Pai, oh, Pai. What a lovely, magical place you are. If anyone’s been here before, you know what I’m talking about.
After thinking through my Thailand itinerary, I knew I wouldn’t want to visit the islands because one, I’m from an archipelagic country; two, I probably won’t like it as much because at this point I am a confessed beach snob. If I can’t see clearly through the waters, no thanks. If it isn’t fine sand, never mind. Now, don’t react yet. I know Thailand has some nice beaches as well but back to point one — when I travel, might as well see something I don’t often see back home, no?
So I decided to do Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pai. Bangkok was decided for one week. I know, I know. Too long, right? But I wanted to give it a chance. Part of traveling is going out of your comfort zone. Being an island girl, cities are not for me… but still, I decided to give it a chance. When I gave Kuala Lumpur a chance, I didn’t regret it because I love Kuala Lumpur to bits. It might not just be the city but also the people and the energy of the whole city. Oh, and, duh, food.
Going back, I decided to spend more time in the north, covering a week in Chiang Mai and, after a little research, decided to stay in Pai for two weeks. I think what really convinced me was when I was browsing through hostels, I saw Spicy Pai and it was exactly my kind of vibe, it seemed.
I drove from Chiang Mai to Pai with a scooter I got from Cat Motors. I was told that if there’s anything you should do is to drive a motorbike to Pai instead of taking the van. Apart from avoiding car sickness from almost a thousand curves, you also get to enjoy the scenery more. I knew I had to do this so I made sure I did. It was an absolutely beautiful ride. Halfway through I was driving through the top of the hills and it got a bit chilly actually. I couldn’t feel my fingers for almost an hour.
As you slowly approach Pai, you’ll definitely feel that excitement to see what it’s all about.
When I got into town, I knew it was my place already. It had great scenery, was a good sized town, and I saw good places to eat around. I got that from just driving through the streets before heading out to Spicy Pai. It was like… love at first sight!
I spent the next two weeks in this peaceful town just relaxing. After I had had an epiphany of sorts a few days before in Chiang Mai during the Lantern Festival, it was the perfect time to reflect more about my journey. I had a full rethink of what I wanted to do with my life and make decisions that will help me grow instead of feel like I’m stuck.
This place was also where I forged lifelong friendships. It started with my new friend, Marise, when we decided to do a little motorbike trip that weekend we met to see Lod Cave and spend some time further north. After a day of deciding this, we kept meeting people and not just meeting but actually connecting to people.
I had met Kevin and Mirthe over at Carrot on the Moon, my favorite Pai cafe, and unexpectedly did the “What’s Your Story” game. We talked about our journeys and it was such a relaxed and comfortable vibe there that I was able to open up. And I think that conversation bonded us instantly.
Later that night, we got to know more people over at the campfire at Spicy Pai. We made campfire bread, had some wine, and some wonderful conversations.
Over the next couple of days, we formed quite a solid group that we all felt comfortable being around so we all decided to do the weekend trip to the north together. From two, we became 10. And that weekend was one to remember. I think it solidified our friendship, so much so that people who said they would only stay a few days in Pai, ended up staying two weeks like I did! And even after the hard goodbyes we had to make to some people, the rest of us stayed together.
With such little time, who would have thought you could build strong friendships? As they say, it’s not about how long you know someone but how well you connect.
There’s something magical about Pai. I can’t put my finger in it but it was an absolutely magical time. It was simple. It was genuine. Ask anyone you know who’s been to Pai and majority of them will have this huge smile and will exhale emotions that can only mean it was so great they miss it already. It’s almost as if my heart melts when I think about Pai.
I know I’ll be back one day, especially because I failed to do the Mae Hong Son loop. That’s in my bucket list!