Pai, Northern Thailand
We had heard about Pai from a few friends who had taken the crazy road to Pai in the past and decided to spend a few days of our time up in Northern Thailand relaxing in Pai.
The road to Pai from Chiang Mai is infamously windy and we had heard all types of horror stories – most involving vomit. Unfortunately both directions the only tickets left on the mini-bus were back right allowing maximum impact around those corners. It’s quite interesting when you buy your ticket prior to boarding you are allocated an actual seat, in which they also ensure if say you are a female traveling alone you wont be sat next to two males.
The trip from Chiang Mai to Pai went well, in fact I even put my head down and wrote 3 or 4 articles for this very blog, the trip back to Chiang Mai not so much. The difference being that I dropped some Kwells anti-nausea tablets before we set off on our original journey and perhaps they did the trick. I only realized half way through the return trip that I had forgotten them this time around but halft an hour after taking them I was once again feeling chipper. The trip back to Chiang Mai also rendered some other tourists ill, a few people in front of us were filling up plastic bags thick and fast.
The trip takes about three hours and goes from the smaller, older looking bus station across the road from the main more modern station in Chiang Mai. Make sure you buy your ticket back to Chiang Mai (and choose your seat) as soon as you know when you want to leave, they go every hour on the hour from 7am to 4pm every day however we wanted to go back on the 11am trip and even purchasing our tickets the evening before meant the dodgy back seats were the only thing going. Tickets are 150baht one way.
Pai is a total tourist playground, the town seems to purely exist to fuel young travelers eating, drinking and scooting desires. I wouldn’t recommend Pai to individuals looking for a classy, refined vacation. Pai doesn’t have that and is rather more of a hippie town that has the ability to satisfy the yoga loving vegan in all of us. So much so in one day I indulged in not one but two vegan chocolate cakes, reviews below.
We enjoyed Pai and would recommend it, we stayed at Pai Iyara Resort which was about a 15 minute scoot to the main drag, we got upgraded so of course my review would be a little biased as we got a lot more bang for our buck with a great little bungalow with tea and coffee making facilities and a nice balcony. The pool had been a little bit neglected so we only jumped in and out to cool ourselves down and the breakfast was average to good, no yoghurt or milk on offer but they personally made your eggs of choice. Boiled for me of course, they even asked me how many minutes I would like!
I would also recommend getting a place away from the hustle of bustle of downtown as we did, where you can enjoy your surroundings and relax amongst the mountainous terrain– of course this means you would need to hire a scooter but these seem to cost half the price as Southern Thailand (from where I am typing this now). To be honest everything costs more South, and you will notice this if you are traveling North to South as we are this time around. Lap up the even cheaper prices while you can when visiting the happy, laid back Northern Thailand region.
Although Trip Advisor reviews spoke of a painstakingly slow wait for food, I felt that the slow delivery of food and drink was the result of Tone, the owner taking great care in the preparation of her fair. We ordered a vegan chocolate cake and banana, ginger, yoghurt, sesame seed smoothie – the cake was delivered straight away with the smoothie being delivered about 10 minutes later. Both were fresh and delightful – I certainly never imagined finding beautiful food like this amongst the gaudiness of yet another one of these tourist towns.
The setting was peaceful and serene albeit road side, but hey it does make it easier to find. There was of course free Wi-Fi and a daintily stocked shop with such things as lovely hand-made beauty products, nut butters, Himalayan pink salts and granola, which I grabbed a bag of.
A smoothie and slice of cake to share only cost us 100baht, which is nothing when I think back to similar organic/raw/vegan café’s I have previously visited in Sydney.
Art in Chai:
This café is centrally located in the heart of “downtown” however Otto the owner, has managed to nab a suitably quiet side road away from the real hustle bustle to set up this relaxing hub bub for hippies near and far to catch up over a huge variety of teas all hand prepared with a mortar and pestle with your choice of milk (cows, soy, coconut). The tea menu out shadows the food menu with only about 4-5 options including a vegan chocolate cake, banana loaf, mango pie and cookies which I am assuming are all home-made which means when they run out of an item that’s it for the day. I chose a slice of the Chocolate Vegan Cake, again only 50baht – delightful for an even more delightful price.
The winter menu was still on offer when we visited and I had an amazing Hot Chai with Baileys, whilst Rob had a Latte with Baileys. Both were a cheeky 80baht, but well worth it.