Pai: Two Tales of Travel

January 23, 2007

PaiWe’re finishing up our three days spent in the backpacker hub of Pai. Pai is one of those strange places that has become famous for Nothing. From the wealth of yoga classes, aromatherapy, and reiki healing services around the town, eau de hippy wafts throughout the dusty streets. Many say Pai has become a tourist trap congested with Western tourists and many say this place is heaven on earth; I’ve found neither to be the case. There’s a relaxed vibe between the Thai locals, hill-tribe locals, Thai tourists, and Western tourists. The scenery is beautiful. But, after three days, I’m ready to move on.

But, to it’s credit, Pai has been the setting for two stories that, before I began this journey, I imagined to be the quintessential traveler’s experience:

Pai RiversideThe first story. Yesterday evening, we were sitting out on the riverbanks of our guesthouse, watching a Thai man build a barbeque pit. Two twenty-something Japanese girls sat next to him, with the ingredients for their dinner that night – bags of fresh vegetables. The Thai guy calls out to us “Wanna barbeque tonight?” Sure, we think, why not? He makes the same offer to a Canadian grandmother who had just come out to catch the evening air. She’s game, too, and so is her friend. So off they go to the local market to get chicken, potatoes, and vegetables for a salad for the rest of us.

They return, the Canadian lady busts out the whisky she bought at the airport duty free, and it’s officially a party. Pretty soon, we’ve recruited two more staff from the guesthouse – a middle-aged brother and sister – for our impromptu barbeque. One guy gets out his guitar and starts playing Beatles and Eagles tunes, with a couple of Thai favorites thrown in.

Evening turns to night and we’re all happy with our barbequed chicken, potatoes, salad, Canadian whisky, and vegetable soup courtesy of our two Japanese friends. One Thai guy was especially happy with the whisky and after a while, his sister started laying into him (in Thai, of course.) He starts yelling back and then gets pouty. It was probably a typical “You’re drunk, you need to go home,” “No, I’m not, shut up” argument between siblings, but the Canadian lady wants to know what’s going on. “Hey, what’s he saying? Translate that.” So the other Thai guy obliges, and obviously says something that gets the guy riled up, because suddenly what was once an instrument for hippy music, now becomes a weapon by which the drunk guy starts beating his friend.

And who’s sitting next to the friend? That’s right, me. I was a hair’s breath away from getting whacked by a guitar. Whisky’s flying everywhere. As soon as the fight’s started, though, the sister breaks it up and apologizes. The two friends make up, and all is right with the world, except that I’m now drenched in whisky. But at least the chicken was good.

Story #2. We wanted to do a one-day trek today, but everywhere around town only offers two- or three-day treks in the Thai wilderness, so we had to pass. Therefore, we decided we’d make our own trek and walk to a hot spring 5 miles outside of town. Why I thought I could do this, I don’t know. To add to the insanity, we decide to start out at noon, which everyone knows is the best time to take hikes on shade-less paved roads.

The walk starts out fine. One mile in and I’m thinking no problem at all. Then we hit a stretch of long, winding pavement. Gulp. And it’s hot. And I’ve already drank half of my water.

So we’re walking. Motorbikes and pick-up trucks are speeding past us. There’s not a shop or person in sight. Just miles of trees and bushes. The scenery is beautiful, and I would have been able to appreciate it more had I not been panicking that I would meet my death on a hot, dusty road somewhere in the Thai countryside. My boyfriend reminds me we haven’t even been walking for an hour, we’ll be okay.

“You’ll be okay!” I shout. “I’m going to faint from heat stroke!”

“Why don’t you drink some water?”

“Water! We don’t even know how much farther we have to go!! (There were no signs anywhere.) I need to save this water!!!”

“Okay.”

Then, I do what any normal person would do when they need to calm down and cool down. I start to cry. Like a toddler. “I’m hot and hungry and thirsty and I wanna go home!”

OasisAt this point, we spot a mirage in the distance – a guesthouse?? Yes, it is! And their life-giving restaurant. Saved! I gleefully order a cheeseburger, because I can. We dine in the shade, gazing out at the verdant countryside. Thankfully, my boyfriend doesn’t mention my temper-tantrum and we set out again towards the hot spring, which happens to be five minutes down the road.

The hot spring is empty and, thankfully, not so hot. Like an oasis, with a weird Thai-Grecian theme. We splash around for an hour before, gulp, we have to make the return journey.Me in Pai

As you’re now reading this, you know I survived. But, I would like to emphasize that it was just barely. And I definitely wouldn’t have made it without my boyfriend’s promise of chocolate cake upon our return.

Tomorrow, we leave Thailand behind for Laos. A whole day sitting on a bus, and I couldn’t be happier.

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3 Responses to “Pai: Two Tales of Travel”

  1. Keiko said

    Story #1 was AWESOME! I am still laughing out loud and imagining a drunk weirdo violently swinging around a guitar. Hopefully your clothes don’t smell like whiskey anymore. How are things in Laos?

  2. Jessi said

    At the time it was pretty terrifying because the guy was so drunk I thought I’d definitely go down in the crossfire. Luckily, his aim was pretty good. :)

    Laos is great. A different feel from Thailand altogether. The people here are so friendly and things are quieter. Really kind of makes you lazy.

  3. never a truer word said

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