After only one night here (after getting back from the Doi Inthanon trek), this morning I said goodbye once more to Chiang Mai, and jumped on a minibus to the town of Pai. Pai's about 3 hours north-west of Chiang Mai — as the bus crawls — and it's a chilled-out place where everyone goes to relax, to find inner peace, and to meet the friendly crowd. I got picked up from my guesthouse at 9:30am, and it was a very chatty crew that we had for the morning road trip. As well as Marie and Claire (with whom I hung out almost the entire time that I was here), I also met the two Dutch guys, a vegan Aussie couple, and an older Israeli couple. By the time we arrived in Pai, I realised that I already had myself sorted — ridiculous how easily we travellers magnetise to each other, at times.
Pai is a beautiful place: it's a super-friendly town, still small and cosy, still very cheap, and not yet conquered by upmarket travellers and their resort accommodation. From what I hear, it's not quite the hippie haven that it once was — and of course, it's only a matter of time before the true hippies are completely driven out — but so far, it's doing a good job at retaining its charming identity. Marie, Claire, the Dutch boys and myself introduced ourselves to the town, by lounging inside one of the many falafel restaurants for lunch. Hey, you can't have curry and noodles all the time (or can you?). To the shock of all the rest of us, Marie had never eaten a falafel before in her life; and worse still, she wasn't even sure what a falafel was. Eze meshooga, lo? How can you make it through Thailand for more than a week, and not know what a falafel is? :P
Falafel… is good.
It was a fittingly chilled afternoon in chilled Pai, wandering around with Marie and Claire. We found a nice, quiet guesthouse to stay in: Mr. Jan's bungalows (Mr. Jan is a great bloke — also tends his medicinal plant garden, which takes up half the guesthouse property). We shopped around a bit for rental motorbikes (since the girls are up for a ride — and they're trying to persuade me to come with them), and for tours (since the girls are up for some trekking, and maybe some cooking — unlike me, they didn't do all that in Chiang Mai). We wandered to the outskirts of Pai, and got lost amidst some random houses and farms. Then we wandered over to the other side of town, and discovered the kick-a$$ spread of bamboo bungalows, that can be found just across the river by walking over a rickety footbridge.
Motorbike riding is very popular in Pai.
The “Mellow Yellow” bar of Pai: same name (even same logo) as the famous hostel in Rio — this afternoon, it was a bit too mellow even for us.
Bridge on the River Pai.
Lovely bamboo huts that you can stay in across the river.
Looks like I'll be hanging out here in Pai for a little while. It's the kind of place that you can very easily get stuck in (and that many people do get stuck in): it's got the vibe and it's very small; but it's also got everything a backpacker could possibly need — cheap Internet, laundry, street food, used books, and much more. Marie even found a place where, for a small fee per song, they'll let you copy music onto your iPod from their extensive song library — that's a fairly specialised service, for a supposedly small and simple-life hippie town.