So with my Celta over and an overwhelming desire to move on, I left Chiang Mai for the more chilled out climes of Pai. Pai is a small town about 3 hours north of Chiang Mai, and is one of the places where my heart now lies. There are about 3 streets that make up the town and almost all of them are full of hippy dippy (technical name) stores of some kind. 4 days was the perfect amount of time to spend here; any less and I would have felt cheated any more and I would have got stuck there and never left. It was dangerously close to happening.
On the bus up from Chiang Mai, we had the obligitory ‘cool the engine down/ pee break’ halfway up the mountain. After scanning the crowd of people I found my fellow solo traveler. After awhile you become really good a picking out the solos- standing awkwardly away from the chatting couples/families, usually looking at their phone or listening to their headphones. So I put my phone in my pocket, took my headphones out of my ears and said, “Hi”. I’ve become really good at introducing myself or just randomly talking to people over the last 2 years; if you don’t, no one else will take the time to do it and you will be perpetually alone. So I did what I always do and I started talking to the other solo girl traveler on the bus. Turns out that this was a winning situation and she was really cool. It always makes it more fun to do stuff with other people than just by yourself.
I was staying at the Pai Circus School, which is about a 10 minute walk out of the centre of town. It’s a very nice walk during the day but at night when it is pitch black and you are alone….it’s kind of like something from a horror movie. Especially when your head lamp accidentally changes to it’s blinking red lamp setting. WTF headlamp?!?
The Pai Circus School is up on top of a hill that looks over the whole valley that the town of Pai is situated so it’s an amazing view. The accommodation is a choice between a dorm and a bungalow/hut thing; as I was by myself I opted for the dorm…which might have been a bit of a mistake. The dorm was constructed from bamboo, like everything in the dorm- beds, walls, roof, floor- which is nice except for when it gets really cold at night and it also doesn’t keep the sound of the singing hippies or the irritating roosters out. I’m still trying to figure out which was worse. The separate huts were also made out of bamboo but are set apart from the main area so the chickens don’t go down that far. So that’s a win.
The next day I met up with the bus girl -Katja- and we rented some motor bikes to have a groove around the Pai area. The first stop, which we initially went past due to the lack of signage, was the Pai Canyon. Pulling into the parking lot it seemed a lot more developed than it should have been….then we saw the sign apologizing for any inconvenience because they were filming something at the canyon that day. It was kind of cool to see them pulling down all their stuff but I was more excited when I saw the VERY clean crew only toilets….that I sadly didn’t get to use. The canyon itself is pretty cool, unless you go there at midday and the sun is scorching down on you and you really don’t feel like walking around. Pai -1 Kate -0.
We saw a sign pointing down a dirt-ish road saying “Waterfall” so thought, “Why the heck not?”. It was pretty cool and there were only us and a Thai family there so it was nice to get away from the crowds….hahaha crowds. There were like 6 people at the canyon. The water was freezing but oh so refreshing even just to stick my feet in. I wish that I had planned out better and brought something to swim in or at least a towel.
As we were leaving the waterfall, there was another sign saying, “View Point. 10 Km”. The signs in Pai are extremely informative. I might need to write to someone about those. 10 km isn’t far so again we thought, “Why the heck not?”…..now I will tell you why not. It was the singularly worst road that I have ever had the unfortunate pleasure of driving. Yes, it was awesome scenery and yes, it was nice to be driving out in the country but holy shit, this road!! There were ruts the size of a small pony and nowhere near as cute. We got to where we thought was about the halfway point, asked a local guy in very broken Thai and very broken English about this “View Point”, to which he started to laugh and point over the next range of hills, “Ve-y, ve-y faaah”. I’m not one to throw in the towel at the sign of trouble but this road was brutal and I can’t afford to get a rental bike fixed so we turned around and bumped our way back down the road. Once we hit the main road, of course there was a HUGE sign pointing away from where we had just come reading, “View Point”. I have to still discover whether they are the same view points but the signs looked the same…I hope they weren’t.
Now anyone who has been to Northern Thailand in March will know about the air pollution. If you have not been to Northern Thailand in March, there is TERRIBLE air pollution; which means it’s kind of pointless going to a view point. “Oh, look at that blob of grey cloud on the horizon. It’s so picturesque.” So after spending so long looking for this fucking view point, there was really no reason to go in the end. Sigh. Life’s a bitch, eh?
The next day we rented motorbikes again (it’s really the cheapest way to see a lot of stuff) and headed out to a giant Buddha on the hill. It’s exactly what it says and really is similar to the “Big Buddha” in Phuket. It was kind of cool but surprisingly empty. Apparently everyone in Pai just hangs out in town all day. After seeing the Buddha we figured that we had the bikes for the day and there was the open road ahead of us. We had seen something about the hot springs but after driving all the way and finding out that it was really expensive to go into the hot springs we decided against it. Hahaha. So lame.
I saw another informative sign saying “Stone Forest”…I knew I had to check this out. Driving up a road that was reminiscent of the one we drove up the day before I began judging my common sense or my ability to judge road quality. Again, this place was deserted. I don’t know if I am picking the wrong places to see or as I said before everyone else is just staying in town and not venturing out and about. The Stone Forest was really cool. It was simple- lots of rocks in the forest but it was so completely different than the lush green of the surrounding Pai area. Everything was all dry and brown- it was like Canada in fall, if Canada in fall was 70,000 degrees. I am not a geologist but I am assuming that the rocks were left there by a glacier, either that or witchcraft. This being Thailand there of course was no signage so your guess is as good as mine.
Having spent the last 2 days driving around on a motor bike so feeling the need to do some exercise and my easily succumbing to peer pressure, I got talked into doing a one day trek with Katja. It was the first day of a 2 day trek but since both of us were leaving the next day and the guide couldn’t promise that we would make it back in time to make our buses, we just did day one. I’m not going to lie; it was really tough. Totally worth it but tough. The uphills were very UP and the downhills were very DOWN but the flats were awesome. Too bad there was only like 3 flat sections. Chai, our guide was hilarious and quite informative about random shit that he was convinced was interesting. As a person who loves random shit, it was a fantastic addition to the trip. I am also a very accident prone person so for me to only fall down twice and do minimal damage to myself was SUPERB!
For my last day in Pai, I decided that it would be nice to have a chill out day and surrounded myself with the various aromas of the collective sitting on the Circus Schools gazebo and read my book before loading up on a bus that would take me to the Thai/Laos border.
I am so freaking out of date with this that there might be a few posts in the next few days just I can get up to speed. Sorry!!