I’m not going to lie, the drive there felt life-threatening. There’s something ridiculous like over two hundred bends in the road which resulted in white knuckles and that horrible carsickness feeling. And going back down, don’t get me started!
Being the over-optimistic and unrealistic people that we are, we planned on having an über chilled and alcohol-free December, well, until the Christmas festivities started at least. Who were we kidding? Pai may be tucked nicely into the mountains with beautiful rivers and waterfalls, but it chewed us up and spat us out when it came to partying. We were warned this would happen, and we soon became well and truly stuck in the Pai hole.
I would be lying if I said we got lost in the surrounding nature of Pai exploring its hidden beauties. We weren’t completely slack, we rented bikes and visited the hot springs in the national park which was very enjoyable. We were in there for that long (mainly because the sun set and the air was bloody freezing above the water) that we turned into prunes. There was also a local boy about seven years old who went on a splashing rampage. I genuinely thought he was going to go beserk at one point! We also visited Pam Bok waterfall and caught some rays on the rocks but after half an hour it was bombarded with people so we left to find somewhere quieter. Even just driving around on the bikes is enough to occupy the day as there are loads of places you can stop off to admire the views. The roads are dodgy though, every other person walking around in Pai has cuts, grazes or bandages from scooting around. Luckily, we came out injury free.
After a few nights of hostel hopping we made our way to the famous Circus Hostel. It seems like everyone who goes to Pai stays here and now I know why. It has loads going on everyday including yoga, family dinners, hula hooping, poi and staff spinning and fire shows. The garden has a pool and the mountainous backdrop with the moody Pai sky got prettier every day at sunset. This is why we got stuck. We stayed in a 12 bed dorm made entirely of bamboo. Even the mattresses felt like bamboo they were that hard. It was two hundred baht per night for a dorm bed.
Most of our days in Pai consisted of debating whether to get a beer, then getting a large beer and going “Ah fuck it”, all day, then attempting to do circus tricks, finished with sunset. The nights would be the same except there were no deliberations and we’d go out and drink too much Thai whisky at Sunshine and Don’t Cry Bar. There’s also an amazing night market every evening where we spent a lot of time eating everything. For the first time in ten months I was able to eat a proper lasagne that actually had an unhealthy amount of cheese on top. One night we got drenched in glitter and I swear I’m still finding the odd speck here and there.
It really is the people you meet on your travels that make it so memorable. We met plenty of these people in Pai. I had many of those amazing, brain-frying conversations about the world but an equal amount of stupid, silly, belly-laughter times too. To name a few, we met a comedy trio of two Australian guys and a scouser. We went to a pool party with them and they had quite a selection of party attire or what they call a “shit kit”. I wore a hat and a blue waistcoat and the girls wore shit shirts, but it was the boys who really stole the show! They wore budgie smugglers/skimpies and cooking aprons which they bought from 7/11, and they walked around like this until the following day. In fact, when we saw them looking normalish wearing proper clothes we didn’t recognise them!
One of my last days in Pai was spent visiting Lod Cave. The cave was pretty cool. It’s massive! We went on a bamboo raft and fed the fish but I’ve never seen fish jump out of the water so high! Much to my amusement, and to Libby’s distress, I was throwing the food behind me so the fish would jump near her. The only down side was that the cave absolutely stank or bird and bat poo. I’m not exaggerating when I say I ran out heaving it was that bad. Not an ideal scenario for a hangover.
So a few days in Pai turned into ten and I could’ve doubled that. It’s a special little pocket of parties and waterfalls and jungles and amazing people tucked away in the north and those two hundred bends in the road were definitely worth the journey.