(28th-30th April 2015)
Pai is a small town/ large village north west of Chiang Mai toward the Myanmar border. It has a reputation of having a really chilled out hippy vibe. Everyone goes there to ride around the countryside on a scooter and to see the views. Another thing I’d being dying to do on this visit.
It takes around 3-3.5 hours to get there from Chiang Mai. The road is incredibly bendy, with 762 curves in the 136km drive. There are hairpin turns every few metres. The road climbs up and up through gorgeous green forests. I’m glad I was sat in the front of the minivan or I would have had terrible travel sick!
Arriving in Pai it was raining, but it stopped soon after. I found my hostel, which was opened a couple of years ago by a westerner who had fell in love with the area. I could see why already. I got chatting to the other people in my dorm, asking if they knew about motorbike/ scooter hire, and if it was still possible for people who hadn’t driven before to hire (as I knew it used to be). A girl said to me that she was happy to take me on hers, as she had had a bike while working teaching English on the coast a few hours east of Bangkok.
And so the following day we headed out after getting sun creamed up and finding breakfast, we split the cost of a scooter and fuel and headed out of town.
Our first stop was at a coffee place with a view right across Pai valley. I’m sure that the place was specifically designed for the many Korean and Chinese tourists there, as it was very asia-chic, but it was really cute. We didn’t stop for a coffee and it was less than a mile out of town. We just stopped some pictures and headed on our way.
We took a small road for around five kilometres to a waterfall called Pambok Waterfall. From the road it was a five minute walk up the hill to the waterfall and its pools. From the end of the path you couldn’t actually see the waterfall from the path and had to rock hop along up the river for the final few meters to get into the big crevice where the falls were. Once we were in the big hole/ crevice the water was lovely and cool, and about knee deep. We were the first ones there bar a couple of English guys we’d past going in the opposite direction on the path who’d been for a hangover curing swim!
After having a lovely paddle a few more people had arrived, and so we headed off again to our next stop which was the land split. We’d driven past it on the way to the falls but it was clear that it wasn’t open to visitors at that point.
The land crack, or land split is exactly what is sounds like. The poor guy who farms the land went to work as usual back in 2009 and found that the land had completely split open! The crack is about 50 metres long and at points maybe 10m deep. It was quite scary actually – the thought that his land just split open in the night. How weird! We walked up to see the split after we’d sat in the shade for a while. Because the farmer can’t farm his land anymore, he has opened it as a small attraction and feeds the tourists that come to visit with food grown from his garden. We had roselle juice, sweet potato, peanuts, banana chips with roselle jam and fresh tamarind. All for just a donation! Such a nice idea, and really tasty too. While up the hill seeing the split we followed some signs to a dancing tree. I don’t know what I expected but we were curious and followed the signs. It was just a very thin and tall tree, when you tapped the base of the trunk the top of the tree swayed back and forth.
Back on the main road we stopped at another tacky, and very cute coffee shop/ restaurant/ tourist attraction called Love Strawberry Pai. Everything was super cute, and again slightly tacky – everything was either heart shaped or strawberry shaped, or both! Even the paving stones were triangular and painted like strawberries. There were 50cm high cement strawberries, a strawberry garden, giant mesh strawberries to attached your love heart shaped padlock to, and even a strawberry cafe where you could have strawberry muffins, strawberry shakes or strawberry rice!
From Love Strawberry we went to the Pai Canyon. It was pretty impressive but I didn’t fancy a walk!! The path was about 30cm wide with at least 10m vertical drop from each side. I just had a look!! It was really beautiful but very hot!! I didn’t fancy my chances in flip flops on the loose soil on the path.
After the canyon we stopped at the WWII memorial bridge to walk across and take some pictures. There was a local guy dressed as Jack Sparrow, for tourists to chase across the bridge with a fake gun and a broom for a photo. So weird. We sat with an ice cream and watched some Korean tourists doing this. It was pretty funny, but so ridiculous!
The memorial bridge was the turning point where we began to head back to Pai. We turned off the main road and headed back up the other side of the river. We were looking for a hot spring. The first one we stopped at wanted a ton of money to enter a protected area, and then pay to use the hot springs. However, the second one wanted only a little money and we got free water and a nice fluffy towel. Sorted! We were lead through to some pools at the back of a resort. It smelt very sulphury! The water was lovely and surrounded by palm trees. It was a bit too hot for sitting in really hot water!!
Our final stop of the day was a huge big white Buddha on the hillside over looking Pai. We drove up the hill and into the gravelly car park. The second we pulled up, two girls on a bike went whizzing out of the car park, or attempted to. It all happened in slow motion. The bike skidded on the gravel as she used too much throttle. The bike fell right over and they both came off. I went into nurse mode immediately! I ran over to see if they were ok and a man from a drinks stand came running over with a first aid box. The girls had some nasty grazes from the gravel but nothing too deep and nasty – it would just need dressed properly at a clinic later on. The girl who was on the back of the bike couldn’t stand and was in shock. She felt really sick. We got her something to eat and drink once I’d helped her off the road. She couldn’t really weight bear on her ankle and was in a lot of pain. We stayed with them for quite a while. They were just so grateful that there were two other travellers there to help them. It turned out the girl driving was a first time driver. The guy from the drinks stand said that there are usually ten accidents a day from travellers renting bikes, and he had seen four happen in that car park alone that day! I walked up to the Buddha with the girl fro, the hostel, but we didn’t stay long – sunset didn’t look to be too promising and so we headed back into Pai (only 1-2km away) to find some dinner.
In the evening I went with her to get a tattoo at night – I didn’t get one (just so you know). It was a bamboo tattoo, and an elephant shape.
The next morning after breakfast I jumped in a van back to Chiang Mai. What an action packed couple of days that was!!