It was a rainy start to the day in Chiang Mai, as we packed up and prepared to leave Monkey Toe. I took a detour on the way to leave the scooter back to the rental garage, hoping to use up the last of the petrol and make use of the little homemade gym the locals have built in the corner of the park. The park was filled with elderly men and women doing their morning workout, as a I took turns with one of the locals, lifting concrete blocks attached to metal bars.
Shortly after checkout, we were in the back of a land rover and on our way to the minibus terminal just out of town. When we researched the journey to Pai, almost every review mentioned people being sick, as the 3 hour journey involves racing through 762 bends in the Thai mountains. Our apprehensions were later realised as we arrived to find our minibus filled with plastic sick bags and passengers covered in patches, popping anti sickness pills.
The journey itself was not at all as bad as we expected, mainly because the heavy rain resulted in our driver having to take it slow and steady through the hills. Although Ella wore a sickness patch as a precaution, sitting close to the front meant we both felt fine and managed to enjoy the stunning views of the jungle as we crested each hilltop.
We arrived in Pai an hour later than expected, a fair trade for not being covered in vomit but having missed our collection time, meant we had a 30 min walk out to the hostel. The hostel itself was in fact not a hostel at all, at least not any that I’ve seen. The expansive grounds, made up of beautifully linked gardens with private bungalows dotted around looked more like a 3 star resort. Though only a short distance from the centre of Pai, it definitely felt like we were surrounded by nature as the most stunningly green hills wrapped the horizon in every direction.
We caught the free shuttle service back into town and picked up another rental scooter. This one had a much smaller engine but only cost 150baht (£3.40) and meant we could explore wherever we wanted in the 2 days we had in Pai. After a quick panini, we headed out of town and into the hills, past more stunning views and elephant camps that lined the roadside. We stopped off at the WW2 memorial bridge before heading to the “Grand Canyon” as sunset approached. After a few photos of the picturesque landscape, we decided it was safer to relax in the cafe below, rather than risk decapitation by selfie stick.
This did mean that we discovered the best Lychee shake ever, in a cafe at the entrance to canyon. Seriously, it was insane! Totally worth the brain freeze. That night we had noodles at a little corner restaurant in town before picking up dessert on the ride home.
A relaxed start to day 2 had us waking without alarms. We rode into town for lunch at a restaurant just off the main street. Maps.me said they did the best sticky rice in town but that would never influence our decision. Happily fed, we headed into the hills again, past the giant white Buddha, to the nearby hot springs. The road had us winding our way through the forest and finished at a big sign saying “foreign tourist entry = 1 billion baht!” 😢 Okay slight exaggeration but it was a bit out of our price range and who needs a hot spring in 35 degree heat anyway? Instead, we took advantage of the quiet road so Ella could practise riding with a pillion passenger.
Feeling thoroughly practised, we rode past more elephant camps, slowing down this time to catch a view of so many incredible creatures up close. We couldn’t help but feel saddened as the majestic sight is not enough to distract you from also seeing the large chains around their feet. Many tour companies in Thailand insist they are morally bound to protecting the welfare of elephants but despite seeing lots of signs stating this, we still passed lots of tourists having elephant rides. You would think that people would consider jabbing sharp metal sticks into animals to be a bad thing. These sweaty idiots on holiday didn’t seem to mind.
After cheering ourselves up with another Lychee shake (the best medicine ever) we rode for another hour through the forest, along dirt roads to the Pombak waterfall. Even though it was dry season, the small waterfall was full of life. A lot of the life happened to be other tourists but we managed to grab some photos without disturbing them in their natural habitat.
That night we walked up and down the main bazaar of Pai. At night the sleepy town comes to life as the streets fill with countless vendors selling every variety of street food. We did a few laps, picking up anything that looked good. The Mac n Cheese stand was incredible and I swear Thai sausages taste a little bit better every time.
We managed to tick the last box for the, “true Pai experience” when our 9am minibus back to Chiang Mai had a few passenger filling up plastic bags to the brim with their mornings breakfast. The fantastic weather meant that our driver could really practise his rally approach to corners. Though the girls being sick managed to deal with the situation without making too much fuss, we were very happy to have packed the Sickness meds.
It’s crazy to think we’ve just one stop left in Northern Thailand. I swear we were in Jaipur last week right? It is however, a great feeling, knowing that we’ll be back again in a few weeks. 🤗