All About Pai

Trip Start Jan 21, 2009
Trip End Mar 20, 2009

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

All about Pai

When I was at the Sira in Chiang Mai, the English owners, Robb and Julie encouraged me to come to Pai. They described a place with natural beauty, not so much traffic, healthy food including wheat grass and tea shops, reasonably priced guesthouses, and friendly Thai people. I can see that the years of popularity with Western backpackers and tourists have changed Pai. On weekends, many Thai people come to Pai now for its scenery and cooler mountain weather. Expats from Europe and America have settled here. Thai artists have moved here also. Pai is in a remote location and is difficult to get to. It is a lovely quiet town. Thank you Robb and Julie. I am grateful to be in Pai!

I flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on Saturday, on the same flight with two new friends I met in Bangkok, Jay and Wat. Jay, from Ocean City Maryland has a house in Pai and offered me a ride up from Chiang Mai. In Jay's Toyota Yaris, the 2.5 to 3 hour trip was comfortable and easy. There are buses and minivans regularly from Chiang Mai. That journey would take at least 4 hours and I don't think my stomach would have handled it. At home in New Hampshire and Vermont, we drive mountain roads every day. The curvy, steep, up, down and around roads to Pai make ours seem straight and flat! The scenery was indeed beautiful. We passed roads to small villages, waterfalls and hot springs, rice paddies, tea and coffee farms.

Now, three days later, I am staying in a guesthouse called Pairadise. It is as the name suggests, a "paradise" for this "constant traveler" to rest and recharge. If you are looking for a quiet, well priced, well located place to stay in Pai, you can stop looking now. I have a bungalow with screens, (rare), a comfortable fan room and western style bath. Western breakfast with homemade bread is available too. The bungalows surround a fresh water clear deep pond. There is a swimming area with falling water, and lots of fish including big koi on the other side. It is a 15 minute walk to town. Most people rent scooters for day travel in the area.
I got a bicycle which is working out just fine.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at a very rustic hot springs resort. The guesthouses located near the hot springs pipe the hot water in. The one I went to, "Spa Exotic" was 2 km from the original spring. It must be a prolific spring. The hot and cold plunge pools felt great. You can use them for a fee of 100 Baht. There are some 50 Baht places as well. Bring your own towel!

On the way out to the hot springs, and also to Jay's village 5 kilometers from Pai town, I was surprised to see so many guesthouse and bungalow resorts. The tourists, including the backpackers, all seem to rent scooters and stay outside of town. Pai is a home base for trekking to hill tribe villages, serious hiking, and river rafting when it is not the dry season. So yes, just now, Pai is a quiet town. I hear that at busier times of the year, if all of these outlying guesthouses have guests, especially on weekends, Pai can be crowded, even wild.

I have found all kinds of food here. I have had really good fresh bagels and falaful at the Thai Kabob, TTK doubles as an Israeli Guesthouse and I have met friendly young Israelis traveling after their military service. I have had locally grown organic salad and vegetables at Charlie and Lek's, and wonderful fresh Thai dishes of every type, as you like it, from Na at Na's Kitchen.

I loved "Bood's" Yoga class at Yogasala, a beautiful Sala overlooking the Pai River. It is located opposite the Pai River Corner, not far from the Wishing Well and Good Life Restaurants. The classes are 2 hours; ample time for meditation, pranayama, and challenging asana. You can drop in and pay by the class or get a discount for attending several. Bood is Thai but her classes are taught in English. She is an excellent teacher and pays close attention to the students so the class is both safe for beginners and challenging for more advanced students. I don't know what style Bood would say her classes are. I would describe them as Iyengar in the structural approach to the poses, but with a much lighter and looser method for getting into the poses. Bood had studied recently with Paddy McGrath visiting from Australia. Paddy was teaching the Scaravelli style. I loved the free, looser movements, and so I stayed in Pai and studied with Bood often over two weeks.

If you are interested, at the "Good Life Restaurant" an Stan, an ex-pat American resident of Pai leads Meditation 3 times a week by donation, also. If you are into wheat grass, you'll find it growing here! The "Good Life" wins my award for the most aptly named food shop in town. In Pai, Life IS Good!
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