Pai

Note: this post was written on Dec 9, but due to poor internet connectivity it did not get uploaded until the 12th.

Pai is a small town in Northern Thailand, in the mountains near the border with Myanmar. A three hour van ride over a windy mountain pass will get you there from Chiang Mai, making it remote but accessible. The town is a backpacker’s paradise, featuring plucky hostels, cool bars, boutique restaurants and an incredible night market full of delicious cheap food.

The hostel, Spicypai, was a 15 minute walk out of town.
Quaint bungalow-style dorms – note the extra blankets.
A perfect sunset from the hostel.

Pai in December is surprisingly chilly. Though the temperature got up into the 80s during the day, crystal clear skies and a high elevation allowed it to drop down into the 40s at night. This was the first time I’ve been properly cold since our trip to Denali in September, and I was grateful for my wool socks, fleece sweater and knit cap.My main activity in Pai was a two day outdoorsy adventure, kayaking one day and trekking through the jungle the next with a homestay in a mountain village in the middle.

These gibbon monkeys hung out over the road to the river we kayaked, waiting for tourists to show up and toss them bananas.
A chilly morning after the homestay.
🎵It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas🎵
The beautiful farmland of Northern Thailand. Why yes, that is corn growing off to the left.
I will never get tired of these impossibly steep limestone mountains.
A tiny village up in the hills.
On the way back from the trek, we stopped at the top of a pass to watch the sunset. Then we rode into Pai in the back of a pickup truck, shivering all the way.

The next day I hung out with other travelers from my hostel. We wandered into town, rented scooters, and drove out to Pai Canyon to explore its strange twists and turns. Imagine the landscape of Utah with all its ridges and rock formations, then cover it in dense jungle and you’ll have a good sense of the terrain. Day’s end yielded one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, followed by the beauty of the dusty ridges lit by the almost-full moon, the stars above mirrored by the lights of distant villages in the surrounding hills. It was a truly magical moment. The drive back to town was stupidly cold (none of us had planned to be out that late), but that made the big bowls of soup and crackling campfire we found when we returned to the hostel all the more welcome.

The canyon is too big to be really photogenic, but this gives you a sense of the terrain.

Then it was back into the minivan, down the mountain passes to Chiang Mai where I’ll catch a flight to my next destination. I spent four nights in Pai, but could easily have stayed for a week if I wasn’t coming up against the end of my trip. It’s beautiful, culturally rich, and has a wonderful laid back attitude. I’ll definitely be back next time I’m in this part of the world.

One thought on “Pai

  1. Pingback: Concrete Advice for Prospective Backpackers – Dan Roberts

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