Adam and our most prized possession of the trip
Pai had never really been on our itinerary when we entered Thailand. It was only through talking with Troy and Alyssa who we met in Kanchanaburi that we started to think about it and when we found out our wait for our Indian visa in Chiang Mai would mean a ten night stay we decided to take a side trip for three nights to Pai. We did our research and found the local buses were a bit of a nightmare, often overcrowded, no aircon and driven at a breakneck pace round the 762 hairpin bends on the road to Pai. The story was pretty much the same for the minivans and so we decided that we'd look at the option renting a car for the three day trip.
One of the 762 curves along our drive
We got a decent deal from Big Tony's Bike rental and by the time you take into account the fares for the minibus, transfers to and from the relevant stations plus the fact we would have hired a bike for the three days of our stay in Pai it wasn't that much more expensive.
We picked up our black Honda City dream machine at around midday and by the time we'd driven back to the hotel and collected our bags it was about half past. The idea of driving in some countries is daunting and to be honest it wouldn't have been something we'd consider in Vietnam or Cambodia but Thailand is definately safer than driving in South London; the roads are better condition, driving standards are better and despite the illusion of chaos, everybody here is remarkably courteous.
To say this is a "frequently seen" roadsign along our drive is the greatest understatment!
In London people get battered to death or shot for accidentally cutting someone off!!! We filled up with petrol and they still have pump attendants here which is good for the old full employment and makes for a much nicer experience as you just tell them how much you want to put in and leave it to them, better still while everyone here is moaning about fuel prices it still comes in at less than a dollar per litre!! Less than half the price of the UK which must be well over $2 per litre these days.
We had bought a map and the squiggles on it indicated that we could expect some decent twists and turns in the road which was something to look forward to. As we turned onto the 1095 mountain road they started out quite gentle but became increasingly severe. It was amazing, the drive of our lives without question.
Our own little hut (complete with roof terrace)
We had two hours of unbridled fun, roaring around switchback curves, hairpin bends and slopes so steep that you had to use first gear. It was truly awesome and relentless. Two hours of dream roads and views across the valleys and mountains which took your breath away. We stopped several times to drink in the scenary and at one viewpoint we had a picnic we'd bought before leaving Chiang Mai. Along the way we passed several of the local buses, minivans and even a pick-up truck so overladen with westerners that two were standing on the tailgate holding on for dear life. We sped past every single one and each time gave each other a look of mutual satisfaction and smugness at the brilliant decision to rent the car. The drive itself will go down as one of the best things we've done on our travels and we couldn't recommend it highly enough if you ever get the chance.
Sunset from our roof terrace
It was worth ten times the price we paid.
We had made a reservation on the internet for Pai but we really needn't have at the town was almost deserted of tourists and the place we stayed called 'The Countryside" was very quiet. Our hut was awesome. It was really nicely decorated, obviously very new and somewhat uniquely had a roof terrace reached via a set of stairs on the outside. We were right by the pool which is where we adopted the attitude required by the slogans around Pai of 'do nothing in Pai'. An attitude we really liked. So often you go somewhere to relax and everyone in turn feels compelled to suggest second rate local tourist attractions for you to visit which you then feel guilty for ignoring or thinking were totally second rate. Not so with Pai.
A frequently seen slogan around Pai
Whilst we were a little disappointed that the promised, so called "Bohemian/Arty" atmosphere, appeared to consist of not much more than the fake dreadlock wearing fools playing with the stupid fire twirly stuff and the promised veggie restaurants actually boiling down to one, as all others that advertised themselves as vegetarian also sold meat dishes. That said, the one veggie restaurant (vegan actually) that we did find, called 'Pure Vegetarian', was excellent and we ended up eating there for most of our meals; they even have a sign describing their food as "delicious food cooked with love" which we found to be true.
We settled into a very lazy easy going routine. After a leisurely breakfast we lazed by the pool, soaked up the sun and took refreshing dips when we got too hot.
Our favourite restaurant in Pai "Cher Xin Jai"
Drove into town for lunch, back for more pool action, moved to the hammocks when we'd had enough sun then had a few drinks and games of backgammon or crib on our roof terrace to watch the sunset before venturing back into town for dinner and a stroll around the bars and market stalls. It was great and unfortunately the time flew by.
We did have a drive around the local countryside but the only real attractions here are spa's and the evil elephant camps which we would implore everyone with a conscience to boycott. It never ceases to amaze us how people can delight at the cruelty of animals kept in places like this. Thailand is particularly bad on this actually. In Kanchanaburi there is a place called the Tiger Temple where monks drug tigers and idiotic visitors delight in having their photo's taken with them.
Us at a viewpoint along the way from Chiang Mai to Pai
There are elephant camps in many places where the elephants are forced to play football, paint or carry people on tours and rides. We cannot wait for the day one of the Tigers maul some sick tourist to death, it can't come too soon. There have been several cases of elephants rampaging and killing tourists which is brilliant but hasn't closed the camps or the so called "sanctuarys". That said the treatment of people is not much better; most of the hilltribe villages are little more than human zoos where the villagers are dressed up and trotted out for passing tourists like some circus act. You hear so many people prattling on about responsible tourism and environmental concerns and then they visit places like these and ride elephants. Total hypocracy.
These same people are the ones who think that aircon is a bad thing when they continue to eat meat and spew forth children when overpopulation and the meat industry are the two biggest causes of climate change. No one talks about them do they. It's easy to have a go at China for its
factories, yet it's the 'west' that consumes the products of those factories and at least China is prepared to encourage people to have fewer children. Anyway, like our time in Pai, this rant is over. At least we have the drive back to look forward to, second gear all the way and an exhaust pumping out those greenhouse gases.