A Day In Pai
Set in a particularly picturesque valley north of Chiang Mai, Pai is a predominantly tourism-oriented town, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a broad traveller and backpacker scene. The town's permanent residents are a seemingly harmonious mix of Western hippies and Thai rastas which gives the place a unique vibe which is appealing even if it isn't authentic.
Many people said that if I liked Chiang Mai (which I did), I should check out Pai. Since Niclas and I also wanted to visit Mae Hong Son, we only had a day and a half to spend in Pai. After getting in and finding a guesthouse, we wondered around the town for a bit before coming back for the night market and finished the day with some relaxing live jazz music at Edible Jazz place.
Wat Phra That Mae Yen
Since the town itself does not really have much as far as sight seeing goes, it is pretty much a must to rent a motor bike and ride around in the surrounding area to get to most interesting places. So, in the morning, we rented a couple of motorbikes (a first for me) and headed out to ride around the southern loop. The first stop was Wat Phra That Mae Yen on top of the hill just east of the city. The temple itself was not that impressive, but it provided a nice terrace overlooking the village, the valley around Pai river and the mountainous terrain in the background.
Niclas wanted to go to the elephant training camp in Chiang Mai for a day, but since that did not pan out, we decided to swing by one of the camps along the road. The first one we stopped at had a couple pretty small elephants so we decided to move on. Next, was Thom's Elephant Camp which offered more expensive rides (500 baht/$16 per hour) but the elephants were bigger and afterward we would get a chance to jump into a tub with the water from a nearby hot spring. Sounded like a winner to us!
Soon we were sitting on the elephant - me on her neck and Niclas getting the hard spot on the back (to be fair, we switched on the way back). In the last half a year I have ridden a horse in Alabama and a camel in Cairo and between the three of them, the elephant was definitely the roughest ride (although, we did not have any seats besides a thin blanket).
The elephant walked on the road for a bit, then turned into an alley and kept walking until we reached the Pai river. There, our guides insisted that we empty our pockets (as I had a camera and a wallet in a plastic baggy). I sure glad I gave in as they had a special ride in store for us! Once we got into the river, they had the elephant shake us off a few times, which was actually pretty annoying as the river was muddy and very shallow.
At that point we were definitely ready to soak in the hot spring tubs and, while the water definitely smelled as something that would of originated in a hot spring, it was not hot by any means. Oh well, it was still pretty relaxing and after a quick shower and a late lunch, we got back on the road.
World War II Japanese Bridge
As we looped around to head back towards the town, we stopped at the WWII Japanese Bridge. While being a tourist trap, it is neither a WWII bridge nor a Japanese bridge. During the war, Japanese did make the locals build a bridge, but it got destroyed at the end of the war. A new one was erected and then washed away. This was the third re-incarnation of the bridge, made out of steel and built in the 1970s. Nothing impressive by any means.
Pai Canyon was also on the way into the village and I did not expect much as the big mountains were way far to the west. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The walkway from the parking lot took us up the hill where there was an observation platform built and where numerous ridge trails started in a few different directions. We chose one of the ridges and walked along for a bit until we were quite far from the hill. The views of the valley with the mountains in the background were awesome but what really stunned us was the fact that it was dead quiet. No birds singing, no road noise, no helicopters, no wind, nothing. Just a peaceful landscape in front of us.
Mor Paeng Waterfall
Last stop on our tour was a waterfall to the northwest of Pai. It took us a while to ride over there and we even stopped a couple of times to question whether we were going in the right direction. On the way we experienced the first offer for some opium from the local villagers along the road. It was kind of funny to see them get ticked off when we politely declined.
While the waterfall by itself was not grandiose, it was still pretty picturesque and we spend some time there taking pictures and just observing the scenery around. As I found later, the rocks under the water are supposedly so smooth, that people can just 'ride' the falls. Oh well, maybe next time. Since we got there pretty late in the day, we were the only ones there, which was pretty lucky - judging by the number of food stands at the top of the parking lot, that must be quite a busy place during the day.
That was it for us - the sun was already setting down so we rode back to Pai, turned in our scooters and walked around the street market to grab some food before calling it a day as we were exhausted and had an early morning ride to Mae Hong Son coming up.