The Life of Pai

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November 20th 2006
Published: January 24th 2007
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Pai ValleyPai ValleyPai Valley

Stunning scenery
Having missed the connecting buses by a matter of minutes we jumped aboard a crammed local bus with what appeared to be half of northern Thailands army division until on arrival at Chang Mai we quickly secured a place on a minibus to Pai. The twisting winding road travelled for 3 hours up into the mountains through yet more thick jungle and made us all feel a little queesy. The sickness soon disappeared however when we arrived in Pai after dark and paraded through the tight and friendly market streets and were overcome with a fondness for the town we had only just arrived at. Checking into Charlies guesthouse and a room which is the closest thing we've yet to experience to a prison cell we strolled along the buzzing streets past Cocktail bars serving out of the side of VW campers and roadside stalls selling rafting and elephant tours. Over dinner we listened to a local guitarist play covers of international classics with the aid of a hippy on the accordian and cringed at a group of pensioners who stood up to dance in front of the whole restaurant.

The next morning to our delight we moved from cell
Chocolate box cottagesChocolate box cottagesChocolate box cottages

In the Pai Valley
block H to a gorgeous private bungalow within the grounds of Charlies and claire and I went our separate ways for the day. I to catch up on some of the blog and Claire to learn the skills and mastery of Thai cooking at "Wok n Roll''. Throughout the day cookery course, Claire as the only class member that day received one to one tuition from the super friendly and relaxed chef "Tee" and along with a recipe book and full tuition on ingredients, she also got to eat her Penang and Thai Green curry for lunch. Whilst I beavered away on the net, Claire's course continued at a leasiurely pace in the afternoon until I arrived and realised just how fun and relaxed the course was. With a catchphrase of "Take it easy" and regular breaks for beer in between chopping ingredients "Tee" made the course an absolute joy and he clearly knew his stuff too. For the final offering Claire and Tee cooked their own meals over the flaming wok and the three of us sat down to tuck into the many tasty dishes. Stuffed and with mouths on fire we said our goodbyes and unusually decided we would spent the rest of the evening getting absurdly drunk... and drunk is what we definately got! Sitting down on the side of the street at "Up to you bar" which was nothing more than a table lined with spirits and a stereo, we drunk Mai Tai's a B52 and a "take me home" which consisted of Vodka, Rum, Gin, Triple Sec and a wee dash of coke. Wobbling off down the road in high spirits we wandered into another bar where we sunk a couple of JD and cokes and customers including me, picked up the guitar to play a tune or two. Lets just say it wasn't my finest moment. By that time the use of my fingers illuded me as did any lyrics I tried to recall and before I'd fallen off the stool we left to retain a little dignity. Judging by the receipt in Claire's wallet the following morning we had two more Mojitos before our vague recollections of stumbling back via a short detour into a bush outside our bungalow in a fit of giggles.

It was certainly not giggles in the morning when we awoke to the incesent warbling of Pigeons which
Curious and happy kids Curious and happy kids Curious and happy kids

After we had given them some pads and colouring pens
the owners had kindly caged in the dozens around the complex and a agonising pain behind our eyes. At that moment, well shortly after a tactical chunder, we vowed never again to inflict such pain on ourselves. After a nervous breakfast we dragged our sorry selves to Noi's Elephant Camp office where we and two other English girls jumped in a pick up and rode several kilometres out of Pai through beautiful fields of golden corn. Arriving at a small building where 2 Elephants were parked outside so to speak. Being first in line Claire and I climbed up the steps to a tall platform and literally walked onto the larger of the two Elephants backs and sat down on a small rug across its back. The Elephant, a female by the name of Mai (New, not no, horse, dog or come) was directed from the neck by Noi, the owner of the camp who was a cheeky little Thai man with a wide brimmed straw hat and who talked to Mai using bizarre little huffs and "hoi" noises. Sitting with our legs spread wide by the Elephants girth our lower legs which were not on the rug scratched against Mai broom thick hairs. Wobbling along the road Noi steered the wandering Mai off into the long grass and to our protestation occasionally thonked her on the head with the back end of a pickaxe he held in his hand. In order to explain that it didn't hurt Noi turned around and cracked me on the thigh with it... well it bloody hurt. Not long after we had ventured offroad we found out that Mai was the most mischevious of Elephants and kept on stopping every 5 metres to curl her trunk around grass, bushes and trees and yank it with all her might sending Claire and I flying from side to side trying to hold on. As the Elephant behind quietly plodded along we tried to take in the beautiful scenery in between bouts of hanging on for dear life and screaming no Mai no Mai as she tore another tree to smithereens.

Up and down over logs, under low trees we stopped at a large rock where Noi got down to take some photos for us. When we moved on he climbed on the back and asked us both to shuffle forward so that I was now sitting right on the elephants head with Mai's big floppy ears resting on Claires and my feet and the thick hairs on her head, Mai that is, were digging into to our legs. Down the hill towards the river Noi continued to try and tame Mai and all the while played pranks on claire by prodding her with a stick and telling her to watch out for low branches. At the rivers edge we emptied our pockets and flung our belongings to the bank just in time before Mai strode into the river and on Nois command twisted and bucked sending us both flying into the water. Time and time again in fits of laughter we climbed up Mai's knee and back on top only to be tossed from a great height into the water. On the final occasion I climbed up just as Mai stood up and I slid comically off the back, my face passing her very large bottom on the way! With Mai now on her feet I had to climb up her trunk and lever myself with my knee on her forehead before falling onto the lap of Noi who was also by now in tears
Drinking Pai styleDrinking Pai styleDrinking Pai style

roadside VW bars
of laughter! Soaking wet we returned to camp after a truly incredible experience and climbed in the back of a pick up after patting goodbye to Noi and the mischevious Mai.

After a night of no alcohol we were disrupted in our sleep by the resident cat who paraded around our bungalow all night and sounded like it was possessed by Beelzebub himself and of course those warbling pigeons. Hiring a scooter for the day off the only company who seemed vaguely interested in renting one out we filled up on gas and drove out of town along a dirt track to a much recommended waterfalls. Sadly the path dissapeared so we turned around and continued on the road past Noi's and several other elephant camps where the elephants scuffed around in the shade and stopped at "Exotic Home Spa". Although the guide made the place sound an idylic hot spring resort we found it to be a beautifully presented but pathetically cold swimming pool. Carrying on to the real Hot Springs round the bend we shrieked at the 400 Baht entrance and instead admired a series of steaming pools at the the gate for free. Motoring on in
Woking brilliantWoking brilliantWoking brilliant

Bebes wok n woll school
a huge loop road we stopped at the impressive Pai Canyon which was a series of huge rock fingers and valleys in between which created narrow paths high above the thick forest. After returning to Pai in the afternoon we rode past the large hospital and out towards a waterfall stopping at the Last Stop cafe on the way for a game of pool and some refreshment. Sadly, by the time we arrived at the waterfall the sun had left its main flow so we decided to return again the following morning and head back down to Pai in the late evening sun. Stopping for a few photographs on the way down at one point a fierce looking man rode past with a gun on his hip and we gave him a misplaced but friendly British hello! Weaved around stray dogs and loose chickens into scattered villages with Chocolate box cottages and beautiful bamboo huts. Packing our bags once more that evening a complete power cut knocked all Pai's lights out so we gave up packing and went to eat by candlelight.

A surprisingly cold morning mist enveloped Pai when we stepped outside and jumped back on our scooter
Ta da!!Ta da!!Ta da!!

Pad Thai... easy!
in the morning. Wrapped in a just bought scarf we again travelled out of town and arrived at the waterfall just as the sun was striking the rocks on either side. Perched on a warm slab we spent some time just listening to the incesant gush of the water and gazing at the vivid green jungle and the teasing glimpse of far off mountains. After a fine morning and an incredible time in general in Pai we returned to town one final time to pick up our packs and head to the bus station. The start of another huge journey was delayed by a late bus so we had enough time to stroll round Pai's laid back block of streets where hippy pensioners seem to drift by on bicycles at regular intervals with cheshire grins on their faces. Pai does that to you though. It grabbed us from the moment we arrived and said in a reasurring tone, Kick Back you two, you can relax here as long as you want. Some people do as we found out and for several years but for us it was time to move on to the amazing beaches and islands in Thailands south.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Into the drinkInto the drink
Into the drink

Both of us getting thrown into the river from Mai's back!
Back at campBack at camp
Back at camp

With cheeky Noi and cheeky Mai behind

25th January 2007

Mai Tai in Pai
Hey guys- Had heard Pai was worth a visit and looks to be true. We'll have to try out our thai cookery skills when you return....You really seem to have enjoyed Thailand- we absolutely loved it too- a beautiful place. Made me laugh thinking of you to out of your brains stumbling into a bush...Looking forward to catching up with you guys soon, you keep enjoying and writing your brilliant blogs! Lots of love, Laura xxxxx

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