Pai and Peace

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November 25th 2007
Published: December 2nd 2007
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So we finally arrived back in Pai - the little town in the north that we went to last year from Chiang Mai. Infact, we were there exactly one year before - I just checked our blog from then ("Easy as Pai" - a Rat on the Road classic..). We were pleased to find that it hadn't changed much. Still the sleepy little hippy town in the hills where life moves slowly and pressure-free. Thankfully still no new sky-rise hotels and no giant Tesco supermarkets. Just cool bars, restaurants and shops nestled by the river. With the odd late night party, obviously.

We set off walking from the bus station to our previous accommodation - a small complex of bamboo huts in the middle of a farm field on the far side of the river away from town. It hadn't changed. "Good View Guesthouse" appeared before us much the same as before and was just as relaxed. We were shown to an A-frame style hut with a back window that looked out onto the fields and mountains and no one so much as asked us to sign in or give our passport details - nevermind lay a deposit for the key. It's quite a nice pace of life in Pai.

Do nothing in Pai

As last time we were there - it remains easy to do nothing in Pai - as many t-shirts for sale around town remind you. But it's also possible to do a lot of things like hill trekking, visiting waterfalls and hilltribe villages. We chose to largely do nothing. At 1st at least. We spent our 1st nights bar hopping and seeing local bands and usually ended up sat around a campfire outside a bar towards the end of the night. We chatted to a load of people (probably absolute rubbish - hard to remember) and even had a hairy back-of-a-motorbike ride to a live music club at the edge of town with a French girl we met in Chiang Mai and a Thai trekking guide.
During the day we re-visited the temple on the hill as we did last year, and also wandered the streets and on to neighbouring villages. On top of all this hectic excitement we also read a lot of books.
There were a few other notable events though...

Cooking Pai

..okay, I'll try and stop the Pai-ism
Kris and Tee Kris and Tee Kris and Tee

outside "Lets wok with Tee" cooking course

Something we'd planned on doing before we left Thailand was definitely a Thai cooking course. For a start we haven't cooked a morsel now for over a year - we buy anything we eat from street vendors and restaurants. "How will we cope back home??" we thought. Neither could my arteries or my wallet manage eating fish and chips every night. Secondly, Thai food is yummy and we didn't wanna miss out before it was too late. So, given we were spending most of our time in Pai doing nowt, we decided we'd enroll on a Thai cooking course - a few of which were advertised in town. We selected "Let's Wok With Tee". I mean wouldn't you? For one the name's a play on words ("wok" and "rock", yeah..?) and for another the chef is called Mr. Tee. We assumed it wasn't BA from the A-Team but thought we'd check it out anyway. We caught Tee a couple of days before and booked in.

The beginning of the course was scheduled for 10am in the morning and we turned up at the "cooking school" (it was basically Tee's house - shared with his dog, Ginger) and found there was 4 of us that day. Me and Kate and two girls from Israel.

Tee's a sort of alternative Thai bloke - the sort you often meet in Pai. Previously a supervisor in a textiles factory in the south - he's now grown his hair long and hangs about in Pai teaching Thai cooking. He speaks perfect English, and is generally a nice bloke. Interesting to hear that he abandoned his better paid job for a nicer quality of life.

Anyway, the course involved introductions to Thai ingredients - i.e. veg, sauces, fruits, rice and noodles, as well as details in making a load of dishes - including starting with creating our own curry pastes under Tee's watchful eye. It also involved lots of breaks between cooking/learning stints with plenty of time for a chat. The first leg of the course ended with us cooking lunch (or dinner if you're northern..). Each of us did a different dish and we shared. I made green curry and Kate made red. It was surprisingly good!

After this, around 1 we had another long break until 5.30 when we returned to start dinner (or tea, if you're northern...). This time we found Tee had cracked open a bottle of Thai whisky and while teaching us he was preparing for a night out as he had 3 days off coming up! It was a very relaxed evening and loads of fun. We drank beer and cooked spicy chicken salad and fried holy basil (me) and fried rice and tom yum goong (soupy curry thing) (Kate). Then we all ate it till we were stuffed. We left Tee to his night out around 9 and went home for an early night clutching our new Let's Wok With Tee cooking books in our hands.

Loi Krathong

There was a good reason for Tee's few days of holiday as the Thai festival of Loi Krathong was approaching. This is to celebrate the end of the rainy season where over a certain period offerings are made to water spirits ( I think...) for good luck and to give something back to nature. These offerings come in the form of "Krathongs". These are little boats handmade out of banana leaves and decorated with incense sticks and candles and flowers. On certain nights during the festival these are lit and release onto rivers
Loy Kratong floatLoy Kratong floatLoy Kratong float

the girls on the floats had really fake smiles that they must have been doing for hours and hours!
by everybody and it makes quite a pretty spectacle. They also set of fireworks and even set off big balloons powered by and illuminated by a flame that light up the night sky with orange lights. Anyway - it's all very pretty. All this is accompanied by dancing processions through the streets and lots of kids dressed up in traditional Thai outfits. It happens all over Thailand, but we decided to stay in Pai for it and it was worth it.

After taking in the festivities we ended up at another campfire outisde a bar and bumped into our motorbiking mate the trekking guide and Tee, accompanied by his dog, Ginger, enjoying the festival.
Pai is definitely a small, friendly town!

Moving on...

After an idylic stay in Pai of 6 days (beating our previous record of 4!), we decided it was time to move on. If we stayed any longer we were afraid we'd abandon our shoes, get dreads and decide we enjoyed chanting and meditation and drinking wheatgrass shakes. I may have the long hair and sometimes be bearded, but I am a good honest lad from Horden afterall. I shunned the wheatgrass
Lisu girls in the paradeLisu girls in the paradeLisu girls in the parade

in their traditional costumes. The Lisu are some of the local hilltribes.
in favour of beer and tutted if I saw anyone talking about eating vegan.

It was time to bid a fond farewell and set off back to Chiang Mai and on to Sukothai....

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Kate in one of the many hippy restaurants in PaiKate in one of the many hippy restaurants in Pai
Kate in one of the many hippy restaurants in Pai

sitting on a swing, surrounded by wheatgrass. Honestly we've never seen so much wheatgrass in one place. Obsessed.

we made this!

basically banana tree trunk slices, covered in banana leaves made into shapes, and flowers. Then with a candle and 3 insense sticks attached.
Another women in traditional costumeAnother women in traditional costume
Another women in traditional costume

I'm not sure what tribe she is from
More Thai traditional costume in the paradeMore Thai traditional costume in the parade
More Thai traditional costume in the parade

it wasn't warm in Pai. We were wearing fleeces. They must have been freezing!
Early Loy Kratong processionEarly Loy Kratong procession
Early Loy Kratong procession

collecting money for the temple
You attach your offering to the temple to these treesYou attach your offering to the temple to these trees
You attach your offering to the temple to these trees

as they are carried in the procession
Men in the paradeMen in the parade
Men in the parade

playing some sort of cymbol instrument and having a very very good time doing it....(some Chang beer may have also been involved by the looks of it!)
Lights over the riverLights over the river
Lights over the river

candles on the kratongs, and these big paper balloons that had burners in them, they filled with fire and hot air and rose up over the town.
More lightsMore lights
More lights

the big paper balloons were cool, except when people filled them with fireworks which went off and often fell from the sky on people's heads. Safety first.
Shops in PaiShops in Pai
Shops in Pai

selling wooly hats! Cos its that cold (not really!)

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