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Last Slice of Pai

THAILAND | Thursday, 19 September 2013 | Views [1792]

Another wonderful Om Garden creation

Another wonderful Om Garden creation

The 762 curves on the Pai to Chiang Mai road are calling. Leaving as I came, with backpack, but taking so many non-tangible souvenirs and some great memories. It seems a forgone concussion that I will return.

Finally getting around to taking a cookery class, Gaew from The Pai Cookery School ensures that I am justifiably proud of my five dishes achievement. It would have been so much more beneficial to do this sooner! An appealing part of the course is going to the market and finally getting some clues about what all the different piles of green stuff (that could as easily be garden weeds-morning glory etc) are used for in Thai cooking. It was a great afternoon despite the sweltering heat of the day - fortunately Thai food requires a lot of preparation but cooking time is not usually that lengthy.

My previous day trip to Chiang Mai may not have been wholly necessary. Apparently, for a small fee, train tickets can be purchased through Aya Service who run the main minibus service. The fee may have been considerably higher and the outcome less satisfactory had I asked that they also buy me a pair of jeans not available in Pai. Shopping is a great illusory past-time in Thailand, cheap as you like but rarely real. I wonder that my designer jeans maker should choose to unpick the label from the left back pocket and move it to the right! They fit well, will likely last no time at all, but for the discounted price offered, we are both happy with the arrangement. This, I think, is the key to successful shopping here. My brief sortie into Myanmar (Burma) clearly illustrates the years of practise the Thai have over their neighbours in the art of illusory shopping. There it is just riduculously cheap and makes no pretence at being anything else.

If you are searching for some reality, you might try a Thai massage. How hard can it be from that sweet old lady who only reaches your shoulder? Using her hands, knees, elbows, feet you will be pummelled into the present moment, but oh, it is so worth it. Put on the pj's you are given and surrender! Throw out the pumice stone & nail clippers, manicures and pedicures are widely offered too. Yesterday I cycled the 12kms round trip up to the Pai Hot Springs, opted for Exotic Spa Home and for less than £2 had the hot and cold water baths all to myself. I spent much of the time trying to figure out what the signs (allegedly in English) actually meant. Could Google translate ever possibly have such an off day?

The visa run to Mae Song, Myanmar, was a long 17.5 hours door to door. It was well organised where, fee paid, you can surrder your passport to be issued with a temporary Burmese one which enables you limited ingress into the country for a day. All this for an extra two week extension! The fine currently stands at THB500 (£10) per day over your visa is some motivation to keep within your dates. It's not that it's a huge sum of money in itself, it's what that actually buys over here (daily: decent lodging, all meals in a restaurant & enough for a beer or two as well). If you are fortunate enough to earn even a small overseas income, you can live pretty well here. That's if you don't mind all the bugs, like an extremely hard mattresses and the necessity of putting used loo roll in the bin and not down the toilet. What strikes me immediately on crossing the footbridge into Myanmar is the number of beggars. Accept you are a target, hang on to your wallet and give someone food not money as this may not end up quite where intended. I have grown to admire the Thai attitude to just getting on with their life, making a living however possible. From the almost deaf old lady selling 'garden weeds' from her bicycle basket to the university educated professionals waiting tables because they will earn more than as a doctor/teacher etc. does this breed corruption? Naturally, although I was shocked to read this is widely known to extend to some monks as well.

Have I become bug-phobic I have started to wonder? There do seem to be so many of them. It is quite common to sit in my lounge and watch a frog (around the size of your thumbnail) hop through, listen to geckos' chatter plus all the expected flying circus but by far the strangest was a large fresh water crab hiding between my 'sofas'. How strange that Australia will offer some respite!

The last few nights I have stayed a little closer to town. Natalie has been living in Thailand for over two years and even brought her dog with her from South Africa (no quaratine). I have been charged with taking care of him (who only understands Afrikaans, an interesting challenge with my very limited vocabulary) and her Thai kitten while she was visiting Chiang Mai. Every now and then, a taste of the big city becomes attractive-movie theatres, a shopping mall are suddenly quite appealing. Perth is going to seem overwhelming at first I think.

In Thailand the roads are big enough for everyone, from dogs and cows to scooters, vans and busses. Everyone jostles for their place, the strongest and most tenacious usually survive. There are no safety nets and so everyone must take charge of their own fate, something the Developed World seems to have long since forgotten.

It would be only fitting to send my last Pai blog from the place that has been my second home and yes, all that cycling has earned me one final piece of Pai immemorial - Anon's cheesecake! Chok dee! Cheers!

Tags: cheesecake, chok dee, cooking class, om garden, pai, pai hot springs, quarantine laws, shopping, thai massage, thailand

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