Chad, the Canadian guys and I set off for Pai the next day. The road to Pai is VERY curvy. The t-shirts around town state that there are 976 curves from Chiang Mai to Pai...and that may be an underestimate! Luckily, the "bus" system here is mainly private minivans so it was a bit less scary than being in a big bus. Also, it allows the freedom to ask for bathroom stops and only your friends and a few passengers can get mad, instead of an entire bus. I had been told from several travelers that I would love it, and they were right. It's a quiet little hippie town that doesn't have much to do except eat and hang out by the river---my kind of place! As we were walking around looking for a hotel, we bumped into Georgina and Fredi (our new Argentinian friends from the trek) so we all stayed together at a place called Pai Park. Pai Park was LOVELY. The owners were as sweet as could be and gave us a deal on rooms since we had a big group and free sticky rice cooked in bamboo shoots. We divided up, two to a bungalow and each had a private cabin with beds, private bathroom, porch, and spectacular views of the river. All this came at the ridiculous price of around $4 a night and laundry for about a $1. Can't beat that! Bungalow views The SCARY bamboo bridge to Pai Park We spent the next few days in Pai laying by the river and enjoying their wifi in the hammocks by day and fire pits at night. The boys rented motorbikes and I let them get out all their crashes (it happened) before joining them to explore some canyons and waterfalls outside of town. It was quite the adventure to find the falls. We must have passed back and forth on the same stretch of 50 meters looking for the darn thing, each time being told it was right around the corner. Finally, we saw a map and tried to memorize the first three letters of the Thai writing to look for the sign along the road. That helped, sort of…until we finally realized the sign was so rubbed off you couldn't see it anyway.
Sampling food in Pai Every night in Pai, the streets turn into a night market that is pedestrian(ish) only (bikes and cars still try to come through and usually succeed). Food here was like non other in Thailand. For under a $1 you could try sushi, fudge, waffles with your choice of fillings and toppings, ice-cream, grilled mushrooms and corn, pancakes of all sorts, fried oysters, eggs, etc. it was AMAZING! Not setting the town on fire One night, I happened to spot people setting off paper lanterns in a lot just off the market and decided to join in on the fun. There was no guidance or manual so I let the guy light my lantern and then stood there, trying to watch the others and see what I was supposed to do. I thought I had it all figured out so I made my wish and let go. I watched it go up…and then hit a power cord and get stuck. All the bystanders let out a loud gasp until the vendor came over. He was just as powerless as anybody so we all stood and watched until it decided to dislodge itself, hit another cord, and then finally rise up in the air. During the time it was stuck, I quickly changed my wish to hoping I wouldn't burn down the entire town and take out the electricity with it. Guess those wishes really do come true because that one did! Whew! We stopped at a few bars over the days, including Edible Jazz which is owned by a local guy, Tom. He's super nice and outgoing and has a wonderful place with outside seating, live music, and fire pits. Great ambiance. The first night there, a woman, Maria was singing and I met her and her wonderful family. I enjoyed getting to know them over the next several days. Her husband is Chilean and a tattoo artist and they have two precious children who speak 3 languages already. They travel the world and enjoy life. This has always been my dream and it was inspiring to meet a family who makes it work and has fun doing so!