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By bicycle through the mountains of Pai

Black and White Party at ‘The Loft’

By bicycle through the mountains of Pai

Saksit Meesubkwang

Pai is becoming an increasingly popular tourism destination, renowned for its tranquility and its beauty in all seasons.

A pagoda that is more than 100 years old.

Visitors also come in search of the culture of this area, with its ethnic Tai tribes living a timeless Burmese lifestyle. There are Moslem villages and other tribes people, all living amongst the beautiful mountain scenery that tourists sometimes compare to the Swiss countryside.

Visiting Pai by the land route is to travel a road that reputedly has more curves than any other in Thailand. This road itself has become something of an attraction for tourists. It is said that a monk wanted to know how many curves there were on the road to Pai, so he took tamarind seeds and from the taxi window he threw out one seed every time they took a curve. At the end of the journey he found that 1,864 seeds were gone, and that is the figure now generally accepted as the total curves on the Pai highway.

Pai started to become better known in 2002, when several tour agents added the city to their programs. Consequently, more Thais and foreigners now visit Pai, adding up to several hundred thousand each year. Sometimes, guesthouse capacity is insufficient for the influx. More accommodation has been built, and coffee shops, restaurants ands bars have also sprung up. Many of the business owners - about 30 percent, according to local figures - are foreigners who have married into the local hill tribes and decided to stay in this beautiful region.

Iron bridge constructed in World War Two.

One very good business for the local people is the hiring out of motorcycles and bicycles. You can rent an ordinary bike or a mountain bike. Jamrad Krua-on, 59, owner of a bicycle rental shop, said that he started his business 30 years ago. At first many people laughed at him, saying that no one would want a bike, for the few tourists that did visit Pai wanted to hire cars. After 15 years, however, Jamrad’s business was so successful that people began to copy him, and the number of bicycle rental shops now seems to increase in ratio to the increase in tourists.

Jamrad Krua-on, 59, owner of a bicycle rental shop in Pai, Mae Hong Son.

Currently, about 50 customers a day rent bikes from Jamrad’s shop, which earns him about 2,000 baht a day during the high season. He is nonetheless worried about the flooding, which is having a negative effect on tourism. Jamrad points out that the floods have not been as bad in that area as many people believe, and he hopes everything will get back to normal quickly.

The most popular trip for a day’s cycling is from Pai city to the Maw Paeng Waterfall, bypassing farms and hill tribe villages. The journey is about 10 kilometers but if anyone wishes to travel further to see the hot springs a car is recommended.

Souvenirs and used books are for sale and exchange.

There are many attractive temples that travelers can visit, several of historical and architectural interest, repositories for Tai tribal art and tradition. Some are centuries old, such as Wat Klang and Nam Hoo temples. Both are very symbolic of the Tai tribe people and culture.

Many beer bars have been set up to serve visitors.

The night market is another great attraction, with its local foods and products and handicrafts. In recent times small eating places and bars have opened specifically to cater to Western tastes, for those who find the local food something of a mystery.

During World War Two, Pai district was used as a transfer point for Japanese troops and equipment, and the Japanese left behind them a strong iron bridge that although it is not used today is very much a historical curiosity.

Foreign tourists ordering local food.

Visit Pai, and you are traveling to a place that, although more people are getting there now, is still less traveled than most. Now is a good time.

Bicycles for rent that need to be serviced before release to tourists again.

A building under construction to serve tourists during high season.

A Lisu hill tribe sells handmade products on the wayside.

Farm and natural atmosphere in Pai.

Black and White Party at ‘The Loft’

Marion Vogt

How many times are we told that things are not ‘just Black and White’? Well, at the party last Tuesday at The Loft they definitely were. The classic feel of black and white movies and photographs was accentuated with everyone (well, almost everyone) showing up dressed either in all white or all black.

Esther Ting and Becky Lomax demonstrate what you find when you look up the word ‘radiant’ in the dictionary. (From left) Sid Richardson, Fred, Esther Ting, Robert Noren and Becky Lomax

In order to raise more funds, plus to generate enthusiasm for the upcoming Charity Party in January, the next few months will see different theme parties from the organizing team.

October was all ‘Black and White’ and it was a very dressy affair. The ones who ‘forgot’, and there were really just a few, agreed to pay a fine towards the charity fund without complaint. It was a night of socializing, nice music, and down to earth Thai food with all proceeds being directly donated to charity.

Ronnie, Maurice and Lawrence had a jolly good time after Maurice won two (!) of the Raffle prizes.

The money raised will be divided and used to support five different charities, depending on their needs and requirements. No money will be given to individuals but it will pay for something they need. The five causes will be the Foundation for the Education of Rural Children, the Suan Dok Hospital for the disabled in Chiang Mai, the Baan Kingkaew Orphanage for the care of babies and abandoned children under five years, the Downs syndrome Centre in Chiang Mai and Vienping Orphanage.

If you are interested in helping, contact Chiangmai Mail and we will connect you.

Two lovely newcomers to the community but already getting acquainted: Karina Vestergaard from Denmark and Sue from USA

Does this remind you of a Michael Jackson song?  Mary and Guy in Black and White.