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
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
So, a weekend visit to Pai will transport you to another World, in many