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Life in Chiang Mai


The life of Pai

By Tom Long
A popular weekend destination for travelers from Chiang Mai is Pai, situated about three hours by a regular (and cheap) mini-van bus service from Chiang Mai. The journey itself is a very picturesque one, passing through many farmlands, attractive wooded valleys and climbing steep hilltops, affording lovely rural views – often with no buildings or other roads to be observed, as far as the eye can see.
However, those very hill climbs, and sharp descents, themselves present a challenge to the comfort of passengers. On our recent bus trip, several passengers were unable to retain their breakfasts, so winding was the road, and so acute their travel sickness!
When you eventually decamp from your swerving and speeding bus, you’ll be dropped by the office of your travel company on one of the handful of main streets in this little township – really, a big village. On stepping off the bus, you immediately step into a different world from Chiang Mai. There are no taxis and few tuk tuks in Pai, so unless you’re staying in a luxury resort (as we did) with pickup, you had better not choose a guesthouse too far from downtown to be able to walk to: some are rather remote.
On the other hand, mopeds and motor scooters are easily and cheaply available and that’s how many young visitors get around. Unfortunately, some have obviously never controlled one before, and many a wobbly-passage can be observed, regrettably, down the main street: even in the evenings, when it is supposed to become a walking street and is clogged by pedestrians.
Not a few of these pedestrians clearly had the worst of their scooter-driving experience in Pai, because you commonly see young men and women on crutches, in plaster, with great sewn-up scars on their heads, arms or legs – probably obtained as a souvenir of venturing out onto the challenging local hillside roads, without much experience of scooter-driving.
If you have ever wondered whatever became of the World’s hippies you will find your answer in Pai. An international collection of these special beings seems to comprise a large proportion of the in-town guesthouse transient population of Pai.
Their startling appearance allows you to identify them: rings in the nose, eyebrow, lips, tongue are but one form of their striking personal adornment to be commonly viewed in Pai. Others are masses of hair, for men and women alike, clotted into repulsive deadlocks hanging down their backs. To be a hippy in Pai, it seems the fashion also to follow is to go out of an evening fully-clothed, of course in a wide variety of ethnic garb, but to go barefoot on the streets, as if you are on a clean beach! On dirty downtown streets, that is not a very appealing thing to do, though it is commonly-seen in Pai.
There are numerous little street-side bars dotted around the village. However, our hippy friends seem to prefer to perambulate along whilst drinking from a large bottle of beer, secured cheaply from the 711, while munching street food on the hoof. I wonder what the local Thais think of them? Certainly, they cannot represent very much income for the local population.
So, a weekend visit to Pai will transport you to another World, in many ways.

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The life of Pai