As we fly around the corners of the narrow steep highway in our 10 person mini van, Chantelle looks at me with a look of sheer terror as she restrains herself from getting sick, plastic bag in hand. We are half way through our journey back to Chiang Mai, consisting of 762 turns in a span of 3 hours, winding through the jungle and hillsides of Northern Thailand. As we arrive into Chiang Mai after a hellish journey, I can’t help but ask, was the journey to Pai worth it? The answer is absolutely, I left a piece of my heart in Pai.
We arrived late at night after a day of testing our talents at Thai cooking. With bellies full of delicious gourmet Thai cuisine, we set out on our 3 hour van ride to Pai. Luckily, we were able to sit in the front of the van, which helped Chantelle’s motion sickness, although we were not so lucky on the way back. When the van dropped us off near the main walking street, we set off to find out accommodations for the night, which of course, were not pre-booked. After a few minutes of walking we found a little hotel called the heart of Pai. The accommodations were clean enough and after several mix ups with the room type, we ended up with 2 single beds and a mattress on the floor, defeated after a long day of travel. We swore we would venture out for better accommodations in the morning after we got our bearings.
After a morning of coffee on the patio of our hotel, we checked our bags and ventured out to explore the quaint little town of Pai. We found the most magical little spot for breakfast where we were served some of the best coffee I have ever had, along with a delicious breakfast complete with organic free range eggs.
After breakfast, we took some photos by the river and walked into the hillside in search of suitable accommodations. After visiting a couple resorts further out of town, we decided something closer to the walking street would suit our needs best. We ended up finding the most amazing resort along the river called Family House. If you ever go to Pai, look no further for accommodations, as this place is all you will ever need. Air conditioned, clean, poolside bungalows with a view like no other, all for around 40 bucks Canadian a night. Not to mention the staff at the resort which are in a league of their own. It’s easy to see why our 2 nights in Pai quickly turned into 3, and would have been more if time allowed.
After checking into our new luxury accommodations, we relaxed poolside for the afternoon sipping on fresh made mojitos, Chang and banana smoothies. We met 2 guys travelling from the UK who had recently set out on their year of travels, and the 5 of us decided to venture out into the streets of Pai to see what kind of nightlife we could find.
A couple buckets later, we ended up at a little bar with live music called The Yellow Sun. We played games with our new friends, took in the live music and met several new travellers from the UK, Australia and the USA, all with a story of their own. It’s amazing the kind of relationships you can form with other travellers in such a short time. Everyone has some sort of interesting past and the most promising aspirations for their travels ahead. As the night came to an end we were ready for bed, but not without a stop at the pad thai cart for some eats.
The next day we woke up, feeling a little less than rested. We decided we would rent mopeds for the day in order to explore some of the further sights from the town of Pai. Chantelle, a little unsure of driving a moped through the hills of Thailand, decided to double with me while Devan rented his own.
We set out for the hot springs of Pai, around 8km from the town centre. The drive through the hillsides was beautiful, with lush jungle, green fields and rolling hillsides. As we rode through the hills we passed several elephants along the way, reminding us of our time at the elephant nature park in Chiang Mai which you can read about here. As we arrived at the hot springs, we noticed a smell of sulphur that became stronger as we approached the springs. It turns out that they sell eggs, which you can actually boil in the designated hot springs if you feel hungry for a snack.
After a dip in the springs, we headed back to the resort for some lunch and poolside relaxation. After lunch, it was time to venture out on the mopeds again, this time a little further. We visited a beautiful hillside coffee shop that served a myriad of desserts complete with a view. We devoured a white chocolate cheesecake, brownie and oreo cheesecake while taking in the scenery of beautiful little Pai.
Next we rode down the highway a little further to the World War II memorial bridge. The bridge was apparently built by the Japanese to aid in transporting troops and equipment to Burma via Thailand. The bridge still stands today, although it has been through 2 major renovations, which made it somewhat less impressive. Nevertheless it was worth seeing as it had a great view of the river.
After a little shopping at the nearby vendors, we set out to catch the sunset at the nearby Pai Canyon. This was by far my favourite place to visit in Pai. The steep rock cliffs, red dirt ground and lush vegetation make this place a unique combination of dessert and jungle. A place to reflect on our travels so far and set intentions for where we want our lives to be and evaluate the path we are currently on. As the sun began to set behind the cliffs, there was a sense of peace with how far we had come so far, but also a realization that our time in this lovely little town was coming to an end.
That night we decided to opt for street food for dinner, as the options in Pai are endless. The three of us gorged ourselves on roasted BBQ chicken on a stick, bruschetta and nutella and banana mini pancakes. After a nightcap we were early to bed, still recuperating from the night before.
Sometimes the work involved in travelling to a destination can deter us from even trying. The train ride is too long, or the bus is too dangerous or the ferry will make me sick or the flight involves too many connections. The thing I try to keep in mind on those long travel days is those experiences are half of what makes travel so exciting. When you can look back and say I survived the road to Pai and know that it was worth every twist and turn, you realize that all of those long days and nights are what make those experiences worth the wait. Worth the opportunity to explore somewhere new and fall in love with a little piece of Pai. After all, in the words of our cooking instructor, “never try, never know”