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Living the Pai Life

THAILAND | Tuesday, 27 August 2013 | Views [3306]

Sunset as seen in my garden

Sunset as seen in my garden

I love this place! There is something about Pai that is totally different from any of the other places I have been in Thailand. It has a certain energy that comes perhaps from being nestled away in between all the mountains. Yes there are tourists here, but it's not on the coast and getting here requires some effort. Perhaps as a consequence it is far and away the most friendly place I've been to, with plenty of long-term residents that came to visit but never quite managed to leave. As the days roll by, I totally get that!

I was fortunate enough to meet Julia, a well travelled Kiwi who also developed a fondness for Pai's best cafe, The Om Garden. Slightly off the main drag, the Thai/western fusion food and huge range of juices are a health-conscious gourmet's dream. We had planned to try and get through as much of the menu as possible before she left, but a week proved too short despite our best efforts. I will eternally dream about their cheesecake (both the coconut & the lime are divine) when I leave in late September. Until then, I intend to indulge while I can. I enjoy watching people's faces as their food or drink arrives-and the envy of fellow patrons. It really does sell itself.

The flat is about a 30 minute walk out of town, which in the heat can take longer. The humidity (66-82%) still saps my energy but at least my ankles no longer swell up! Living out of town surrounded by paddy fields is wonderful and my favourite part of the day is walking further out along my road watching the sun go down behind the mountains, the colours reflecting on the water in the rice fields. This is where I first felt the Pai vibe. I have renamed my road Sunset Road and endeavour to cycle it every evening. The local dogs and cats seem to make themselves at home anywhere within a certain radius and I usually encounter plenty of friendly greetings as I walk by. Two cats seem to have attached themselves to my neighbours and lately to me. Any dogs that dare to come onto the property are fiercely chased off. 

Bicycle hire seemed like a good way to get around faster but still keep up attempts to keep fit. The THB50 per day is certainly manageable, which is more than I can say for some of the hills, which are really no more than inclines. A scooter can be rented for THB100, but for now I'm determined to work on my fitness levels which I note, despite all the walking, are appalling! Another fact to bear in mind is the 533 scooter/motorbike accidents in the last 30 days that the hospital have struggled to treat. It is not uncommon to see people arrive off the minibus from Chiang Mai straight onto a scooter having never ridden before! Apparently an ad campaign aimed at the Chinese visitors advertises learning to ride a bike in Pai, and so they come but many seem to forgo the lessons.

Pai's walking street (everywhere in Thailand has one) comes alive from 6pm. Vendors set up their stalls along the side of the road selling everything from souvenirs to food. In the cool of the evening the street fills up as people stroll along and the sound of gentle bargaining fills the air. This is as busy as I've seen Pai-apart from the confusion around the 'bus station' when the hourly minibus from Chiang Mai arrives.

The pace of life is so unhurried and as you wind down yet another notch, the days melt into one another and time loses importance and the rat race seems another universe away. The only price I am paying for all this is putting up with bugs. There are the noisy ones, unseen at night outside my window, the hungry ones which devour me voraciously - my computer still exempt from further attacks as I have still not managed to get it fixed. There are three main types of ants I seem destined to share my home with. Vinegar seems to be the only natural remedy that works for all three.

I hear that the train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai derailed again recently and whilst no-one was hurt, this option of getting to Bangkok is suddenly less appealing. I ask around and the Nakhon Chai Air bus service comes highly recommended as being similar to the one I took from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. THB657 buys me an overnight first class airline seaat with a meal option. You can't book on line and the website is largely in Thai but phone their call centre (027900009) to book your seat and then go to your nearest 7Eleven store with your reference number to pay and get your ticket. It seems quite an efficient system although I still have no idea where the bus leaves from in Chiang Mai. Apparently to get my train ticket from Bangkok to Butterworth on the Malaysian border I will have to go to Chiang Mai again as there is no railway station in Pai and again tickets can't be bought on line.

Organic cappuccino and coconut cheesecake have arrived and as this is a moment that needs to be savoured I'm going to tell you about how I fill my days next time. If you ever visit Pai, ask for Anon's cheesecake at The Om Garden and you will understand....

 

Tags: cheesecake, cycling, nakhon chai air bus, om garden cafe, pai, scooter accidents, thailand, trains, walking street

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