We'd heard mixed reviews about the little tourist-haven town of Pai, and were almost going to give it a miss, but the lush forest and misty hills of this north-eastern pocket of Thailand convinced us to stop for a few nights. Only an hour on the bus from our homestay in Nong Tong, Pai was a world away. The quaint little riverside town with beautiful views of the mountains in every direction has attracted a solid community of backpackers, ex-pats and urban Thais, all heavily into reggae music and yoga. The Falangs definitely outnumbered the locals here, and it was strange to see so many urban Thais that had moved from the cities, grown dreadlocks and goatees, and settled in long term.
There isn't a whole lot of tourist sights to see in Pai itself, although the winding mountain roads, waterfalls and hill tribe villages surrounding the town are pretty popular for motorbikes. We felt a bit overwhelmed after the Lisu village, and so took the opportunity to embrace the slow, relaxing lifestyle of Pai and enjoyed doing not much at all.
We stayed in a comfortable old guesthouse with another peaceful wooden balcony, and spent quite a bit of time reading, blogging, strumming the guitar and sipping Sangsom, the well respected national rum. We ventured out a couple of times to appreciate some of the talented local musicians playing funk, jazz and Bob Marley covers. Even just strolling around town in the day, we could hear the sounds of locals tuning up their vocal chords behind closed doors.
The hills surrounding Pai are really photogenic, so we went for a bit of a walk to try to capture some of the natural beauty. It was pretty hot so we headed towards what was a swimming pool on the map. Being the low and rainy season, the pool was closed, but they had a herbal sauna open for the afternoon which sounded almost as good. It was nice and relaxing to have a good sweat, and we spent the afternoon sitting down and chatting to a bunch of retiree ex-pats who had settled in Pai, and were regular visitors to the sauna.
The other really memorable part of our stay was a particular purple sticky rice. It seemed to be some sort of rice mixture packed into a flat disk. The lady with the popular street stand would throw it on a BBQ and watch it twist and wriggle and expand. She finished it by adding an assortment of spices and sweet sauce and serving the delicious dessert to us wrapped up in a banana leaf! Mmm
Time is running out as our visa expires in a few days and we still want to visit Chiang Rai. Although disappointed to leave this chilled out haven, we find ourselves on another local bus, heading even closer to Laos!