Monday, October 17, 2005

October 23: Pai

(1) It seems everywhere in the world there exists these little backpacker hangouts that, otherwise, would stand as just common, lonely villages. But, for whatever reason, these tiny communities become popular through word of mouth, and thrive with gentle tourism. Pai, pronounced bye, is one of these places. I decided to take the public bus from Chiang Mai, and was hoping to catch the one leaving at 8:30am. Unfortunately, that bus was full, and I ended up having to take the 10:30am. It's important to note that these buses tend to fill up quickly because of Pai's popularity with both travelers and locals, and the ticket line at window #46 can be long. So, it's best to show up at the Arcade Bus Station early. Things don't get much easier once you're shoved aboard the old, cramped tin can on wheels, as the 3.5 hour winding ride is famous for causing motion sickness. However, in the end, the pleasure is worth all the pain.

(2) Recent flooding during Thailand's rainy season had wiped away many of the structures along the Pai River. I found skeletal remains of bridges and guest houses haunting the water's edge, reminding us of nature's potential fury. However, things had generally recovered by the time I arrived, and my only problem was finding a vacancy. Fortunately, this laid-back, new-agey town is small, and I didn't have to walk around for miles looking for a room. Somehow, I ended up at a nameless, German-owned guest house attached to the Pai Corner Restaurant. To my surprise, it turned out to be my favorite accomodation in Thailand - clean, cheap, artfully designed, and rigged with a piping hot in-suite shower. Finally!

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