After a hot tip from our favourite vegan at the Pro Bono Australia office (we miss you Spirit Eagle!) we set off from Chiang Mai on the hunt for a secret oasis in the hills by the name of Pai (as in apple). Pai is somewhat of a secret amongst travellers (although I use the term “secret” loosely). Pai is tiny town, filled with artists, musicians, dreadlocks, bad tattoos, dogs, muesli, craft markets, good coffee and plenty of “herbal relaxant” floating around.
The problem (or best part- depending how you look at it) is that although Pai is only a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai, you must first battle the 763 bends over the mountains to get there. An extreme bus ride but worth it all the same.
We arrived in the afternoon glow of the cutest little town ever. Pretty much a 2 street town, Pai is tucked up in the hills next to a river. Unfortunately for us we came at possibly the hottest and driest time of the year. The ground is pleading for the rains to come and the river was merely a sludgy trickle (complete with festering dog carcass on one of the river banks. Yum. ). After the rains, apparently Pai is super lush, chilly and extra green, as the rice fields start to spring into action and the river steps up to the plate.
Although seemingly sleepy, there’s plenty to do in Pai. Elephant riding, motor bikes, hot springs, trekking and tubing and probably a dozen other activities for action-hungry tourists. There’s also a pumping nightlife fuelled by cheap cocktails, dubstep and Europeans- and Ryan. After dropping him off with our new friend Bill to innocently watch the football one night, I went home to darn my socks and google pictures of puppies. Ryan arrived home 4 hours later smelling like local corn whiskey and river water. Apparently he and Bill had found a different side to the sleepy town we knew by the day, and stumbled into the numerous bars and clubs hidden throughout the town and across the river.
We had planned to do some yoga or meditation classes, but all the lessons were pretty much the same prices as back in Melbourne ie. very steep! Personally, I blame the masses of middle aged western divorcees and faux-hippies, wanting to disappear into the east and “centre their chakras” or “shift their tantric auras”. Being too poor to partake in any lessons in Pai, Ryan and I will stick to mimicking yoga on YouTube in our pyjamas- not quite the same as finding nirvana whilst perched amongst the tranquillity of the rainforest or by a pool of floating lotus flowers, but it will do for now.
We spent most of our time sitting around or strolling in the hazy afternoon glow with our buddy Stumps (see below). Stumps was awesome. He’d spot us on the street or in a café and trot on over as if he was greeting a couple of old friends. From then on he’d accompany us on all our travels that day and then leave us after seeing some kids to play with or something sticky to eat on the river bank (perhaps another dog carcass).
I think Pai seems even more like a little oasis because you know you have to battle the windy road to get back to civilisation. We took on our bus ride back to Chiang Mai by stocking up on fresh ginger to soothe our tummies and hold back the hurl. Unfortunately this would not help the fact that we were piled into a mini bus with 7 shirtless, hairy Israelis/Spaniards/douchebags who shouted, cackled and farted pretty much the whole 3 hours back to Chiang Mai. Goodbye serenity.