It is interesting that Pai from where I live means “friend.” “Kamusta na pai?” (How are you friend?). Palawan’s version of the Visayan bai. And maybe that name has some cosmos power that it divides the barrier of culture and indifference among those who visit the town of Pai in Northern Thailand. So different when you compare to Bangkok where you also meet interesting travelers. But Pai, Pai is going inside a cafe alone and going out with at least an invitation to go here or meet later for beers. You will never be alone. I don’t know how that happens but the vibe is just something. You bet, it was hard for me to leave Pai.
Imagine, I wrote a 3-part series about this town. So here’s a rundown of the things I love about Pai:
3-Part Pai Series:
Pretty road signs. I arrived with new found friends almost sundown and we walk around the town right away. Look at this pretty post. Warning: I’ll be using “pretty” a lot of times.
Quintessential town. This is Pai as seen from the Giant White Buddha. Love the romance of the clouds and the green mountains. If only Pai has ocean, I would probably moved here.
Lovely people. This is was one those private afternoon chills. You meet interesting people and you just gather around and watch the sunset and lounge.
Countryside. Drive 10 minutes away from the main street and you are treated with amazing landscapes like this.
Natural playground. This is why probably younger backpackers congregate here- finally they can play and don’t care what adults would say. Here, there is only one rule: “HAVE FUN!” That’s a natural slide and you are told to “GO and ENJOY” with loud cheers.
Lazy afternoon coffee. I’m someone that just wants to sit down and let time pass by. Maybe read a book while sipping that cappuccino. Pai has probably close to a hundred of coy cafés.
The Giant White Buddha. There is this huge white Buddha statue overlooking the hippie town of Pai in Northern Thailand. This is probably why Pai is zenned.
Pai River. There is something about waterfront properties. I mean, water per se is life and being close to it you experience life in all its totality and power. Sometimes gentle, most of the times raging.
Budget-friendly hostels. I stayed at Golden Hut which is just beside the river on the photo above for only 150Baht (3.00EUR), most gapyear-ers stay at SpicyPai below (150Baht) or in Pai Circus. Perfect place to meet other travelers and spend midnight parties too.
Hippie and free-spirited travelers. This is Art in Chai, during Thursdays there will be a gathering where they will sing spiritual songs and chant mantras. It is just lovely and refreshing to listen and sip hot choco with coconut milk. I kept on visiting because of the bohemian feel.
Cozy and hearty cafes. One of the places I love going to is EarthTone which offers vegan food and the ambiance is just amazingly pretty. And can you see that hammock?
Road trippin’. For only 150-200Baht, you can rent a motorbike for the whole day and try to get lost while singing Red Hot Chili Perpper’s
Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies
Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies
It’s time to leave this town
It’s time to steal away
Let’s go get lost
the U.S.A. Pai
Magical afternoons. Look at this beauty Balete tree in front of my hut. Mother Nature has gone crazy in this part of town and that golden streak of the sun gave me goosebumps. Mystical in a most uplifting way.
Shrooms. Lots of it. Bars will even make you shroom shake… But different mushrooms from the ones you can buy in the market… check the next photo
Night bars. This is Sunset Bar which is a hit to backpackers along with “Don’t Cry Bar.” Here are two of those travelers I met, Mantas from Lithuania and Shaye from Down Under. What I love about solo travel is that you become vulnerable, vulnerable in a good way because you begin to trust strangers, you make friends with people you don’t normally meet at home and you begin to see the deep brotherhood/sisterhood among humanity.
Vegetarian dishes. This is only 80Baht and look how pretty it is. Sometimes I don’t want to eat my food because I don’t want to mess it up. Healthy to the soul and body.
Pai Walking Street 🐘. This is what I love about Thailand which the Philippines lack. From colorful postcards to pad thais, lampshades to local coffee, woven bags to lampshades. Locals even play some music and everyone is alive and pumping. These are hand-painted postcards made by local artist. I love buying these kinds instead of the mass-produced ones even id they are a bit more expensive.
Pai Canyon. Adventure-junkies will get stoked at Pai. Look at this canyon where a day is not enough to explore. Jump around or have a trail run.
Private parties. So every bar closes at 11:45 pm but since most are just starting to get into the groove this time, the hunt for “secret” bars and “private” parties became a common. One night, a fairy DJ named Kim drove us to this garden in the middle of the rice fields and had the sample of Pai’s art and music scene. People started to come with beers and Sangsom, ganjas and games. Bossa was the genre, epic night of chill party Pai-style.
Ricefields. Growing up in a country where ricefields are a common thing, I thought it would be just so-so. But this is what travel noh? You are with new eyes and with that with new feelings and sensibilities.
Down times. You know when you are traveling long-term you just want to sit down and write. Send you friends snail mail or postcards just because receiving a good ‘ole postcard doesn’t come out of style. Plus it has some therapeutic powers. Complete the experience by ordering some herbal tea. And look, it is Instagram-worthy right?
Outdoor cafés. Best 50Baht cappuccino I ever bought! Green as far as the eyes can see. Yes, I’m in love with cafés. In fact, staying in Pai inspired me more to fulfill my dream of opening my own back in the Philippines.
Tea plantations. I always dream of exploring tea plantations like the ones in India or Malaysia. Pai also has that and it is everything pretty. And look at how the clouds play with the colors of the mountains.
More cozy cafés. Yes I won’t get tired of sharing this because they are just pretty.
See you again, Pai. I went back to Pai after I left. Seriously, I stayed there two more nights.
Hope to see you again Pai! In traveling, like in any other love story, saying good-bye is the hardest part. This is happens especially in places that we have met so many beautiful souls that has become not only friends but brothers and sisters. Pai has changed me a lot or better yet, showed me my true self in ways I didn’t imagine possible. Pai has somehow became ‘home.’ I have deposited a part of her in my heart that leaving is the farthest thing I wanted to do. But then there was this night; in an unexpected way I felt the need to leave and move on. And moving on as we all know is painful but I had to learn that pain means growth. It is a beautiful thing, a natural process.
I packed my 35L backpack and rented a 125cc Honda motorbike to move forward. I drove around 50kms along majestic mountainscapes, tea plantation and cornfields and found myself in a small village called Soppong in the Pang Mapha District.