Sunday, 18 May 2014

Thailand post #5: Pai

This is fifth in a series of nine posts about my eight week visit to Thailand with my girlfriend Emily. You can read my posts about Bangkok here, Chiang Mai here, the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai here and Chiang Rai here

Pai is located in the far north or Thailand, on a very long and windy route from Chiang Mai. Pai is very popular with Thai people, as well as tourists, with the small town overflowing with people during peak tourist season and many people resorting to sleeping in tents, which must be roasting! Pai was devastated by a landslide a few years ago, but you see little evidence of this now, as the town has bounced back and seems to be thriving. The route from Chiang Mai to Pai has 762 famous curves. The route really is very bendy and makes a lot of people feel travel sick, even people who don't usually suffer from this!

Bamboo bridge over the river, leading to Pai Country Huts and other accommodation

Some friends we met in Chiang Mai recommended we stay at Pai Country Huts. There are lots of other great hut accommodation options in Pai, but ours was well located, quiet and all round a very lovely place to stay. There is a road option further away to get to Pai Country Huts, but the main pedestrian route, a short 5-10 minute walk from the main town is over a bamboo bridge. It's actually quite scary the first time you use it, but I ended up loving using it! There are many guest house and hotel options in Pai too, if you don't fancy snoozing in huts.

We stayed in Pai and at Pai Country Huts for six nights in total. The first two nights we stayed in the hut below, then moved to a slightly bigger hut for the next four nights, at a slightly higher price. All huts have a lovely hammock out the front, which was great for chilling out during the day. The huts have a built in bathroom and comfy double bed, with a mosquito net around it, not that we felt we needed it during our stay. 

Emily chilling in our hammock

We were definitely at one with nature during our stay in our hut. We heard lots of unusual animal sounds throughout the night, which was a little strange on our first night, but we quickly got used to it. Although we loved staying in a hut, on our first night we had a close encounter with a huge snake in our bathroom! The manager came and removed it for us and insisted it hadn't happened before. The grill was missing from the small drainage hole for the shower in the bathroom and it had wriggled in. 

Snake in our bathroom! The floor is concrete and wet, not dirty...

During our time in Pai, we met Sam and Janie in a bar, while we were having drinks with a girl called Leah from Germany, who we met in our guest house in Chiang Mai. Sam and Janie are lovely and we met up with them many more times throughout the rest of our time in Thailand, so you'll be hearing lots more about them in future posts. We also met Max and Laurids from Germany through Leah, who we also met up with several times whilst in Pai and had a lot of fun with. One night we taught them English card games and they taught us German card games with a Bavarian pack of cards. 

Pai has lots of interesting bars, some of which are only partly covered and have big fire pits in the middle! There is a strong hippie theme in Pai with lots of the bars playing Reggae music. There are also loads of great places to eat in Pai, our favourite being the Witching Well, which was spookily themed inside. 

New friends. Left to right: Me, Laurids [Germany], Max [Germany], 
Sam [Gosport, UK], Janie [Essex, UK] and Emily. 

We spent two days lounging in the sunshine next to Pai's popular outdoor swimming pool, called Fluid, on the outskirts of the town. Entry to the pool is cheap, it's clean and they serve tasty food too. Mountains overlook the swimming pool, and Pai in general, which is a pretty backdrop to lovely days spent lounging around by the pool or in our hut hammock. 

Fluid Swimming Pool

Emily and I went on a day trip with Sam and Janie, paying a very small and reasonable amount to do a five-hour tour of the local area. We were told they normally do this in bigger vehicles, but as there were only four of us, we were driven round in a normal car by a Thai chap. He spoke little English, but was friendly and told us to take as much time as we wanted to look at the various things we stopped to look at. 

The day started with a visit to 'the big Buddha on the hill', which was very impressive, although they were in the process of building stairs leading up to it, so it was a bit tricky climbing up the steep hill to get to it! The big Buddha is next to a viewpoint that overlooks Pai, but due to a lot of smoke in the air caused by farmers burning off rice fields, we couldn't see far. We then visited the World War II Memorial Bridge, which is a memorial to the contribution the area made to the war, in providing a route for soldiers into Burma. We also visited a strawberry farm and tasted some delicious fresher strawberries, along with a visit to a coffee shop called Coffee in Love. This is bizarrely very popular with Japanese tourists, due to the huge sign outside stating the shops name! 

The day continued with visits to two pretty temples and a visit to the Hot Springs. I was the only one of the four of us to take a dip in the Hot Springs and really enjoyed it! It was lovely and refreshing, and despite the air already being very warm in general, the warm water was very enjoyable. We stopped in the Chinese Village for lunch and had some tasty food, which was a nice change from all the Thai cuisine we had been having for the last couple of weeks. Towards the end of the day we visited a local waterfall, but it wasn't particularly impressive as it was quite dried up, as monsoon season doesn't start until May. Saying that, we visited another waterfall in Koh Samui later in our trip, which was gushing with water and was very impressive. More on that in a couple of weeks!

'Big Buddha on the hill'

Bathing in the Hot Springs

Left: Emily and me on the World War II Memorial Bridge
Right: Me climbing around the Pai Canyon

Although we absolutely loved Pai, we were unfortunate enough to be there during three days of power cuts. The electricity outage was intermittent, with the electrictity only coming back on late on night one and the power out most of the days on day two and three. The electricity also stopped running water, as this all works with pump systems in Pai. We were told there had been an accident with a falling tree to cause these outages, but it did seem like it was a fairly common occurrence in Pai.

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