Pai is a relatively small town set up in the mountains of North East Thailand in the province of Mae Hong Son. For many years (over 30 years, some say) it has a been a bit of a mecca for travellers looking for something a bit different from their time in Thailand, with opportunities to go out and trek round the surrounding area and find your own little adventures long the way.
These days, however, it is now overrun with western travellers from all backgrounds looking to do the cool thing and “get high in Pai”. Fortunately this did not entirely detract from the beauty and charm of the place, but did make us feel like we were deep in some kind of smelly backpackers’ holiday resort.
Smelly backpackers we (sometimes) are, we embraced the cheap drinks deals and holiday lifestyle, even taking a trip to the local pool whilst very hungover, which had the rather disconcerting name of “Fluid”; I’m not sure what kind of fluids were floating around in there, but I would rather not know!
As well as spending one of our days in Pai suffering due to an excess of alcohol at the local pool, we decided to spend another of our days doing something a little more adventurous. We had read up about a jungle trek out to Mae Yen Waterfall, which could be undertaken on our own without having to pay some money grabbing tour guide to shepherd us along the way. Great, let’s do it. The walk was about a 6 hour round trip, including a lunch stop at the waterfall, heading out of town and following the river up through the jungle to great spot at the bottom of Mae Yen Falls. Although it was not the most challenging of walks, it was a great way to get away from the hoards of hippies in Pai, and the walk did throw up a few interesting moments along the way.
Jungle spiders and their crafty webs, dangerous looking teams of ants, a confrontation with an angry snake, very wet feet from lots of river crossings, and our pet pooch Doggles who joined us for section of the walk.
By far the most entertaining moment came right at the end of our ramble through the jungle, where I had inadvertently taken us down the wrong track. Upon backtracking we encountered a snake (which Soph was completely oblivious to and strolled right past) that was engrossed in eating a frog. I stopped, it stopped, I stared, and it stared harder. I was now embroiled in a stare down with a snake that could have been a venomous killer for all I knew, all whilst the snake continued to battle with it’s half swallowed lunch. Safe to say I shat myself a bit, and much to Soph’s amusement I became on high alert and started getting overly startled by sticks and leaves and other harmless objects in my peripheral vision – snake fear, it’s a terrible thing! Using some mild distraction techniques and a bit of toing and froing with the slippery customer, I made a swift break along the path, past the snake, to safety… phew! After an amazing trek through the jungle and near certain death by snake (yes I know, slight exaggeration!) we made it back to Pai.
As well as lots of bars and Westernised restaurants selling burgers, chips, pizzas and other such boring things – I still don’t get why anyone would come to the other side of the world only to eat the same old shit as back at home, for 4 times the cost compared to the local food – Pai also has a strip called Walking Street, which is home to amazing street food stalls and people selling a wide variety of nic-nacs and tat. Pai also now currently sits at top of the pops when it comes to Thai curries (so far that is!), with a tiny little place called the Curry Shack absolutely rocking it. The Curry Shack was basically a corrugated iron roof put up outside some guy’s house with a few tables laid out under it – literally a shack! – but despite its simplicity this place dished out the tastiest Thai curry’s we have eaten to-date. Top work Curry Shack man!
So, Pai – even with plenty of people that I would quite happily describe as “dickheads” – is a beautiful place with ample opportunity to get away from the town and explore, or hang around in the town and get pissed – whichever takes your fancy. There was plenty that we did not get time to see/do, such as caves, river rafting, more temples (uhhh, really!), and more, but this can all be saved for another time!