After a 4 hour bus journey i arrived in Pai. Let me start off by saying that it just shows that you should not trust everything you read…. the bus ride from Chiang Mai to Pai was not as bad as some of the information I have read on the internet. Yes the chair was not comfortable and yes my ass got terribly sore but i had nobody falling on top of me and no stinky chickens on the bus…maybe i was just lucky.
Pai is a small town in Northern Thailand, it has a population of 2,284, so you can imagine how small it is.
The road from Chiang Mai to Pai in the mountains of northern Thailand is famous for two things: scenery and vomit. The 140km length contains 762 bends, the steep and winding road (Route 1095) between Chiang Mai and Pai is famously guaranteed to make at least some of the passengers on your bus sick. I was lucky again that neither myself or fellow passengers were sick. At one point Zac was holding onto me so that i did not fall off the seat…that’s how crazy the bends in the road are.
Pai is a really cool place, really laid back and a bit of a rasta/hippy hang out. There isn’t much to do in the town center aside from eating, drinking and relaxing. Most people who come to Pai rent motorbikes and explore the Pai Canyon, many waterfalls, and hot springs in the mountains of Pai.
We booked into Mountain View Guest House which was a little out of the town centre, only a 15min walk. The reason we chose this guest house out of the many other options is that firstly it was only 200 bht a night for Zac and i to share a double room with our own bathroom (yay) AND AND AND… we would have a hot water shower…unfortunately the hot water was a let down and the pathetic drizzle that came out of the shower head was only a little warmer than cold water!!!! amazing how something that small can make one happy…since I’ve been here its been cold showers so hot water is a luxury i will really appreciate and i plan to book into a nice place for a night in Laos just so i can have a HOT shower. Our guest house also provided free entry to the swimming pool in Pai, called Fluid, which turned out to be a blessing.
Promptly on arrival in Pai Zac and i hired bicycles. I am loving this mode of transport!!!! The only part im not loving was our guest house was upb a steeeeeep hill so we had to push our bicycles up…but as i huffed and puffed all i was thinking was toned butt and thighs so its worth it haha
For the first 2 days in Pai, Zac and i spent all day chilling in the sun at Fluid pool, there is nothing better than drifting in and out of sleep whilst lying in the sun…after all the years in freezing London i forgot how lovely this is. The first evening we went out for a few drinks we ran into some of the boys that had been in our cooking class, just shows how common this travelling route is. We spent our evenings chilling in front of a fire at a Rasta bar, everybody just sitting around discussing where they have come from, been, or going. One night we evening we even went to a Salsa night.
On our 3rd day in Pai we swapped our bicycles for scooters so that we could go up into the mountains. Zac, myself and the boys from our cooking class in Chiang Mai set out to explore. Riding through the mountains, exploring, waterfalls and beautiful!!!
By chance, we stopped at the place called Land Crack. Land crack is owned by a Thai guy and his wife, they owned the land for so long and used to cultivate it on a commercial scale, until one day in 2008 when they woke up and there was a crack in the land. The land crack made the land the land useless to some extent; they cannot use it on a commercial scale anymore. The land cracked further in 2010 and 2011.
After we looked at the Land Crack, we were directed to a table and they started putting food on the table. Fruits, fruits and more fruits, some boiled potatoes and peanuts, hibiscus cold juice. Without asking for anything we were given food that made all of us full. They do not ask for money in return. All they have is a donation box where you can pay whatever you feel is worth the feast you just ate. We each gave a very generous offering, mainly due to the fact that the family were so sweet, friendly and welcoming, that they ended up running up to us as we were leaving with a huge supply of treats to take with us. Our donation was only 100 bht, almost worth nothing to us in our home land currencies but it just shows how even a small amount of kindness goes a long way.
We also explored the LOD caves (also called the Spirit Caves) which can only be explored with a guide. the cave has a river running through it so we had to get a bamboo raft to explore. The Spirit Caves consist of three connected caves, with the first one being a grotto, the second one containing pre-historic paintings of deer, and the third one containing pre-historic canoe shaped coffins.
On Wednesday our guest house hosted a massive pool party at the local pool that they own. It was nice to just spend a whole day chilling in the sun and listening to good music. One thing i have been craving is good music, the bars in this town only play chilled music that the people smoking weed love…this is a hippy / rasta town after all.
Thursday was my last day in Pai and i wanted to make the most of it, i still wanted to do another waterfall, the elephant sanctuary and go to the hot springs. I still never made it to the hot springs unfortunately but we did explore a stunning waterfall in Pai…
Then we finally went to explore Pai Canyon which is somewhat optimistically described as Pai’s answer to the Grand Canyon….ok i have never seen the Grand Canyon but i felt that Pai Canyon could more accurately be described as narrow red ridges with steep sides either side filled with pine and forests…nothing at all like the Grand Canyon haha. The steep is about a 50m drop on either side and has stunning views over the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately my pictures do not do it justice.
After a little chilled out time at another one of Pai’s stunning waterfalls it was finally time to see the elephants. Wow Wow Wow!!!! This is one experience i will never forget. Zac and i chose the river trek, which meant we would be riding the elephant with no seat (only a blanket over his back) and going into the river.
We climbed a ladder to a platform where the elephant had been positioned with his head just under the platform. We kicked off our shoes, we then had to climb over his head, onto his back. I think Zac and i were both surprised just how uncomfortable it was. I mean its logical we are sitting on his spine but i honestly thought this big fat elephant would be more softer when you sit on him. In the places where the blanket did not reach, the stubbly hairs on the elephant dug into our skin.
Once we got walking, the sensation was quite bizarre. It felt as if you might fall off with each step and I was very conscious of the elephant hip bones working just under my legs. I think our elephant was tired or he did not want to go into the river AGAIN as he was walking so slowly and his trainer had to keep tugging at his ear (only gently though). Most of the control that the trainer uses on the elephant seems to be either verbal commands or taps behind the ears.
After removing the blanket from our elephant, our trainer led her into the water. As our elephant waded into the river she decided to made use of the river water as a toilet haha. Nothing like seeing mound of elephant dung floating downstream to put you off swimming.
The trainer spoke a command to our elephant and the elephant kneeled down on her back legs, and then her front legs. As she did, she shook, sending only me flying into the water. Once the shock of being in the water was over with, our guide instructed us one at a time to climb onto our elephants truck, he then issued another command to the elephant, and the elephant shook his trunk and flung us off into the water again. This went on several more times, with various positions for each of us. Honestly it was the best experience ever.
After the river we headed back to the elephant camp where we got to feed the elephants bananas.
All in all it was an amazing last day in Pai. Sadly it was also my last day with Zac as we are parting ways. This is the hard part about travelling, you meet amazing people along the way but ultimately you both have your individual routes and as much as you can change your route a little there will be a time that you will have to part ways.
Today (Friday) i am catching a 4 hour bus (which will probably turn into 5.5 hours) to Chiang Mai and then immediately getting onto another 4 hour bus ride to Chiang Rai (again journey time questionable). Let the travelling begin again 😉
love you all and thanks for reading.