Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Thailand  , Mae Hong Son,
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chiang Mai is the starting point for treks up to Mae Hong Son and although I had already visited the hill tribes up north in 2007, I was happy to revisit the mountain village known as Pai. My previous memory of this town was associated with Israelis and Mediterranean food. However, in the last five years word has gotten out about this "must see" town. Pai has earned its reputation for a perfect place to chill out, and turn into a wheat grass drinking hippie if not one previously. I like to refer to it as “paradise.” Ironically, I spent a part of my 10 day stay at a lodge called Pairadise; an absolute slice of heaven on the same road as the waterfall.

The first week in Pai I hung out with a couple of Spanish speaking guys I met on the initial van from Chiang Mai: Pablo from Argentina and Etel from Spain. Together the three amigos ignored the parade of bandaged tourists (result of scooter accidents) and drove the snake roads with caution. Following the cliché route we enjoyed navigating the narrow cliffs of Pai canyon, crossing the WWII Bridge,wading around in the anti-climactic waterfalls and getting shat on by the thousands of Lod Cave bats. The second week I paired up with Igor, a super nice Italian man with a scientific mind. Igor is a wealth of information and inspiration. I admire his ability to have left behind the corporate grind and recognize the power of meditation.

The organic grub served at The Good Life combined with visits to the thermal baths and endless mountain views became fuel for my new mantra, “I love Pai.” Here during Passover, it was a difficult decision to choose between swinging in my private hammock or returning to CM to share a Passover Seder with fellow members of the tribe. Ultimately I chose Pai. The good news is via the Seder dinner distribution list I met up with Charlotte; an extraordinary woman and former New Jersey councilman with a most inspiring “glass half-full” perspective on life.

Charlotte has been based in Chiang Mai while volunteering with the American Jewish World Service. In observance of Passover and Songkran, she chose Pai as her getaway destination. Songkran, also known as “Water Festival” marks the start of the Buddhist New Year and always falls at the end of the dry season; hence the hottest time of the year. Technically celebrated from April 13-15 every year it is common for most places, Chiang Mai specifically, to start prematurely and last for six days. The kids in Pai were equally eager to get a jump start on the festivities giving Charlotte and I a mere taste of the full force adventure we were bound to partake in once we arrived in CM.

In Charlotte's's presence there was never a dull moment, starting with a random encounter with Sarah, a Thai “lady-boy” and her three lesbian friends. From what I hear it is politically incorrect for me to use this term but I don’'t know a better way to describe the ironic situation which later ensued. After sharing a large Chang beer and many laughs with the girls, I agreed to meet up with Sarah at a bar later that evening. In the meantime Charlotte retired back to her bungalow across the bamboo bridge while I hung out with Monika, a fellow long-term traveler I met during the Vipassna retreat in Malaysia. Ready for a night out, I looked for Sarah at designated Bamboo Bar. When she wasn’t there I made alternate plans to meet up with another CS friend, Esteban. Imagine a sweet, good looking, and clean-cut, preppy boy from Madrid. Knowing how young Esteban was, my plan went no further than us grabbing a drink and maybe dancing at Don’t Cry Bar.

Oddly enough the first person to greet me upon arrival was Sarah wearing a tight black dress and 4” heels. Her high-pitch, enthusiastic “hello” turned everyone’s heads. But the real shocker was how she greeted Esteban. As it turns out, these random new acquaintances not only know one another but have been dating for the last few weeks. In a total state of shock and not wanting to be caught in the middle of their lover’s quarrel, I attempted to socialize with some of the other drunken young Westerners. But it wasn’t long before I gladly meandered home alone back to my “flash-packer” bungalow.

With a couple of days to spare before the full Songkran war would begin, I considered diving into a period of solitude and meditation. Many had raved about Wat Tam Wau Forest Monastery, located 65km north of Pai. As soon as I entered the grounds it was clear to me that this place is magical. The Vipassna method of meditation and restricted eating hours were part of what drew me here. However the sleeping conditions deterred me from staying. Obviously not entirely ready to overcome “craving,” I wasn’t in the mindset to sleep on the floor in a hut with no screens leaving me vulnerable to the mozzies who have already devoured my body. This thinking is certainlywhy it would’ve behooved me to stay long term but the desire to partake in Songkran had a stronger pull this go around.

The adventure continued as I hitchhiked my way back to Pai. From the monastery to Sappong a mom and daughter duo provided a cush ride in the back of their SUV.The next leg was a lot less comfy. I shared the back of a hard bed pick-up with another hitchhiker and 50lbs of fresh picked garlic. The driver was an ex-solider dressed in fatigues who stopped every 10 km to take another swig of beer or relieve himself. Needless to say, I jumped out just shy of downtown Pai after getting attacked by a thorny branch. Thankfully the owner at Pairadise rescued me on his motorcycle. But upon dismount I burned my right calf on the exhaust pipe leaving me with a scar better known here as the “Thai Kiss.” I am sure never to forget this day.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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charlotte on

BRAVO Stacy for the focus and the great writing and making the Chiang Mai posse look good! I am still debating what I want to do with my collection of journals and blog and photos now that I am back - and you inspire me.

Big hugs and always a couch here on the East Coast. love Charlotte

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