A few days in Pai

Trip Start Apr 02, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2009

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Where I stayed
Baan Krating Pai Resort

Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, April 20, 2009

So, much to my relief... I was successful getting out of Chiang Mai without getting totally soaked.  As I had learned from the day before, the Sawngtheaws (red, covered-but-open-in-back, pick up trucks that are basically shared taxis) are prime targets for water dumping.  When I had bought my ticket the day before, the guy had asked  if I wanted to take the mini-bus or the mini-van, and said that sometmes the buses aren't air-conditioned. So that was all I needed to know. But upon arriving at the bus station and being pointed in the direction of my mini-van, I realized I had been misguided.  This van was pretty rickety looking- the seats were very worn and misshapen, and definitely no AC. Another Western couple with a baby were also signed up for the same van and looking at it very skeptically-- clearly a car seat for a baby is unheard of over here.  I had 40 minutes to kill before departing and decided not to stress about, but in that time, I saw another bus with a Pai sign in the window, and this actually looked pretty nice. Very modern, clean and looked to be pleasantly air-conditioned.  After a while of enviously eyeing this vehicle, I decided just to ask the ticket counter guy what the deal was. With very little inquiry or complaint, he crumpled up my ticket and wrote me a new one for the very mod AC bus! Same price, and leaving at the same time, so I'm not quite sure how it all works, but I learned that the minibus is the way to go.  We even got a snack on board- I was impressed! And needless to say, the water festival goes on throughout all of the country and kids line even the most remote roads with buckets full of water to throw at vehicles passing by. I was very glad not to have open windows for this ride.  I rode shotgun up front, so a few of the pics show the nature of  the water fight from the road (don't have many from foot, as I didn't want to get my camera soaked).

Arriving in Pai was about the same... crowds lining the streets, just throwing water on everyone. I had booked a nice bungalow about 20 mins outside of town, and I was actually glad not to have to walk through it everytime I walked out my door.  After getting settled though, I walked into town in more water-friendly attire, poked around the markets and got some dinner.  Pai is sort of a hippie town, set in a beautiful moutainous area near Burma, and I think under normal circumstances is pretty mellow... but not for these 2 days. On my walk into town, I did stumble across a Songkhran parade though, which is the only thing I saw that had much ceremony to the event. It was small, but lots of interesting costumes (that's probably not the right word) and music!

The next morning, I got up with the goals of 1) finding the amazing Pinapple Cinnamon pancakes that had been recommended by a friend, and 2) renting a motor scooter to get out and explore the area.  The pancakes most definitely didn't disappoint, and after a quick lesson on a deserted rural road, I was the proud, but temporary owner of a pink motor scooter and matching pink helmet.  I wouldn't have chosen the pink helmet, but when I asked the woman how the helmet should fit, she shoved it on my head and said "good". So I stuck with it. 

My first stop on the scooter was out to the Hot Springs National Park. It was about 20 minutes out of town, and just a really pretty peaceful ride.  I've realized that wherever I go, I love getting out on some sort of motorized vehicle of my own, it just feels so liberating-- I felt the same way with the ATVs in Greece, and even with the golf carts in the Bahamas-- just nice to get out and cruise the roads at your own pace. The springs weren't huge, but there were lots of them scattered along a pretty "hiking" trail.  A few of them were the right temp for bathing/soaking whereas some were incredibly hot, and apprarently the perfect temperature for boiling eggs. Despite the park's signs prohibiting this activity, that seemed to be the thing to do, and there were several egg boilers there. (the smell was not so appealing)  As I was "suiting" up to get back on my scooter, I noticed that 2 little old Thai women had stopped to take my picture. I looked THAT ridiculous- sort of like a slightly older version of Mailbu Barbie on her pink scooter!  I actually wish I could have gotten a copy of that picture!  My next destination was one of several waterfalls that were on the map or in my book, but after just a few Kilometers down the road, I quickly learned that the water festivities had begun again.  Now, I'm pretty new to a scooter, and can handle a water gun or even lawn hose spray, but when packs of kids come out into the street and throw full buckets of water in your face, it's just not safe (nor fun).  I eventually aborted my attempt to make it to the waterfalls (ironic, huh?), and decided just to go back to my quiet, peaceful bungalow, and lay low for most of the afternoon. Pai is a pretty small town, and there's not a lot to do/see, so I didn't feel too guilty.  When I thought things had probably calmed down, I rode back into town, wandered around a bit, and had an amazing green curry/Singha dinner at the Curry shack (for about $2.50).  I would have stayed in town and tried to find a local bar to hang out in for a while, but knowing I had to ride home again, I decided I'd just get a beer and a Mango Sticky Rice to take home with me to eat on my deck. I was a very happy camper.

I had planned to get out on the scooter in search of the waterfalls early in the morning before all the madness began (this is a 3-5 day festival, depending what city you are in), which I did, but I never found the waterfalls. I went through lots of local villages though, and just sort of took in the beautiful scenery.  There was a beautful Western-looking coffee place called "Coffee Love" along the main road out of town that has comfortable chairs overlooking the valley, so I sat and enjoyed that for a while as well.  When I got into town, I was anxiously awaiting another fabulous breakfast at The Witching Well, but much to my dismay they were closed.  This seemed to be the case for lots of restaurants in Pai during the holiday.  Chiang Mai seemed to stay open, but further north, they shut down. I certainly didn't go hungry, but lots of the recommended places were not open. With some time to kill before my bus back to CM, I decided I had to see how the Thai massages in Pai compare to the others I have had. The place itself wasn't quite as nice, but the massage itself was great. Got to the bus station early thinking I'd get some food in town before hitting the road, but once again, that plan was foiled due to the festival. Unless I wanted to sit, soaking wet on an 3-1/2 hour bus ride, I decided I'd just buy some chips and a water, and eat a good meal when I got back to CM.

I arrived back in CM around 6pm, hoping to have missed the end of the water fight, but no such luck. At one point on the way back from the bus station, we were stopped in traffic and some guy opened the side window of my truck from the outside, and just dumped a bucket on me.  You have to just laugh about it and realize that it's no big deal, which I did, but after 4 days of it all, I was ready for it to end (if you couldn't tell!). It is really fun, when you don't have any thing to do, or place to be, but when trying to go about any sort of normal business, it gets a bit tiring.  Things eventually quieted down that evening, and the Sunday Night market that I loved so much, was going on again (even though it was a Thursday) beacuse of the holiday, so I was able to buy some new sandals to replace the ones which broke up in Pai, and get another great meal from the street vendors. Stopped into Rama, the bar that Tim & Tony own to say a quick hello and goodbye to them, and then called it a night, as I had to get up at 5am to catch my flight to Phuket. 

From here I will go to Phuket for 2 nights, and then island hop a bit until I head to Hong Kong on the 24th. Not a bad life!
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