The Delights of Traveling: Pai, Thailand
I introduce you to one of my favorite places in Southeast Asia. I have been here for almost a week now and honestly, I love this place more than anything. I originally thought that Chiang Mai was where I wanted to be, but the second I arrived to Pai I knew that this was where I belonged.
From the people that have met me on my travels, they say that if they could use two words to describe me, it would be hippie goth. I didn't even take offense to that because they basically said it as they saw it and once they described me in that way, I realized that that was exactly it.
We got picked up from our hostel at around 1:30 pm with a mini van and transported to the bus station where I thought that we would move to a bigger bus, but turns out we were just moved to another mini van. Every seat on that bus was full and bags were everywhere, so we were definitely cramped for the 3 hour journey. We had heard from people that the road had lots of different turns, so I decided not to drink the night before so I wouldn't be too hungover on the bus. It was still a bit rough to be on that bus, but not too much to handle. We arrived in Pai around 5:30 and made our way to our hostel. I ended up booking Pai Circus Hostel because I heard some pretty good things about it.
When we checked in, we were pleasantly surprised that it was a Bodega reunion. It felt nice to be able to pick up where we left off and we had a good solid group. I also ran into a guy that I had met in Chiang Mai when I first arrived and when we were together, we would smoke for most of the day and that continued when I arrived here. The night escalated pretty quickly because it was trivia night and everyone wanted to get involved so we started getting buckets. However, a little bit later I started hitting a wall because I hadn't really slept that night because I had to move hostels because mine was fully booked and everyone in that room was snoring so I probably slept for only about 2 hours and the sleep on the minivan was virtually non existent. I went to bed realizing how great my time in Pai would be.
The next day, I woke up to an amazing view and a joint and realized this was the place I wanted to be. We pretty much hung out around the hostel for most of the day and met a pretty great group of people and in the evening, we decided to go to the market to get dinner. One of the favorite things about Pai was that it is literally just a town so there aren't massive buildings. It is filled with nature and the vibe is very hippie. The market is a really good place to find whatever you want to eat. All the street vendors have a variety of food from Mexican, Thai, to Japanese. After we made a walk through to get dinner, we decided to go to Boom Bar, which seems to be the place to be for everyone who wants to party. There are beer pong tables set up there and a nice private balcony for large groups. I realized that I was slowly fading so I decided to walk back to the hostel, which is about 700 m from town and as I got back to the hostel, three of my friends decided that they wanted to go to Don't Cry Bar and I thought why not? So, we took the bikes out there and the vibe was pretty awesome and was only there 20 mins before I went home.
We had heard about a tech-house festival called Boomland that was happening the next day and we were all still a bit hungover from the night before, so we really had to think about whether we wanted to go. However, we had found out that one of the people in our group had already bought the ticket, so we decided that we would head into town to get food and have a few drinks. I had heard from news from back home so I thought it wouldn't be a good idea for me to get excessively drunk, but when everyone decided to get tickets, I was like "well, if everyone else is going. I might as well." It ended up being such a good night, which was very different from what I thought it would be because when we arrived at the festival, there were two girls that were coming out of the festival saying that if we didn't like the music, we would hate it. We were all a bit skeptical because they had said they hated it but they were just dumb because we all had such a great time and when we got back we smoked a joint and it was all-in-all a great day.
Being someone in the late-twenties, hangovers aren't so easily recoverable as when you're a youngin. So, the next day I felt like I wanted to die and I actually got up a lot later than I normally do. The group of friends that I was with were also feeling a bit rough so we had a pretty chill day in the hammocks and hanging by the pool at our hostel. I love the hostel because it has a very summer camp kind of vibe if you ever did that as a kid. We ultimately decided that we weren't going to drink that night, which was definitely a smart move. But, we decided to smoke a few joints instead and play some cards and that was our night.
I plan on being in Pai for a few weeks, so I have taken the first few days pretty chill but if you only have a few days, there are definitely quite a few things to do.
When you arrive in Pai, you are technically in "town". It is definitely very different from the other parts of Thailand that you may be used to. My advice for getting around Pai is definitely a bike. I originally thought that Pai wasn't that large, but I was very wrong. When I decided to leave my friends a bit earlier to head back to the hostel, I thought that I was very smart and knew where I was going but I was very very wrong and ended up walking 900m further than I needed to. Being the dumb ass that I am, I forgot that I had downloaded the map of Pai on MAPS.me and could have looked up where I needed to go. So, turned out that I had walked 30 mins past where I needed to go and suffered because it was so hot during that time of day and when I finally made it, I felt so dehydrated and had heat stroke and just needed to lay down for a while and turned out that was the rest of my night.
Places to stay
There are so many guesthouses/hostels here in Pai that it really all depends on the vibe that you are trying to get. Here are just a few that I have heard about and been recommended.
I obviously chose to stay at Pai Circus because quite a few people had mentioned it to me and when I looked it up, the view was pretty fantastic. They do circus lessons every day where you can learn to do Poi (the traditional fire show), juggling, hula hoop and slack-line just to name a few. There is also a pool with a bar close to it and there are many different types of rooms to choose from. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, they have fireshows that last about 2 hours. The dorms with air-conditioning costs about 200 baht and the private rooms range from about 200 baht to 350 baht.
Purple Monkey Backpackers
I stayed at the Purple Monkey in Chiang Mai and I did have a good time, but ended up moving to a different hostel. I already knew that there was another one in Pai and I was thinking of booking it because it had a pool and looked pretty nice and also relatively cheap.
This was another recommendation given to me by people that had traveled to Pai before and like the others, they also had a pool and from what I heard a pretty nice vibe. To be honest, I feel like most places to stay in Pai all have a very chill vibe.
Probably the closest hostel to town because it is located right off the strip. It has relatively the same amenities as all the other hostels. Most of the other hostels are located quite a bit away from the town, which can be a bit difficult if you plan on drinking in town and make your way back. So, maybe check that place out if you want to be closer to town.
Places to drink
For a place that seems tranquil with its mountains and riverside, you would not expect that this would be a place that has a significant night life. But surprisingly, it does. I personally believe that the nightlife in Pai is better than in Chiang Mai because there is a large variety of places to go to in town. Because there is a midnight curfew, there is no problem with sleeping if you do want to get some rest.
Directly on Walking Street, it is a place to enjoy international craft beers if you are into that type of thing. It is a great atmosphere and every time I have walked by there, there seems to be a good amount of people.
If you are the type of person that enjoys live music, this is the ideal place to hang out because it has a pretty chill with lit candles to create a relaxing environment. It is a bit off the beaten path from Walking Street, depending on which side you are walking from, just remember the temple and either turn left or turn right at the temple.
Possibly on my favorite bars that I have been to in a while, it is a place for people who enjoy DJs and cheap drinks. There is black-light art on the walls and it is a place where backpackers like to hang out because the drinks are relatively cheap. There have beer-pong tables set up and a private balcony if you are a large group. During happy hour, it is 50 baht for a rum & mixer and 60 baht for a vodka & mixer.
Don't Cry Bar
If you are thinking of having an all-night party, head over to Don't Cry bar. It is one. of the only bars that is open after 1 AM. It is evident that people flock there after because there are three bars that cater to whatever people want, DJs, air-conditioned dance floor, and depending on the day, there are fire-shows that last all night. They are also the ones that host the Boomland festival. If you work up an appetite after a night of drinking and well other things...they also have late-night food carts that are open pretty late.
These are just a few bars scattered in the valley. But, there is a great variety to choose from depending on what type of mood you are in.