Friday, 30 October 2015

Our (adventurous) Five Days in Pai, Thailand


After now being settled in Chiang Mai for one month (two months for Zack!), we were super excited to go on our first little trip.  With last week being October break for teachers here, we planned a little getaway a few hours north, up to a place called Pai (pronounced somewhere between "Pie" and "Bye"... we still can't master that short "P" sound).  Nestled in the hills of Northern Thailand, this small populated town (approx. 3,000 people?) is, in my opinion, the perfect place to find the best of both worlds:  outdoor adventure combined with a completely chill atmosphere.  Hiking trails, waterfalls and beautiful scenery, combined with a somewhat "hippie" vibe in the town, Pai has become a popular off the beaten track destination for many backpackers.  We had read about this place having the reputation that really anything goes, and we were eager to find out what this place was really like.

Despite waking up on Saturday morning with a sinus pain and runny nose, we packed one backpack between the two of us (we are seriously getting good at this "packing light" thing) and hopped on our motorbike.  It was kind of a last minute decision to drive ourselves.  Up until the day before, we had planned on taking a bus.  Here's the thing:  With 762 twists and turns, we were told you have to be slightly crazy to drive all the way up to Pai.  After some more research, we decided we'd go for it anyways.  I truly think Zack has some really decent driving skills on the motorbike (unlike myself... I went out on the roads once and felt so out of control it was scary.  I'll have to work on that one), and we decided we'd take our time and enjoy the journey.  With that being said, our motto for the drive was (in a very calm voice):  The journey is the destination.  Shanti.  (Shanti means peace in Hindu.  I thought it suited the Pai vibe).    

So, before I go into more detail about where and how we ended up discovering our Pai adventures, I am really excited to present to you our very first GoPro video!!  Zack recently bought a basic GoPro for my birthday and we are really excited to use it throughout our travels in SouthEast Asia!  Presenting:  Adventures in Pai:

Phew!  Watching that over is like re-living all the exciting things we did last week and it was really fun.  Unfortunately my sinus cold only got worse as the week went on (I think all the dust we experienced in our faces on our way to and from Pai didn't help).  I know the video makes it appear that we spent all of our time out adventuring, but in reality we spent a lot of time relaxing. 

This first group of photos was taken on our drive up.  We stopped for coffee at a place not too far outside of Chiang Mai that was absolutely beautiful and then stopped for noodle soup for lunch as the serious twists and turns began.  One thing I love about being here is that there are always new and interesting coffee shops and restaurants to discover.  Both places we pulled over just on a whim.

When we arrived in Pai, our bums were sore.  It took us a total of five hours (with stops) to finally reach the town, so by the time we got there we were ready to walk around and explore.  The nice thing we found was that it was easier to walk around. The pace of the town was generally a lot slower than Chiang Mai.  Chiang Mai (which is also known to be relaxed) still seems so crazy to us sometimes.  It was really nice to slow things down for a few days.
The photo above was taken around 7am.  A monk makes his early morning rounds, blessing the people.

Our first night in Pai, we stayed at a place called "KK Huts".  This is also the last time you will ever find us back at "KK Huts".  We found it ahead of time on Hostel World and it appeared to be a quiet, surrounded by nature type of place.  The huts were typical of these type of accomodations (nothing fancy- just a mattress on the floor with a fan and mosquito net) which we were fine with.  It was more that instead of getting the long, peaceful sleep we had dreamed of having, we were continuously woken by noise going on in the other huts.  I will spare you the details of these "noises" but let's just say some people need to learn to have some decency and respect (yes, it is what you're thinking.  You can hear evvvverything through those walls).  Needless to say, though the owners were really friendly and they had some adorable kittens, we packed our bags the next day to find somewhere else to stay.
Breakfast area (above) and me playing with the kittens below.

Even though we were running on little sleep, we made it out on our first day to do some hiking.  The hike took us along a river (where we actually had to cross over 50 times or more) and was supposed to bring us to a waterfall.  After hiking over 2 hours, we realized if we went the entire way we would run out of daylight, so we ended up turning back early.  It was still nice to get more into the jungle and enjoy all the lush greenery around us.  

We ended up finding new accomodations for the same price we were paying before and it was 100 times better.  If I can give any advice on staying in Pai, just wait until you get there to find a place.  There are tons of guesthouses and huts that are all reasonably priced and it was not hard to find somewhere new to stay.  This next place was also separate huts but each hut had their own bathroom, and an actual bed with real furniture inside.  We had a front porch that looked out to the mountains, where we spent lots of time lounging on the hammock.  I was a bit worried after the first night, but in the end it made this place feel like heaven!
In the distance, local workers worked in the fields.

The next day, we spent exploring some waterfalls, driving the country roads, and hiking the Pai Canyon.  
The way to the waterfall (above) and the breathtaking scenery while driving (below).

We also stopped in at a local farm we read about online called Land Split.  The reason for the name is that, quite literally, the land on the farm began to split, causing some problems with the farming.  The family then decided to open up there place to the public, creating sort of a small "tourist attraction" where you can walk up and look at the land.  The best part though?  Upon arrival they serve you juice and fresh fruit, asking for nothing in return but a donation of however much you'd like to give.  We ate fresh passion fruit, sweet potatoes, rosella juice and rosella wine (which tasted more like a strong liquor).  The family was so hospitable and friendly.  I would say anyone who comes through Pai, just stop at this families farm!  
Above is the Land Split farm.  I actually didn't get any photos of the actual "land split" but was way more excited about the fresh fruit and juice!

We hiked the Pai Canyon just before sunset to a) avoid the blazing hot afternoon sun, and b) so that we could reward ourselves afterwards with watching the sunset (and enjoy a cold Chang beer).  Okay, so we learned that this place will be blazing hot probably any time you go while the sun is above the horizon, and that this is a very popular spot to watch the sunset!  While we passed only a few people during the hike, there seemed to be bus loads of people coming to the start of the hike which is the best place to watch the sun set.  Unfortunately, the sun turned into more of a "haze" but it was still a lovely way to watch the daylight fade away.
Above, I couldn't help but snap a photo of this Asian beauty!  Here I am covered in sweat and dirt, so I thought she'd make a better photo.  

ELEPHANTS!!!  That's what I basically screamed to Zack as we rounded a corner to see this sight.  We hadn't planned on seeing any elephants during our week away, but as we were driving one day, we turned a corner and found where a lot of them are kept (tied up, sadly) waiting for people to come ride them.  They were so cute.  The sad thing is though, (this is a whole new topic that deserves it's own post) is that their living conditions just aren't right.  As you can see in the photo below, these ones are tied up with not much room to move around.  I'm not sure if it was all the negative thoughts going through my mind, but they didn't seem to be happy.  Riding elephants in Thailand has turned into a sad sitiuation for these animals with more emphasis on the money made through the tourist industry than the animals well being.  Though this saddens me, I couldn't help but smile when this big guy reached out his long trunk towards me.  What beautiful and precious animals these are!

Another thing I loved about Pai is all the artful cafes and coffee shops.  Though we may not fit in totally with some of the "real hippes" that come and go to Pai (we spent one night at a tea shop where there was live music.  I felt much more groomed than most others in my vacinity...), the art culture definitely draws me in.  This one cafe in particular had a separate art gallery and swings outside to swing the day away on.

We stopped one evening for dinner with the most incredible view.  The best part was, we were literally the only people there.  There is just so much beauty in Pai!

We spent our last day in Pai white water rafting.  This ended up being a highlight of our trip, even though the rapids weren't necessarily crazy (the river is lower now that the rainy season has come to an end).  Our guide was great and though he didn't speak much English, he made us laugh all the way through.  "Go! Go! Go!" and "Stop! Stop! Stop!"  was basically what he said the whole time.  No idea why he would say everything in groups of three. Haha.  We also made friends with the other couple in our boat and ended up going out with them that night back in town. Along the way there we stopped to see some adorable monkeys!  It was hard for me to get a good photo because we had to stay in the truck, but here's one that turned out okay:

We hope we can make it back up to Pai before we leave Thailand!

No comments:

Post a Comment