Forever chilling in Pai

Backpacking Pai

Over the last five years Pai has transformed itself from a sleepy village into a touristic hotspot. Luckily though, its relaxed atmosphere has not been completely lost, and the influx of tourists has created a lot of competition, causing prices to plummet – great news for budget travellers.

Encounters of the ladyboy kind…

As I jumped out from the minivan my first impression of Pai was that it reminded me of Khao San road in Bangkok, which is quite surprising giving its location. Touristic signs popped out from every corner offering anything from adventure tours to exotic fruit shakes. The pictures I’d seen of Pai showed a beautiful river with a mountain backdrop. With that in mind, I navigated a side street towards the river, in hope I could make use of my tent for a few nights in such picturesque setting.

After a bit of searching, I found a place on some grass belonging to a guest house. The ladyboy who ran it had a big personality, as most ladyboys do. In the early evening we all helped prepare for a meal, but I missed my opportunity to help further in the kitchen – as I said I would do – because I was so caught up in conversation. That’s when the night started to turn sour. Even after apologising, she continued to be rude to me for the rest of the evening, until I spoke up, leading quite miserably into an argument. She told me to leave, and then pursued to threaten me both verbally and then physically with a glass bottle. I was shocked how nobody had spoken up at the table, and more so how the manager of a guest house could be so aggressive towards people. After a bit of research, it turns out I’m not the only one this has happened to. It was a good job I was staying in a tent that night as I just moved upstream and pitched it outside a resort. It was way past midnight so I went to sleep in hope things would improve in the morning.

The great piranha hunt…

Backpacking Pai

The next day I upgraded my accommodation to a bamboo hut which gave view to a beautiful sunrise each morning. With a price of a hundred baht per night it would have been stupid not to. By renting a motorbike, the gateway to the countryside opened itself up, allowing me to ride amongst its landscape with nothing but a free spirit and a smile on my face. On one of my journeys I noticed a sign advertising a piranha fishing lake. Knowing how Thais can exaggerate, I went to investigate. It turned out to be two large lakes situated alongside a luxurious wooden house, both built and owned by a British guy – sounds just like another one of my dreams. The lakes were filled with fish from all around the world, from the bottom feeding likes of the catfish to the finger biting Piranha.

I was back the next day to stay the night where surprisingly the fishing came included. It was early afternoon, and hot as hell when I decided to start. Using floating bread as hook bait, I managed to catch loads in the space of a few hours, and then, as the light started to fade, a huge mouth rose from the water and sucked up my bread. I struck into a big fish which took me on a tour around the lake. After battling it for fifteen minutes, I brought it to the net to land my first ever catfish! I got picture evidence so you wouldn’t think it was another one of my fishing tales.

The next morning I woke early to fish again. It wasn’t quite as good as the day before but I did manage to catch a few.  I cut my finger on the gill of some strange looking fish which just happened to contain POISON! My finger went numb and throbbed with pain for hours. I thought I was going to have to get it amputated but the owner re-assured me otherwise, wrapping my wound with a plaster. It could have been worse I suppose, I could have lost it to a Piranha!

Generally being lazy…

Backpacking Pai

There were lots of things to see and do around Pai. In one of the local national parks there was a hot spring which I visited with a few other solo backpackers. As you moved up the spring it got hotter and hotter, and at one point it was over eighty degrees Celsius, enough to burn straight through your skin! There was also an area where you could boil eggs. The locals cook them until they go gooey, and then season them with soy sauce. I got to taste some and they were so good.

Even though Pai was very touristy I really enjoyed it. I found it very easy to just sit, content at doing nothing all day. For that, you need a relaxed atmosphere, and Pai seemed to have that in abundance, mainly due to the high intake of marijuana which everyone is smoking, but if you pretend it’s not happening – like everybody else seems to – it’s a cool place to hang out.

My next stop was Chiang Mai where I was sleeping at Tanapon’s family home for a few weeks. I was staying for Thai New Year – Songkran – which was well known for its crazy water fights. The addition of alcohol led to some unfortunate events which you’ll find out about in the next post – I’ll never learn…

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4 Responses

  1. K.Connolly says:

    Awesome fish!

  2. gail luske says:

    sounds amazing, but i want video of that wild woman chasing you with a bottle-hilarious! glad you didn’t lose your finger, but that would make another great story, too. love your adventurous spirit, love you!

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Gail, so much love for you all the way from Thailand. Travelling with my girl and loving every minute of it. You are definitely part of my travel plans in the near future 😉 xxx

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