 300% tax extended to liquor operators. No wonder mark-up is so high! We also learned that in some areas in SE Asia, wine can be made with more ethanol (maybe that’s not right, I was drinking, don’t remember) and not very good for you. Danielle and I each treated ourselves to a fancy, imported glass of wine before moving back to cheap Chang.
I left the next day. But first we decided to meet in Bangkok in a few days. I was off on my lonesome again to Chaing Rai. But that’s for another post.