On the local bus
I met Tyler at the airport in Phuket. He stayed there with a friend who lives there, whom he met while working in Korea. After talking about what we wanted to do, we decided to head to Pai (pronounced like the dessert 'pie') straight away from the airport, so we got a taxi that took us to the bus station. We were debating whether or not to take the local bus for 70 baht or a minivan for 150 baht and just as we were standing in front of the ticket window an expat politely butted in and mentioned that he always takes the local bus, so we thought it couldn't be that bad besides we wanted to experience a ride in a local-style way. The trip took almost five hours through curvy mountainous roads in a bus that seemed like it was transported straight out of the seventies and at times I wondered if the bus was going to make it up the steep inclines, but it did and we got there safe and sound.
At the waterfall while trekking
I even read most of the way and tried to cat nap, but the seats weren't the most comfortable, some of them were sliding back and forth with the curves. It was quite an interesting ride loaded with a couple other travelers besides us, the expat (foreigner who lives there), a bunch of Thai people including a monk, as well as luggage, and big bags of rice in the aisles.
When we got there the expat, Jim, who lived there said he could show us a couple of good places to stay, so we followed him as he pointed us in the right direction. We headed down the main street with lots of cute little shops over the rickety bamboo bridge to Riverside bungalows and stayed for 300 baht a night with our own bathroom, a steal especially after the islands. We noticed quickly that Pai was different only comparing prices, but also comparing climate.
Bec and the cute pup
Just after the sun went down, it got cold, especially in the middle of the night. I wasn't really prepared for it as I had been so hot until then. I even sent my jeans back with Devon because I hadn't used them once, but really regretted it. Now, it wasn't like it was freezing or anything. In fact, I think it was only in the sixties and probably down to the high forties in the middle of the night (in farenheit), nonetheless, I was chilly.
We walked around checking out tour agencies and decided we wanted to go on a trek, so we talked to a few different places only to return to the first guy named Kahn, who was incredibly nice and sold it well compared to the rest. We left the next morning with two other couples. Bec and Matt, about our age, were from Australia and Jill and Tom, in their 50s/60s and proved that it is never too late, were from Senoma Valley, California.
Bec was a riot upon meeting with so much energy from the night before as they partied through the night celebrating Matt's birthday, but sitting in the back of a pick up truck with 40 minutes to our destination through curvy roads didn't exactly coincide with her hungover status when we got off. She struggled a for awhile in the morning, but was a serious trooper and after lunch, she felt better.
Even though it was cool in the evenings, the day was still sweltering as we trekked up and over the the mountainside of northern Thailand. We stopped a few times to splash fresh, cold, mountain water on our faces that felt unbelievably delightful as the beads of sweat were drowning my face like a sprinkler that couldn't be turned off. We saw a lot of water buffalo ease their way into the day by relaxing in the streams or in the cool shade.
Matt's Birthday cake
After a couple of hours, we stopped for lunch at Lahu village. It was a small little places consisting of no more than 20 houses, which were made of bamboo, red dirt covering the ground, and wild chickens clucking about freely. While Kahn prepared our lunch, one of the villagers took us around the back and guided us through a pretty good sized cave that ended with us barley making it through the small horizontal opening in the rocks. On the way back to the huts, the small Thai villager picked some fruit that looked like little cherry tomatoes, except with white speckles on them, from a tree we walked by. We sat there looking and smelling them for a second until we put them in our mouths and almost spit them out because they were extremely sour. He got a kick out of our foul-looking faces.
The place we stayed at
When we got back Kahn was just about finished with our lunch. He made us fried rice with fresh veggies, the only way to make a good fried rice. As we ate, he continued cooking a meal for the man and the women whose hut we were in and his friend that was trekking with us. It looked delicious and spicy and by the time they had sorted out their portions, we asked if we could try some since most of us liked spicy food too.
After lunch, we were off again heading up the mountain towards the waterfall where we took a break and jumped into the ice pricking cold water to wash the dirt and sweat off our bodies. It felt good, but I could only handle a few minutes of it and then walked up to the top to have a cup of coffee our guides made us using bamboo to make the cups as well as a contraption to heat up the water.
Lunch in a banana leaf
We finished the day arriving on a farm with wild chickens, cows, pigs, and dogs running around together harmoniously. There were chickens sitting on and under the cows eating the insects off their bodies and little piglets running around chasing each other. We stayed in the only bamboo hut on the farm, which conveniently had a chicken coup attached to it. I knew there would be much sleeping at the sight of that. That night Kahn made us another amazing fresh cooked dinner with Thai salads and a yellow and red curry mixed with chicken and vegetables. I ate so much I thought I was going to explode, but it was literally some of the best food I had in Thailand, so I didn't feel guilty. I only wish I watched him while he made everything. Instead, I ran around taking photos of the animals and played with the cute little pup.
That night we all slept in the same room on the bamboo floor and sure enough the roosters started crowing at the tiniest sliver of light, which never allows for much sleeping after that, so we got up not too much later had scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee for breakfast and set out for the top of the mountain bright and early. While resting at the top, Kahn and his friend made us some bamboo chopsticks for lunch and we realized the trek was not only for fun, but also a hidden lesson on survival and how many different ways you can use bamboo. We had a fresh pad thai (fried Thai noodles) wrapped in a bamboo leaf for lunch (such a great way to reduce plastic and styrofoam waste) and visited the Lisu village on the way back where we met some very friendly villagers.
In all, we trekked about 3o kilometers in two days and learned much more about Thai life outside of the big cities and tourism. We also met some great people on the trip that made the experience quite enjoyable.
Once back in Pai, we spent the rest of the time walking around and checking out the unique little cafes, shops, and bars. There was a beautiful Thai girl with an amazing voice similar to that of Nora Jones who provided entertainment a couple of nights while we were there. Although Pai isn't a big city, it is quite unique and attracts people who want something different. It's also known as a the 'hippies paradise' mostly because it is just so chill and relaxed. There were cooking schools, yoga, artistic shops, and tour companies you could do just about anything you wanted, but if I had more time I would've liked to stop and smell the roses just a bit longer.
After the local bus, we thought we'd try taking the minivan back to Chiang Mai
, but halfway through the van broke down and the driver didn't say anything. We just got the hint when everyone was grabbing their bags and getting in other vehicles, so we spotted a local bus and crammed our stuff in once again. Chiang Mai was quite different as it was a more bustling city. Bec and Matt highly recommended Julie's guesthouse because it was a good price with a great atmostphere, but they were full, so we stayed close to that area at a place called Chada House that had really nice and clean rooms for 300 baht. Also, the owner, JoJo, was extremely nice and helpful.
View from our bungalow
I only had a few days left to do things before I had to leave Thailand because my 30 days were almost up, so I got a hold of Jason at Friendship Travel, my friend Abi told me to contact, and figured out what I wanted to do while I was in Chiang Mai.
The first day, Tyler and I just rode bikes around the city getting a feel for the place, which I would highly recommend because it really isn't that big. We actually stopped at a temple and met a monk from Laos that was studying in Chiang Mai. It was very interesting to hear about his life. Tyler had decided a long time ago that he wanted to do a temple stay where you learn about and practice meditation also called Monk Chat. He stayed for four days while I booked a day zip-lining through the forests of Thailand through a place called Jungle Flight.
The rickety bamboo bridge
I had so much fun. It was a great experience and very safe. I was more worried about mosquitoes and getting malaria or dengue that having something go wrong up 50 meters high along the tree tops. Our Thai guide nicknamed Pinky was hilarious and cracked jokes all day long. He made the experience unforgettable. There was also a good group of people that went, which was another plus. We flew across to 34 platforms, most at least 100 meters long up to one that was 300 meters long, and abseiled down four times from 20 meters to the last one at 40 meters high!
The next day I went to Baan Thai cooking school for cooking classes. I love Thai food, so I tried learning. They picked me up from my guesthouse and brought me to the market where we started the day.
Cute shops in Pai
We learned about the different vegetables and ingredients that are used in Thai food smelling and examining each one because most are so foreign to what we use in western food. We filled our baskets with the things we would be using and then walked over to the school. When we got there, we had to choose what we wanted to make from a list and started off with a traditioanl Thai snack. Then we got right into it and started off with the first dish. I chose cashew chicken. After each meal, we got to each our creations, which would've been a whole lot better if I was feeling a bit better. Let's just saw I met up with the Jungle Flight crew and had a little bit too much fun. I also made tom yum soup (hot and sour soup), red curry, papaya salad, and deep fried bananas.
The coffee Volkswagon
The deep fried bananas were absolutely amazing. We used the small Thai banana (miniature bananas) and cut them horizontally and dipped them in a fresh coconut batter and then deep fried them. We ate them with vanilla ice cream. I would highly recommend going to a cooking school in Thailand. The food is really amazing there!