Anyway, like most travelers who make it here, I stuck around for a few days. The pull of the familar is difficult to resist. I rented a motorbike for the first time in Thailand, and explored the countryside for a day. Passed through hill tribe villages (much more modern ones than the one I visited), fed an elephant a banana at an "elephant camp", visited Pai Canyon (not terribly grand), saw another waterfall, and later that evening took a swim in a hot spring pool. A great day all around, and learning how to ride the motorbike proved very easy.
Hung around Pai for two more days after this, doing some internet stuff, reading and generally being lazy. Also went to the local pool (of the non hot spring variety), for an afternoon. One of the other things that made Pai such a compelling place to hang around in was that they have a few places where you can rent DVDs and watch them in rented rooms. I couldn't resist taking advantage, as I have been experiencing severe movie withdrawal, so I rented a movie one evening at Cinema Paradiso. You couldn't find it if you searched all the Blockbusters in America, but this small northern thai town had Eurmir Kusterica's Underground. So now I miss movies even more, but I'll just have to get over it.
The only other notable occurance of my time in Pai was the discovery of a tick on top of my head. Probbaly picked it up treking. My head had been sore but I thought at first that it was just the result of bumping my head on one too many small doorways. The woman who ran the guesthouse was very grossed out by this and said it had probably been there for about three days based on its size. They pulled it out for me and put some iodine on the spot to disinfect it. Still a bit sore now. Lucky for me the doxycycline I'm taking as malaria prevention also protects me from whatever disease that little tick might have wanted to infect me with. Having dealt with my first medical issue, I packed up and headed a few more hours southeast.
Arrived in Pai on Saturday the 18th, a 4 hour bus ride east of Mae Hong Son. It turns out the reason I hadn't been seeing that many tourists in Thailand is because they all came here, and decided to stay. Pai seems to have more tourists than locals, although obviously this is partly due to me spending my time in the tourist areas too. It was a very small, laid back hippie town a few decades ago, but now there are shops and tours to meet every tourist desire, and American, Mexican, and Italian restauants, among many others. Pai also seems to be afflicted by the same maladies as many a beach town around the world, by which I mean reggae, tatoo parlors, and lots of white people with dreadlocks. Nothng necessarily wrong with any of this, it's just all not very Thai. And when I say reggae, I mostly mean soft-rock/folky covers of Bob Marley songs. Ew.