We’ve had a week of relative home-like routine in Chang Mai when a travel directive came down from on high. After careful bean counting, a few baht were found surplus to our immediate needs so we turned travel arrangements over to Jackie, the patron saint of wayward wandering pilgrims and owner of the Wayside Guest House, our home away…well, the closest thing we have to a home. Jackie booked us a Hi Ace Toyota minibus to Pai which arrived promptly the next morning and began wandering through the narrow alleyways of Chang Mai neighborhoods picking up fellow pilgrims, stacking up their massive backpacks behind the fold down seats in the back, until we were packed in like spam-in-a-can and like every “chicken bus” I’ve ever been on. There’s always room for one more.
Before long we started up into the mountains and switchbacks announced their presence with authority. Back and forth we swerved, left and then right.
I checked on Marce and she was doing fine but a young boy up front was lime green. With impeccable timing, while rounding a tight turn, our driver handed his mother a barf bag and he filled it to the brim. Marce held fast. I was proud.
We found ourselves firmly at the epicenter of the backpacker “Banana Pancake Trail” where we were once on the yachtie “Coconut Milk Run.”
Rolling into Pai we had to dodge hundreds of backpackers as we fought our way into the middle of town.
In Thailand this is called a walking street, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be run over by a newbie trying to corral an out of control scooter.
Marce and I instantly felt comfortable with the anything goes, hippie vibe; after all we were once, a long time ago, flower children. We found our guest house; do they still call it a pad?
From weed to wonton, every kind of ingestible is available in this tiny town.
We decided on Khao Soi for lunch at the Sugar Cane eatery, which turned out to be the best we ever had.
No recipe, an old lady in Pai makes it for them. A quick turn around town revealed tours for any variety of extreme adrenaline-fueled activity. We chose a walk to the bamboo bridge that crosses the picturesque Pai River. Not exactly white water but then it hasn’t rained in over a month.
The character on the other side of the river is quite a bit different.
Every evening the walking street converts to a night market
As luck would have it we ran into Wayside friends dining streetside and made a date for lunch. Pai is that kind of place.