Posted by viw on September 3, 2012
Pai, Thailand - Frankly, I had never heard of Pai until six months before we were leaving to visit Thailand. A Thai friend of a friend was visiting Canada and had dropped by our home for a visit and said we absolutely must visit Pai. “You’ll love it!”, she said. And so, after a bit of research, we made plans to visit Pai while in Thailand.
After a few days of visiting Chiang Mai, we made arrangements to take the ‘tourist bus’ (approx. 75 baht) to reach Pai which is a 4 hr drive (OK, it’s usually shorter with most drivers!!) on switch-back roads through the mountains of Thailand approx.135 kms via Route 1095). The small tour buses, along with motorcycles, cars and trucks, literally careen around all 762 bends (that’s right, 762!) at break-neck speeds. This road-trip is not for those with a weak stomach. The tour bus usually makes a pit-stop half-way there - allowing passengers to stretch (or perhaps even wretch!).
Mere words can not fully describe the road trip to Pai as one has to experience it to believe it. And we did. And we survived to write about it! Whew and yay!
To give you an idea about the drive - I found this short video clip on YouTube by whatsdavedoing which gives you an idea of what the road is like! (although the video feels like it’s in slo-mo!). That yellow line down the middle of the road means nothing to the drivers. And here’s a much longer video clip (7:53) on YouTube by leowak which gives you the accelerated version of the drive! It starts to get interesting around the 3 min. mark with a brief pass through a check-point around the 4:51 min mark.
Pai bumper sticker!
Pai, nestled in the mountains of northwestern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province near the Myanmar border, has a bohemian vibe and is very popular with the backpacker crowd. In recent years however, with a marked increase in tourism, more upscale guesthouses and restaurants have opened along with increased infrastructure in the region. This town hosts many cafes, restaurants, guesthouses, street markets, art galleries, pop-up music jam sessions, lots of art and music festivals etc. A very relaxed and walkable town. ….. and the best chai in the world is made here at Art in Chai (located across the entrance to Pai High School). It was well worth our daily 40 minute walk into town from our stay at Bueng Pai Farm (more in this post) for this special treat. Art in Chai also serves freshly baked goods such as chocolate fudge cake with almonds, banana loaf, apple or mango crumble, chocolate coconut vegan cake, ginger and cardamom cake, vegan cookies etc. They grow some of their own herbs for the herbal teas made here.
Art in Chai is a great place to come and chill and enjoy music, art, and fantastic baked goods and yummy drinks. Very friendly staff!
Art in Chai masala chai - each cup made from scratch using wonderful fresh ginger, aromatic Indian spices and black tata tea. It was always well worth the wait. Over-the-top amazing! Having travelled all over the world and drinking chai wherever I can find it, I have to say this has been the absolute best cup of chai I’ve ever tasted! Go to Pai - to Art in Chai - try the chai - you won’t be disappointed!Kombucha - wanted to try it here but I couldn’t get enough of the fantastic chai. Perhaps on another trip to Pai, I’ll try their Kombucha!
Numerous restaurants in town - some of which were always closed when we were in town (mid afternoon) but we always enjoyed some tasty meals and desserts here at the Witching Well - always had the table nearest the street for perfect people watching. And then there was the local who stood across the street, who would bring out his guitar, strum a few cords, then take a swig from the bottle hidden in his guitar case and then when someone would stroll nearby, he’d give his guitar strings a definite strum and shout “Reggae” as if he’d been playing the whole time. Not 100% sure he was a local and not 100% sure he could play the guitar!
Friendly management and staff at the Witching Well - sometimes we’d see them arrive back from the daily market on the scooter with bags/baskets filled with colourful vegetables and herbs for the evening’s dishes. Always fresh, delicious food - great selections on the menu. Wickedly good desserts.
Pictured here is their delicious Curried Califlower with Chick Peas and Tomatoes. Definitely tasty!Other scenes around town………..
The evening markets were just setting up as we strolled through the village one late afternoon so some cafes, such as this, hadn’t yet opened for the evening. It did look like a fun place to check out later.Loved this old sign. Mmmm, herbal whiskey - made from various herbs and roots from the rainforest! Not sure if this place actually sold the drink or if this sign was just hung up on this building. Yaa Dong is a Thai Herbal Whiskey. Traditionally, it’s a beverage brewed and distilled at home and also drank in the home. And for all of you who need to mail some lelters before you leave Pai, they have a place for that.
I would love to return to Pai some day - the three days we were there flew by way too fast. There were many more things to check out such as the nearby waterfalls, hot springs, hiking possibilities, cooking classes, music festivals and renting a motorcycle to visit the countryside around Pai etc.
Hopefully I’ll see you again, Pai!