Escape to Pai

Travelling from Chiang Mai by motorbike to Pai 90 miles away, do we go the normal main road route with its 762 twists and turns pursued by mini buses who seem to hunt in packs? It takes 3-4 hours and the mini bus drivers get paid per trip not by the hour so they don’t hang about; Or go the incredibly scenic long route, almost twice as far but hardly any traffic and recently made tarmac all the way, driving through tribal villages and strawberry fields? Yes the long route won. Misty mountains early, 7am.

Villagers tending to children and animals, movement from every corner, not rushing just doing. Monks ambling serenely along looking like they are smuggling drums under their orange robes and dogs looking hopeful into open doorways. An easy pace of life unfurling on a cool misty morning.

There are lots of long stretches of road in the forest with narrow ridges, windy yet tranquil with no villages or people just the odd farm vehicle full of cabbages or other greenery off to market. We eventually stop for coffee and then a few miles further at a viewpoint. We are captivated by the mountains stretching for miles like a long misty ripple.

A car full of monks stopped and took out their latest iPhones and took lots of pictures, and asked us to take pictures of them. Monks on tour, well I never!

We arrive in Pai seven hours later, no stress but a very flat bottom…As we start to descend from the mountain roads towards the Pai river the land stretches out into a wide river valley. The trees, land and plants changing, hot springs erupting on the roadside and fertile fields full of rice, cows, corn and other crops. A welcome sight from the enclosed steep mountain passes.

We arrive at our guesthouses, slightly out of town towards the big white Buddha on the hill.

It’s a quiet spot, away from party central which Pai has become. It’s a rustic bamboo hut, just one up from camping Chris says with a big comfy bed and mosquito net.

Wandering around Pai it has changed from 6 years ago but I don’t think for the good, it’s like hippyville does Disney. It’s become very commercial and has lost its friendly soul. There are some seriously strange people wandering about, I like strange but not when they are trying so’s a great place for people watching though

Love the travelling cat

All the stalls at the evening walking market now sell avocado everything, paleo, keto salads, vegan wraps lots of alternative foodie things and very little Thai food. There are hundreds more places to stay but it was very quiet. I don’t mind change it’s inevitable but everything that was quaint and cool and Thai has gone. It’s full of Rastafarian, pastafarian and trustafarians (wealthy and white, dreadlocks with a trust fund), it has lost its charm. Oh well.

The surrounding areas haven’t lost their charm, we went up to the viewpoint overlooking Pai. You have to travel through a few Yunan (Chinese) villages to get there. It’s a great view of the whole wide flat verdant valley across to the big White Buddha.

There are hot springs, very hot at the top and cooler downstream to bathe in and a few hours out of town the ‘spirit caves’, the caves of Lod which are amazing and a must see. You enter the cave system by boat

There is a Canyon which has narrow ridges and is an interesting if not a slightly scary diversion. It feels like you are tightrope walking with huge drops either side. We got there early before all the tour buses arrived and had a good scramble about. There are no railings or safety anything so you only go as far as you dare…

We were invited to eat with the young owner of the guesthouse Milk and her parents (they live in Belgium) who were visiting and we had got friendly with. It was a very nice night with lovely home cooked food. We took this picture before we left complete with very friendly cat and dog.

A great sunset restaurant looking back towards the viewpoint

We enjoyed Pai for all its changes but won’t be in a rush to return.

Happy New Year. May the year be happy and healthy and brimming with joy.

2 thoughts on “Escape to Pai

  1. Glad you’re having a great time again and thanks for sharing. Belated Happy Xmas and an early Happy New Year . Bestest of wishes for 2020
    Sandra xx

    Liked by 1 person

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