Everyone seems to love Pai. Everyone, it seems, but me. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Pai. I just don’t love it. If places could be dated, Pai is the place I’d friendzone.
The much advertised 762 road turns separate Chiang Mai from what I am sure used to be a truly incredible Pai. I took the minivan up to Pai from Chiang Mai; however, there are also buses, taxis, and adventurous tourists can also rent scooters and make the 3 hour odd ride themselves. Although websites and travel blogs warn you about these 762 turns, the motion sickness that follows, and the many accidents that occur if you rent a scooter, but the road seemed easy peasy to me. I saw a lot of tourists with crutches, bruises and bandages from their ride to and fro Pai, and I have only one thing to say to them: amateurs.
Here’s what I like about Pai:
There are no big chain restaurants. In fact, there are no small chain restaurants either. It’s a short distance from Chiang Mai. The main village area is tiny enough to cover on foot. There are waterfalls, hills and even a grand canyon (copy cats) a short scooter ride away.
And now here’s what I don’t like about Pai:
I expected Pai to be this really tiny, quaint town – which it is. What I didn’t expect was that the town would be so westernised that it is easier to find a western meal than it is to find Thai food. The fabled night market is full of bruschetta, lasagna, shawarma and burger stalls. They even have steakhouses! No, really.
There’s also a famous mushroom shake restaurant, where you can get high and ‘trip’ in the nearby rice fields – a lucrative option for gap year 19 year olds – not so much for me. Weed is of course, in abundance too.
At the end of it, I asked myself if I had really just travelled 3 hours for a place where the most fun things to do were yoga, drink, smoke weed and walk around like a hippy? Turns out I did. Was I happy about it, absolutely not.
So, while I’m sure Pai started out to be this amazing Thai village getaway, it has been supplanted by western and hippy culture – to the extent that you can’t even see the real Pai anymore.
If you want a chill, laid back, bare-bones, hippy, western food serving town, Pai is the place for you. If it’s not, I’d recommend the more cultured, tiny city of Chiang Rai instead. More on that in my next post.
PS – it was raining really heavily while I was there, which means no pictures.