I’m going Michael J. Fox on you. First, we’re going into the future. Then we’ll go back in time. The future is now, in Pai.
Pai is a small town nestled into the mountains made of jungle in Northern Thailand. I’ve been here nearly a week now, more than half of my entire time in Thailand. I didn’t mean to find a new home so soon, but I guess it found me.
After less than a week in Thailand I needed to roam free. I split off from my travel partners to find my own space and pace of journey. I had heard about Pai from an Irish couple I bonded with in Vietnam and knew before I even arrived I had a crush. But the second I laid eyes on this town I believed in love at first sight.
Artisans from all different arenas fill the streets with live music, beautiful jewelry, and tattoo shops. From street stalls to quality restaurants, cheap delicious food from around the world is very easy to come by. Everyone has the laid-back hippie mentality and moves at a slower pace of life I seem to agree with more. Yoga classes, motor biking, reiki, hot springs, cooking classes and trekking are the main activities people come here to experience. But every person I’ve met has stayed longer in Pai than they originally anticipated, from a few days to 14 years. No joke.
It’s hard to write about the vibe of a place, it’s just something you have to feel. And I feel at home here. It’s a place I knew instantly I would have trouble leaving but was grateful for opportunity to sink my feet in a little. And I already have a routine.
At 11 am (roughly) everyone out from the night before comes by The Good Life to check in and see who’s still alive. It’s a health conscious restaurant with amazingly delicious food and teas, swing chairs, and even has free guided mediation several days a week. It’s one of the best ex-pat hangouts I’ve discovered. Basically, this entire town oozes with natural remedies and charm.
It seems to rain more in Pai than anywhere I’ve been yet, but I don’t mind since the air is cooler and less humid and the landscape is so green. Plus my roof is so thin I can hear every rain drop which I find quite soothing at night. To be honest, rain has yet to hinder any of my plans yet. Even on a day we planned to motorbike all day, we still went out in the pouring monsoon and just took the corners more slowly. We were going to a hot spring so it seemed silly to be worried about getting wet. It was less annoying and more of an adventure really.
But when the sun is shining and you have a motorbike, the day can be quite full and exhilarating. There’s so many winding beautiful roads to take and hidden waterfalls to discover. A giant Buddha here, a golden temple there; there’s no shortage of interesting things to see. And to be honest, the best part really is just riding. Having the wind in your face while speeding through local villages; I have never felt more free. It feels refreshing to be in such a stunning environment and to know I have the time, money, and energy to explore it a bit.
I live in a bungalow with a decent bed on the floor and a private bathroom for just over $3 a day. Despite the bathroom reeking of urine (I think there’s a leak) and being slightly inconvenient and there is mosquito/ant/cockroach farm that seems to live here as well, I’ve found the perfect living spot. I get free wifi and a hot shower (my only requirements) but appreciate the bonus music here at Edible Jazz. While every bar in town (and there are quite a bit) offers live music every night, this place radiates with musician charm. The owner’s friends are here everyday jamming at some point which I can hear without even opening my door. And if not, she will put music on the speakers and it’s always been good. And they’re all really sweet and generous people as well so I not only feel safe, but comfortable. This place is so wonderful it draws in more people who aren’t sleeping here than are. Maybe it’s the good jazz or the good vibe, there’s always someone cool to meet if you just sit in the hang-out area.
Not that I even need a backpacking hostel right now, this has been the easiest place to meet people. Because of the hippie vibe, everyone is open and friendly and I know heaps of both travelers and locals without even trying. I like getting to know a place really well: to know inside and out where everything is, to have a favorite corner shop, and to run into people you know on a short walk down the street. And it’s already happening.
At night, the bars come alive with acoustic music and cheap drinks. It’s impossible not to bar hop and inevitably end up at one of the few sunrise bars for last drinks. Conversations start easily and everyone knows someone and groups collide and mingle not only for one night. Add in the fact that this is a small town and you can walk anywhere safely and maybe you can start to see how it’s so easy to get stuck here.
Honestly, everyone I’ve met has overstayed in Pai from their original expectations which was the first sign I’d be here more than a couple of days. I’m hoping to get out for a few days of trekking next week which will make departing that much easier when I really have to go, but the reality is life is good here and I don’t feel a pressing need to go as soon as possible. I can afford to just bum around, eat great food, drink a wee bit, take yoga classes, rent a motor scooter, and explore all this beautiful area has to offer. Plus there’s always someone to hang out with and it’s been surprisingly difficult for me to find a few moments to steal away for myself.
Despite the fact that I came here to be alone, clear my head, and find a direction on where I want to go next, I’ve quickly appreciated the fact that I had a group of friends my first night here and continue to grow my social circle everyday. (Namely, I’ve had one really good friend here I met on the bus and have spent every meal with since. It’s always the British I befriend and I still don’t know why.) It seems in my life no matter how hard I try to be alone, I never will be. But I don’t necessarily believe this to be a bad thing.
So I do suppose in a way I’ve done some soul searching while I’ve been here. The moment I gave myself to the Universe and went with every opportunity, everything has gone smoothly and been a wonderful experience. I have smiled more, felt more alive, and been surrounded by and exuding my own positive energy. Maybe the air is fresher here or the music is hypnotizing, but there’s something about Pai. Something truly wonderful and amazing about Pai.