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Published: August 20th 2008
LIFE OF PAI
Oh. Where to begin. The Life of Pai. Ah, yes. Well, after flying from India into Thailand and forfeiting my onward ticket to Macau for two days later (the HODR China deployment at this time was not looking promising, so my friend Tim and I made the decision to nix heading there and running the risk of not being able to get Chinese visas), we headed into Bangkok, to the infamous backpacker hub of Khao San Road, a part of town I have managed to avoid ever going to, save for one time a few years ago -- for about five minutes -- to meet a friend, before we high-tailed it outta there. Remember that, Sandrina? ;-)
Anyway, we figured this was where all the action was; one can buy anything there, other like-minded individuals hang out and stay in that part of town (and stories of the road are always fun to exchange), it's conveniently located for catching local transport (buses, river taxis, tuk tuks) and food, beer and accommodation was cheap. We spent five days resting, catching up on emails and just aimlessly wandering about. We were able to meet up with three friends from past HODR deployments, who were making their way around the world, and Tim ran into someone he had met in India. Good times, but it was still Bangkok, and I needed to get out of there.
I took a plush overnight tourist bus in the pissing rain to Chiang Mai (the price, believe it or not, was better than the local buses -- and much more comfortable, only costing $8.00 US for the 12 hour journey), and the next morning when I arrived quickly got myself to the local bus station to catch a local bus to Pai. Pai is a quaint little tourist town of 3000 (and growing fast!) up in the hills about three to four hours northwest of CM. Even while I was in India, I was dreaming of Pai, knowing this was the place I needed to be to clear my head and relax my Indian-frazzled nerves. I gave myself two weeks to sit and do nothing, and three weeks later I finally left the lovely little town.
What did I do for three weeks when in Pai? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I will do my best to elaborate on nothing, as I thought this might not be terribly exciting to read if I sent out a blank blast/blog (however, this thought did occur to me).
So, for the first week in Pai I spent entire days inside a lovely, modern coffee shop with wooden floors and walls, surrounded by local kids' paintings and artwork. A low corner table and a few Thai pillows on the floor, a plug in the wall, an oscillating fan and pilfered WIFI from next door were all I need to get some work done. Ok, that's not all. I had overpriced coffee every day just for the privilege of taking up a little corner space in this coffee shop. I had months of journaling, emails and photos to catch up with and to this day, I am still not done. I don't think I will ever get done. My time came to a close after a week, when, one day, I walked in and my fan was gone and the electric plug missing from the wall. HUH? The proprietor (I used to think she was a lovely person...) told me she would have to start charging me for electricity, which I thought was ludicrous, if I wanted to continue spending my days in side her shop. Of all the money I spent in her place buying countless mochas and spending triple-Western prices for miniscule meals (I even brought - and sent - numerous people I had met into her shop to buy food and drinks), and she treats me like this? Whatever. There are other places to go. I never went back.
I rented a motorbike with some new friends and we went off for a full day of tootling around the gorgeous countryside. Pai and the surrounds was very green, lush, and tranquil. The town itself is a bit overrun with tourists, both Thai and Western, though coming from India, I personally felt there weren't that many people on the streets. It is monsoon, after all, and the rains keep many tourists from traveling, which is alright by me any day!
I made friends with my neighbors in the ICE HOUSE, a lovely guesthouse setting a few minutes' walk from the town "center." This place has about a half dozen or so bamboo bungalows with a few newer concrete ones thrown in all surrounding a little garden area, complete with countless shrubbery, Birds of Paradise, longan berry trees and a couple fish ponds. My neighbors were fun and funny and it didn't take long before light-hearted and all-in-fun gossip ensued amongst a core group of four of us. There was copious amounts of laughter as we poked fun at others and ourselves and passed the days watching many movies on my laptop on my neighbor Rory's front porch. We talked endlessly about traveling, seeing the world and found we had much in common in terms of traveling on the cheap. It truly was a place to hunker down for a few weeks. Two weeks easily turned into three and had I not needed to renew my Thailand visa I feel I may have been able to spend more time in Pai. But there came a day I had to move on.
I never once felt even the slightest twinge of guilt at doing nothing in Pai. I enjoyed the long days, the movie marathons and the food. Oh, Pai and her food.....Pai has the most amazing array of restaurants and food choices I have seen in ages. The restaurants, though the food was amazing and the ambiance Asian-top class, were no doubt very much geared for tourists, and the prices reflected this. I took to eating at the street stalls for a fraction of the cost, as I tend to do anyway when traveling. Why spend $3.00 or $4.00 on a meal when you can spend a buck or less? Not to say there aren't times and places to indulge. Like, for instance, the bakery.
OH MY GAWD! THE BAKERY!!
It was all over when I discovered this place.
CALORIE FREE PAI
I am a sucker for tasty baked goods. As those of you who have traveled in South East Asia know, one rarely has the opportunity to find such amazing delights in this part of the world. Real, honest to goodness TASTY baked goods just don't exist in Asia. Especially chocolate. Well, whatever this bakery is doing, it's doing it right. Properly. Too properly. I was simply in love the first time I walked in. I had quite possibly the most amazing banana bread I have ever eaten in my life. The 6" rectangular shaped piece was topped with a 1/4" thick of chocolate -- the most heavenly, mouthwatering, delectable food item I have ever eaten. Ever. I went back every day, sometimes, uh, more than once a day, to indulge. Guilt? None! Zero. Zippo. Nada.
After leaving Pai, I traveled up to the northern Thai town of Mae Sae, bordering Myanmar to obtain my visa. Costing only $10 for the privilege of getting my passport stamped into out of and back into the country (better than Laos or Cambodia at $35 or $20 respectively, plus a much longer drive), I decided to spend a few hours in Myanmar since I had just paid to do so (this, by the way is not an official border crossing -- there are no land borders with Myanmar, one must officially fly in -- but the border officials do grant you 12 or 14 days in a very restricted area of this part of Myanmar, if one so chooses). I spent the morning hours with a friend exploring the markets and neighborhoods of the border town of Tachilek, Myanmar, had a just-under-a dollar tasty noodle soup for brekkie and then high-tailed it out of there back into Thailand.
MAE SALONG MEANS MORE MOVIE WATCHING
I found a lovely little hill station in the extreme northwest of Thailand called Mae Salong, and though there wasn't much to do, and any hiking seemed rather fruitless and slippery due to all the mud, I still managed to spend 10 days there. This is monsoon season, which meant there was quite a bit of rain, which could only mean........an excuse for more movie watching (the guesthouse had a hundred movies to choose from), more "hanging out," lots of catching up on the news of the world as there was a current Bangkok Post delivered to the guesthouse everyday, and general getting to know the other patrons. I had one of the largest rooms I have had in a long time with a big double bed and a single bed on the other side of the room. I had a writing desk, a vanity with a huge mirror and a large window overlooking the bungalows behind the guesthouse. I positioned the table in front of the single bed, where nearly every day two friends and I sat and watched more movies. Ah, traveling can be such hard work.
It was then back to Pai for five days, where I filled up my tummy with more baked goods from THE BAKERY and emptied the bank account because of THE BAKERY. It was so worth the extra trip back. WoW! A calorie-free Pai trip this was not!
Now, I am back in Bangkok awaiting a Myanmar visa. Having already booked flights to the country, I am awaiting approval from the embassy to let me in to their country. Fingers crossed, please. Internet could be spotty at best in Myanmar, so I may not be in contact with anyone for nearly a month, well, if I even get to go to there! I would love to hear what YOU are all doing, and for those of you I haven't heard from in a while, please send on a message and let me now how you are. You know who you are! :-)
All the best to each and every one of you,
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