After a few days hanging out in Chiang Mai, we wanted to get out of the city for a bit and explore Thailand’s Northern countryside. This area shares more characteristics with it’s neighbors, China and Burma, than the rest of the country and we wanted to mix things up with mountain town. We chose to visit Pai as it was the closest to Chiang Mai at 4 hours away and we’d heard it was a really chilled out place.
I was a little anxious about the 4 hour van ride and turns out, with good reason. There is basically one van company, aYa Service, will take you there for 150 BHT each way ($5 US). The whole operation is pretty ghetto but as long as you have a decent driver around those hairpin mountain turns, you’ll be ok. Note that they do not respond well to being shouted at. Something I have experience with.
Anyway, we rolled into Pai and caught a taxi up to our guesthouse. We found a good one this time around, staying with Pai My Guesthouse. We were thrilled to find out we had our own little villa that looked out over the ricefields and the mountains, a very peaceful spot. After getting settled, we had a 10 minute walk into town to explore.
The town itself was really adorable with a long walking street scattered with little bars and restaurants. Pai is definitely a hippie town attracting lots of dreadlocks, tie dye, yoga, etc. We had a great time hanging at the local bars and making friends with our fellow travelers over a bonfire.
The next day, we rented a scooter (200 THB) to hit up all Pai’s hot spots in our only full day there. We totally lucked out getting one of the last ones in town, the first two shops we visited were totally sold out! Feeling lucky, we headed for our first stop, the big buddha on the hill. Similar to Christ the Redeemer in Rio, the Buddha looks over over the city and can be seen from almost all points below.
After a few snaps, we took off for the Mae Son waterfall. We, for some reason, assumed that the path to the waterfall would be a short trek and took off on a path that crossed through the river and under branches – feeling a bit like Indiana Jones. After 30 minutes or so of trekking, we still really didn’t even know if we were going the right way. We luckily ran into a couple of English girls that informed us that the waterfall was still another 1.5 hours away. Whoops! With no water or sunscreen, we headed back to the bikes to do a less aggressive waterfall in the afternoon. Still, a really pretty trek through bamboo forests and riverbanks and if we had more time, we’d definitely have kept on.
We zipped over to the other side of town instead to an easily accessible waterfall, ______, and climbed up the rocks for a refreshing dip.
From there, we made a quick stop at the best curry place of all time, the Curry Shack. I’m not usually a huge fan of curry but the Curry Shack has made me believer. For a mere 50 THB, you get a homemade curry made fresh in front of you by a friendly Thai teenager that runs the whole operation. So tasty that we had it for dinner and came back for lunch the next day. Mmmmmmmmmm, massaman.
After another amazing lunch, we headed off to the natural hot springs to relax in the steamy water. After paying a small fee to enter the national park (200 THB each), we tried out the pools one by one. As you work your way up the hill, each pool gets progressively higher with the hottest being 80C (200F) The ones at top were so hot that you could boil eggs in them! We hung out in the cooler ones down below that were still pretty steamy. The hot springs are meant to have natural healing properties and made Mike’s hair incredibly fluffy.
Last stop of the day was Pai Canyon. We weren’t sure what to expect with this but were pleasantly surprised with a massive canyon and an incredibly vista of Pai’s countryside. There were parts of the canyon’s ridges that were pretty narrow and a little scary to walk on but, good news, we survived. And got some good pics in the process.
It was a long day but a great one. I loved being on the back of the bike all day and we really wished we had booked more time to stay in Pai. It was a great surprise; a beautiful place.
Back to Chiang Mai for our last few days in Northern Thailand…