June 2, 2012

Pai the City of One Love

Pai's slogan - it's all about the love. 
I rode up to the northern city of Pai three deep in a song taew with a French guy and an 80-year-old Thai lady with a bulging tumor in her neck who insisted I refer to her as “Momma.” The three-hour winding ride from Chiang Mai to Pai is one of the country’s less known hot spots. But its notability is on the rise, so act fast! Pai is a very tiny hippy town nestled in the mountains of northwest Thailand. It’s the kind of place that plays Bob Marley and reggae music in every restaurant and shop you pass.
Once I arrived to the Giant Guesthouse with Momma, I settled in my bamboo hut and began to explore the charming bucolic town. The whole city has no more than 2,300 people and if you’ve ever visited New Orleans it’s like an entire town of Magazine Street. Each building is painted with vivid color combinations and there are tons of delicious eateries, art and jewelry shops, and welcoming bars. Locals from Pai are all about loving one another and their city. Natives don’t strain for guests to feel the affection that Pai exudes. With the slow pace of life, the “no worries” mentality and friendly smiles on the residents’ faces, you’re sure to instinctively adopt a love of Pai before the end of your visit.

1. Explore the town by foot and find one of a kind handmade merchandise created by local artists and bargain with the best of ‘em. 

Fantastic restaurant with a diverse menu.
2.  Sample the delicious and inexpensive street food at the night market or dive into one of the many local restaurants for scrumdidliumtious cuisine. Some must eat joints:
-Witching Well – You could eat every meal here and not be sick of amazing selection.
-Art in Chai – Sit with a good book and enjoy the best cup of chai tea you’ve ever tasted.
-Curry Shack – Try the local yellow curry with brown rice, only available in Pai.
Local yellow curry from the Curry Shack.
-Dinner near the temple on the hill– Visit the Wat Phra That Mae Yen temple and scoot down to the mountainside restaurant (can’t miss it) for a great Thai dish and a view of the sunset over the hills.
-Muslim Thai Food Bakery – Pick up pastries for your motorbike basket and have a picnic in the middle of nowhere.

Yellow Power Ranger on a motorbike.
3.  Rent a motorbike – Motor biking is the main way to see springs, waterfalls, and temples that are spread out and hidden throughout the mountainside. Don’t be scurred if its your first time driving. It’s a great place to learn because the streets are not bustling with traffic. Some guesthouses distribute coupons for certain motorbike shops so ask before you rent. Don’t forget insurance and a helmet!

      4. Take a trip to the Mhor Pang Waterfall – DO NOT RENT A BICYCLE TO DO THIS! I didn’t get the memo and it took all my strength to pedal my squeaky bike 8 km uphill in the blistering heat. I nearly passed out. The waterfall is a refreshing reward at the end of a long hot ride though. *Don’t buy weed or opium from one of the many ladies trying to sell it to you on the way up.
Taking a break from the scorching bike ride to capture the Pai countryside.

      5. Head out to the local Hot Spring – There are two Hot Springs, one for foreigners that charge 200 baht and one for locals that’s difficult to get to but only 20 baht. The latter is not advertised but your guesthouse owner should know about it if you ask. The hour ride is worth it on a motorbike as the scene while riding out there is phenomenal. Once you reach the entrance, the rocky and steep jaunt begins. Go slow and be careful.

Almost Famous bar in Pai.
      6. Have a mojito from “Almost Famous” bar. They have about 30 flavors of mojitos and have a buy 4 get one free special, so take a group from the guesthouse and start tasting! I really enjoyed the passion fruit mojito.


 7. Drive out to the Pai Canyon to get a perfect glimpse of the sunset or a daytime view of the peaks mixed in with the green forest.
Me atop a hill at the Pai Canyon.

      8. Pick up the monthly events calendar from your guesthouse or a local dive and find out what parties, music, and specials are going on while you’re in town – the pool parties are pretty rowdy. 

      9. Lay in a hammock all-day and read, write and keep an eye out for blue-headed lizards.

Blue-headed lizard I spotted while reading in my hammock. 
     10. Sit around a moonlit bond fire and get deep with complete strangers from all over the world.

Just lay back, relax, and fall in love with Pai!
Giant bamboo heart on the roadside in Pai. 

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