Ahh, Pai. I knew that of everywhere I would re-visit in Thailand Pai would be the most changed. I was correct. Pai was a little town surrounded by beauty. It was 2 little crossroads in March of 2000. By July of 2001 things had been developed a bit more. Now it’s completely different.
Pai was kind of a magical place for me. I dreamt about it back in 1999 before I had ever been to SE Asia. My dream involved being in a wood house and listening to acoustic guitar music after floating down a river on a bamboo raft with rice paddy views and green jagged mountains all around. I had never seen landscapes like this before in my waking life. Upon seeing Pai the first time, I knew there was a connection.
In Pai 2000 I went to a wooden bar/restaurant called Hugs that had open mic. Pai has a river, rice fields, and green mountains all around it like I had dreamt about. The details of what happened were all the same. Some part of me felt I had been there before. The owner of Hugs was a guy named Aey, who sang and played guitar. He had an sincere smile and I knew we had a connection. A year and a half later in July 2001 Hugs was no longer in Pai, and neither was Aey. They’d both moved to Chiang Mai. (Amazingly, I spotted him riding a motorbike on a busy street in Chiang Mai a year and a half later, but that is another story.) Somehow even in 2001 that magical Pai of March 2000 would never be the same.
I was amazed the guesthouse I stayed in 2000 and 2001 still existed. It’s called River Corner and was on the edge of town and cost 150 baht the first time for a bamboo bungalow, and I think maybe 200 baht the second time, for a bamboo bungalow with a bathroom inside. It is still there, but it’s been developed beyond recognition. Now rooms go for 3000 – 6000 baht ($100-$200 USD) a night! That would be expensive anywhere. Apparently about 6-7 years ago there was a flood in Pai and the cheap accommodation was literally wiped out. When people rebuilt, they built more expensive places to stay.
Moving to September 2011, arriving in town, Pai was unrecognizable to me. I immediately opted for a place out of town. Right now as I write this I am in a pleasant room that is quite clean and has an en suite bathroom. The river is outside my door. I hear the river rushing by and crickets, and that’s pretty much it. The communal area is kind of like a mosquito haven and it seems like the exterior garden setting has seen better days. Also, in a guidebook and on a website it said good vegetarian food. There is no restaurant here. Apparently, it’s changed management. Moving tomorrow to Aqua.
Aqua was lovely. I will let the pictures and their captions express how delightful it was. Den, the owner was very kind and helpful. All I really wanted to do in Pai was be in nature and relax away from the city. I liked the idea of spending time in the sun by the pool and being surrounded by rice fields. It is the end of September and since it’s the rainy season, the widely used euphemism is the ‘green season’. It is very green. I arrived while it was still raining, but the sun came out.
The owner of Aqua, Den, always asked if I needed anything, coffee, a ride to town, or help carrying my backpack. Here he is playing a traditional Thai instrument while it rained outside.
Somehow, this sounds exactly what a Thai instrument should sound like to me.
The next day I was served homemade Thai sweets by this lovely lady.
Pai still has amazingly beautiful landscapes of rice paddies and mountains. I’m happy to say that the tourism that has grown here is not just foreigners, there are a lot of Thai people too, so that’s good. I wanted to relax and spend some time alone. I did that. I met a few travelers, but I was really content to have time to myself. I also wanted to spend time with Thai people, and I did that. Den at the guest house was a wonderful host. Besides lying near the pool, and admiring the rice fields, I attended a less than mediocre yoga class, got an amazing reflexology foot massage, and saw the elephants.
Pai is full of groovy people and things to do. I would have stayed longer, but I need to head toward the border to get a new visa.