Chilling out in Pai (or the art of doing nothing)

Trip Start Jan 10, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Baan Pai Riverside Village

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Last morning in Mae Hong Son, breakfast by the lake, said good bye to the owners of that wonderful cafe and got a spot on the local bus - pretty roughed up actually but lovely. I like those better than the air con ones that are twice so expensive and all you get out of it is a good cold for few days.
I've heard quite a bit about this ride to Pai but it far exceded my expectations. So, I got to Pai all right after 684 (or something like that) curves and at least half as many hills, up and down, without puking my guts out, and btw this is something that I'm really proud off!
Word of advice: if you ever find your self on the way to Pai from Mae Hong Son on the bus please do yourself a favor and take your guide book advice to skip one or two meals before you board that bus. This time I did not listen... but I did OK considering. I had a couple of moments though when the window next to me was wide open and ready to accept my donation... Even so this is an amazing bus ride, right there at the top after Kathmandu - Beshisahar. (For more on this regoin and roads see previous entries of this blog. This part of the road was just the same but with way many hills and crazy tight curves)

Once in Pai I needed to find a place to stay and there was a festival happening over the weekend so the town was full. But not after long I got my self a bamboo hut by the Pai river all very rustic and nice with it's own shower and a toilet. Not bad for 300 Bath a night ($9). So I settled in and immediately got into the town's groove: relaxed, serene, care free.

Pai is a nice little town, a combination of a hippie commune and a tourist enterprise, add Hill Tribe people selling their handcrafts and you got an interesting place that has something to offer to everyone and everybody gets along quite nicely.
Lots and lots of little restaurants and cafes, some more touristy than other but all serving great northern Thai food. At "The House" Restaurant I've been introduced to one local, regional in fact, Lanna dish called Kao Soi (this is just one of the spellings besides Khaw Shoy, Khao Shoi, etc.) that became my new favorite dish. It is a yellow flat noodle soup with coconut milk and curry. Comes with chicken, pork or tofu, and crispy noodles on top. Moderately spicy and a bit sweet, from the yellow curry, it is Delicious!!

There's not much to do in Pai really, all the activities are taking place around town like trekking, visiting Hill Tribe villages, waterfalls... same same as Mae Hong Son but better :) In fact many of these things are taking place in the same places I've gone from MHS. So since I've done all that and I felt a little laizy I decided to try the thing most of people do in Pai: nothing. It works! I'm good at it, really! I found a nice shaded spot on the porch of my hut and worked on the blog for some time, Every now and then I had to pause for either a chicken with cashew nuts and stir fried veggies, or some delicious Phad Phadang and of course the Kao Soi. All with good cold Chang or Singha beer, Ahhhh!!! A little nap perhaps when I was getting tired, followed by a good coffee at "All about coffee" (this great cafe has a really nice art gallery at the second floor, paintings from local artists and kids that you can admire while enjoying a very good cup of coffee). I didn't even noticed when 3 days went by... I've heard of people getting stuck here for 4 months... yes, I can see that. It's totally possible.
At night I would walk the narrow streets filled on both sides with food stands or locals selling their silks, jewelery, T-Shirts and handicrafts, for hours. I would try most of the street food they sell, the majority of it fried stuff on a stick that I decided not to ask what it was... very tasty though, barbecued corn, nuts, fruits and the Roti with banana and chocolate... and than I would stop and listen to quite good live jazz and blues at the Pai Post sipping at a cold beer for another hour or so before I would return to my bamboo hut and go to sleep.
Something I've seen all over the north and loved it was this fantastic paper lanterns that locals would release at night into the cool air, lanterns that would carry their prayers and wishes to the skies. An amazing view, especially when released from a Buddhist monastery or temple. Unfortunately I didn't get a decent picture of those lanterns but they are working on the same principle of a hot air balloon. About a meter tall paper cylinder fitted with some slow burning fireworks powder that would heat the air inside of the cylinder when ignited and take it to crazy heights. I remember getting off the bus at night in Mae Hong Son and looking up I saw the Moon, a bright white star and 2 or 3 other red stars. I couldn't figure it out for the life of me what was I looking at, until a couple of days later when I witnessed the whole ritual... It is quite beautiful. Quite a few of those lanterns were filling the sky over Pai every night making me feel at peace and harmony with the universe as I was watching them until they would dissapair into the darkness.

Last couple of nights the town was invaded by hoards of young Reggae loving Thais and westerners, all there for the festival that was taking place somewhere on the outskirts of Pai. Never seen so many Rastas in the same place before and 99.99% of them were dreadlocks wearing Thais... a bit surreal but also occasionally funny. Bob is still a God here!
I tried to completely immerse my self in the atmosphere and have some dreadlocks done but I was greeted with an incredulous, polite smile and a "sorry, not possible sir" every time I asked. Huhh!, I guess they figured me out right away that I wasn't really a Reggae fan... :)

Good times in Pai... good lazy times.
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claudia on

Keep it coming and have fun. I love reading the entries and trying to imagine the places.
The food pictures are great -I could even smell the food....

Bacea cu oaia on

Draga Toni,
te-ai pierdut prin Malaiezia? Spune-ne draga, ca venim imediat dupa tine, mama lor de malaiezieni...

din trilogia: "Petrolul, malaiezia si ardelenii "

Bacea cu oaia

Diana on

Hi Tony!

Entertaining as usual your stories... Hmmm... how I'd love to be lazy on the porch of your little hut. But totally lazy. I wouldn't even touch the computer :-)
Anyway, seeing your pictures I can tell you now that you'll love the little campground in Nuweiba on the Red Sea beach. The huts smaller and less fancy, but the sea and beach fantastic. Great trekking in the area. Even I managed to be lazy there for about a week :-)

Be lazy, be happy, have fun!!!

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