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Published: November 28th 2006
Bridge over the river Pai
The river has flooded quite badly over the last couple of years and washed some of the riverside huts away
From Chaing Mai we said good bye to the big city for a while and headed to the teeny mountain town of Pai. We took the bus and wound our way up some of the scariest roads I've ever seen and by the midway point I felt quite queazy from the constant meandering up the mountain. It didn't help that the driver had a habit of overtaking trucks on blind bends whilst honking his horn and hoping for the best.
Pai was a bit of a shock after our recent travels in the cities as when we got off the bus we weren't suddenly surrounded by eager tuk tuk drivers and tour operators. It was all quiet. In fact, as we stood there at the tiny bus station in the afternoon sun we kind of felt ourselves thinking...Hmm, I wish there was a tuk tuk around here...
We headed off, loaded with our belongings to find some lodgings. We setttled on a gorgeous little camp of bamboo huts with mountain views just outside town aptly named "Good View". Again, everything was so much more chilled. We were shown to our hut and didn't have to sign in
Good View Guesthouse
We stayed in one of the little red huts. 300 bahts a night, only just over 4 quid.
or give our passport details or pay - or even say how long we planned on staying. We got the feeling a lot of people stay in Pai a long time.
As it turns out, a lot of people do stay in Pai a long time. The place is very, very western - but not in a Costa Del Sol way. It's full of Americans, Brits and Australians who have set up little businesses here and there and spend much of their time being chilled. It's very hippy and very friendly and the scenery is amazing. We decided to stay 4 nights.
On our 1st night in town we found the streets come to life at night with markets selling food and hilltribe women in brightly coloured clothes selling jewellery and bags and ornaments. In contrast with everywhere else though - no one was forcing you to buy. You can quite happily wander around, look at the stalls and not buy a thing. Which was quite refreshing.
We also got invited to several parties at bars where, for example, we were invited to take along our MP3 plays and plug em into their sound systems
The lean to on the side is our inside bathroom. By inside, it meant it had walls, but you could shower looking at the sky.
and share music. Cool. Alas we were too tired and had an early night...which was just as well. We discovered that being in the country wasn't as quiet as we'd imagined. Everyone gets up at 5am and starts shouting across the fields at each other. People shoot up and down the road on really load mopeds and cockeralls and dogs all join in to greet the sunrise.
Aww, rural life eh?
Louder than Bangkok........
Its a Jungle Out There...
There are waterfalls all round Pai so we decided to be amitious and go to the furthest one away. 7km according to the sign. Sounded ok. A jungle trek following a well worn trail. Hopefully with no leopards. So we set off, wearing our sensible trekking shoes and carrying plenty ( we thought) of water. It started off nice and on roads. On the first bend we spied another trekker and would you believe it was the other English guy we met on the elephant project - Marc from Essex. We joined forces and head off deeper into the jungle....
Then we realised the trail wasn't so easy. It criss-crossed a fast moving stream several times in the
Puppies at our guesthouse
These puppies lived at our guesthouse. we think they might be the cutest puppies we have seen in a long time. There are ALOT of puppies in Pai. We dont think any of them are rabid!
hour and half we were walking. The streams were so deep we had to tackle them bare-foot...then continually put our shoes back on to walk on the next bit of jungle. Hmm. Soon we met an American couple coming back the other way who said they'd been walking another hour and a half ahead of us and still hadn't reached the waterfall. It wasn't looking good for us getting back before dark and the thought of walking through a jungle at night was quite terrifying. Probably like Blair Witch but with leopards (maybe...).
Anyway, we decided to turn back and head back to town for a fruit ice shake. Aw well. Our first outing as intrepid jungle explorers was a bit of a cop out then. I knew I should have brought my dad's Ray Mears jungle survival book with me...
Nightlife in Pai was great. It was really easy to start talking to people. There were several mobile bars set up in the street at night - which is all the more weird given it actually got quite cold. My, am I pleased I brought my Tog 24 Polartec fleece! Anyway, one night we
Steps up to the temple on the hill
On one of our walks we went up to the temple on the hill, Wat Mae Yen. You walk up these steps in the sunshine, and at the top there is a man selling wooley hats. We think he needs to rethink his marketting strategy.
propped up the bar of one of these places, fighting off the cold with a bottle of Chang. In no time we'd started chatting to an ex-pat couple from England who in Pai for a holiday from their home in Pattaya. Then...seconds later we met a holidaying Dutch girl and then Roland and Sven - two German guys. Roland was a very merry guy from Leipzig who now lived in Thailand. He told us all about how he used to sell German sausages in Dover and dreamed of selling them in Trafalgar Square but had a problem with all the red tape he had to get through. So he moved to Thailand. Where he now didn't sell sausage at all but kind of drove people around in his car.
I may have missed something in the above re-telling as it now sounds quite improbable that that was the chain of events. Aw well.
Pai is pronounced Pie. This hasn't escaped the locals' attention. See the pictures for great plays on words. Oh how we laughed at their ingenuity....
Just a large elephant for me...
It just dawned on me that Chang means elephant.
The View from the Temple on the Hill
There's always someone who walks into your holiday pictures isn't there....?
Beer Chang is actually called just that - Beer Chang. Yet whenever I go into a bar and don't order food I might order a large Chang. Hence I'm asking for a large elephant. I wonder if any waiters find this amusing? Must remember to ask for BEER Chang in future...... Kate
It is really quite cold in Pai at night in the cool season. I slept in my sleeping bag for the first time on the trip, and in the evening we needed our fleeces. It must be really really cold for the Thais because they were all wrapped up in their bobble hats and scarves - during the day as well as at night! Spent most of our time in Pai doing walks in the gorgeus countryside, making the most of the fact is was cool enough to do so. Everyone seems to travel round on mopeds or motorbikes in Pai, and tourists can rent them out for about a quid a day. It doesnt seem to matter whether you know how to ride one or not. Fearing for our safety we declined the idea of riding a motorbike around the mountains and used the safety of
our legs instead.
We booked a flight from Chiang Mai to Laos from Pai, and so on Monday we packed up our bags, left our lovely hut and went to the bus station. In the chilled way Pai is, there was some confusion as to what time buses actually left to go back to Chiang Mai. There were lots of different times written on lots of different boards. As it turned out, we had missed one, and there wasnt another for an hour. As we walked away to get a coffee (they serve lots of hill tribe coffee and amazing cakes in Pai) a Thai man said he would take us back to Chiang Mai for the price of the bus. Looking around for his vehicle, we realised he meant in his car/taxi. As it was, it took less time than the bus and he was a very careful driver, taking those blind corners safety and we didnt feel sick on the way back. I wonder if thats what he does all day, drive people to Pai and back. I bet he makes a fortune!
Back in Chiang Mai, we are now about to fly to Luang Prabang
Jungle on the way to the waterfalls
The bloke in the photo is Marc, who you might recognise from the elephant camp photos. There you are, in a tropical jungle and you bump into a bloke from Essex you met when you were riding an elephant a week ago. What are the chances...? Its a small world after all.
in Laos. We are hoping someone will tell us if it is pronounced Lay-os, Lowse or Lay - o, cos people seem to use all of those versions.
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