Pai - Northern Thailand - Hands down our favourite place so far! We absolutely loved everything about the small town, from the stunning waterfalls we swam in, to the ram shackled bamboo villages we passed through and even Roland the rat who we shared our hut with for the 5 days we were there! Though maybe love is a strong word for Roland.
Pai was another place we visited on the recommendation of another traveler we met on Tonsai beach. The town is located in the Mae Hong Son province, very close to the Myanmar border. It's stunningly beautiful, set high up in the mountains. As you can imagine the drive there was pretty treacherous, 272 hairpin bends up the mountain at 60mph can make you feel a little queasy, but the drive was mindblowing.
The town itself is so chilled out; it had the laid back feel of the islands which we loved but it doesn't feel so overrun by tourists. I think we were really lucky with our accommodation as we stumbled across a really pretty garden full of bungalows that were really cheap (about 4/5 pounds a night!) They only had a few at this price and the remaining bungalows were of a boutique hotel standard and price. This meant that Dan and I paid a fraction of the price and still got all the benefits of staying in a high end hotel. Perfect!
We decided to hire a scooter for the time we were there as it would allow us the freedom to explore the countryside and visit the nearby waterfalls. It was definitely the best way to see Pai and the surrounding villages and so cheap! I think we paid 1.50 a day for the bike rental. Bargain!
The first day we had the bike we decided to venture out into the mountains to find the waterfalls. We had the strangest day. It seems that Dan and I are cursed - whenever we try to visit a sight or tourist attraction we get SO lost. Signposts don't really exist in Thailand and most of the roads are tiny dirt tracks that look like they lead no where. Often these roads are the main highway. Anyway, 10 wrong turns and 3 hours later we managed to find the first waterfall. I must tell you about the locals we met on the way up though. There we were driving through the hill tribe villages trying to find our way and suddenly this lady; she must've been in her 80's popped up out the bush and started giving us the 'do you want a smoke' sign. Strange. We thought perhaps she just wanted a cigarette. Ten minutes further down the road and it happens again. This time a young woman with a baby over her back, making a 'chuffa chuffa' type noise and giving us the smoking signal. We're starting to think everyone is mad. Then it happened again!! This time an elderly man appeared from a field full of cows and starts shouting 'chuffa chuffa, marijuana??' Clearly all these crazy locals had been offering us weed! It was pretty funny. If you were that way inclined you'd be off your face by the time you reached the waterfall which I'm pretty sure some kids were. Good times.
After a day of swimming in the waterfalls we drove back to Pai and found ourselves a nice pop up cocktail bar where we were treated to free shots of Baileys and Sambucca by the waiters. We then met Mr Mark Wright, well, his doppelganger. Toby was a guy from Essex but walked, talked and looked like Mark Wright. He was a really sweet guy though and had loads of advice for us about travelling. After a few more free shots it all gets a bit blurry but I remember Dan dancing around a fire at the bamboo bar and then stumbling across the bridge home to Roland. I think P had too many long island ice teas and spent most of the next day crying about how terrible he felt.
I think Pai was the perfect finishing place for our time in Thailand. We had an incredible time, met lots of lovely people and saw so many beautiful places. Next stop ... Laos