“One place you ABSOLUTELY have to get to when you’re in Thailand is Pai,” said the angelic gypsy girl I met only an hour ago at a beach yoga class in San Diego. We sat in the massive van she recently purchased, and was renovating into a quaint little home. Her demeanor was tranquil and easy-going. She continued on, “It is by far the chillest vibes, and it is so lush and beautiful! I lived in a tree house there for two blissful weeks.”
Something about her truthful yet mellow urgency had me convinced, but at the time I didn’t realize it.
By the time she laid this gold nugget on me I already had an itinerary laid out for my trip and Pai wasn’t on it. As soon as I got to Thailand I learned that booking hostels and flights to different countries to comply with visa laws ahead of time certainly ensures peace of mind, it put pre-trip me at ease anyway. It effectively made it so I didn’t feel as worried about all the “what ifs.” What if everywhere is booked? What if there are no plane tickets left? What if this? What if that? However, what I didn’t realize is how confining it would feel as soon as I arrived. Essentially in pre-determining my flow, I felt like I severely hindered myself. What I mean is, you never know who is around what corner, or where they are headed. I suddenly regretted my over planning because it disabled me from “flowing” with some amazing people who I encountered along the way. How was I to know?
I left Bangkok a day early. – That is not an uncommon sentence to hear among traveler.
It certainly isn’t for everyone. Bangkok did not make leaving easy on me; it took a dodgy motorcycle ride with all my gear, a two-hour wait alone on the side of a street at night for a bus that never came, a cab that broke down(twice), a good half mile run to a train station, and a train ticket lady that made me buy two first class sleepers. It was an effort I felt willing to make if it meant anywhere but there. Finally I was on an over night train north bound. A feeling of relief for being on the move and distaste for stinky Bangkok took over as the train started chugging toward paradise.
I started moving plans around once I got to Chiang Mai because Pai was this little curious need in the back of my mind, and it was only a 3 hour bus ride from the location I planned on being a whole week.
I had acquired a little group of new friends upon arrival in Chiang Mai at the train platform; two German guys, two Canadian guys, and a girl from Holland. They were also interested in exploring Pai. I learned a lot from them the few days our paths melded. At just 19 the Germans, in particular, were very well-traveled. I learned that even when your flowing with people do not make assumptions that going the same direction as them means they want to get there the same way you do. Some people want to take public buses at any time in the day, while others prefer paying the extra dollar or two to save on time, leaving early, and get to the destination early in the day.
One mini bus ride later I was in Pai. The moment I stepped off it into this busy street market a boy passing by greets me with a loud theatrical, “Welcome to Pai!! Where are you staying this evening!?”
Laughing I say, “Why thank you! I actually have no clue!” Eagerly he points me in a direction saying that he is staying in twin hut. Just over the bridge, to the right and down a dirt road. No more than 5 min walk out-of-town. I took him up on his directions because everything on the main street was booked up. Much to my delight twin hut was a magical gem. For 150 batt (roughly $5) I had my own bungalow and warm breakfast of my choice each morning!
The first night in Pai I decided to break away from the people I had met in Chiang Mai. I just wasn’t feeling genuine connection, and I had this thought… LEAVE. So I peace’d out of their hostel and voyaged. Walking toward my bungalow I heard a familiar song that beckoned me. Where was it coming from?!? Then I spotted the flashing lights that joined the tunes, giving a certain life to a dark hill-side. Maybe a foot ball field or two away. I smiled to myself because earlier I had tossed my headlamp in my bag thinking… Who knows when I might need this?! I strapped it on, and said to myself, “I hope I am invited to this party.” I trekked up the back side of a dark dewy hill and as I got closer excitement bubbled up inside me. I had followed my intuition left a situation that wasn’t honoring me fully, and within moments of arriving I was united with people I will remain in touch with for my life. One person in particular, a girl by the name of Eizel stole my heart. She moved to the music with such skill and raw enjoyment, I could not get enough of her magnetic energy. She was free, yet on point. Beautiful, really.
In a moment of complete euphoria I journaled right there on the dance floor, “You are fully in charge of your destiny. If you are somewhere that doesn’t stimulate you in a positive, exciting, healthy way you’re the only one that has the power to change it. Tonight I followed my gut, and it led me right to amazing people at a kick ass hostel.”
Along with providing lessons of accepting inner guidance from myself, I rented my first motorbike in Pai. I got my first taste of mobile freedom as a traveler. Having my own form of transport eliminated the hassle, stress, and expense of tuk-tuk’s or cab rides. I thought I was free roaming pre-moto, and then I scooted off in a land where roads were backwards, there were no road laws, and my whole universe expanded. The adrenaline rush plastered a smile on my face so big that my cheeks hurt. Stopping when and where I wanted, scooting all over!! LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE, oh how much I LOVED the moto. It actually inspired my new found self expression I had developed the evening prior, rapping. HAHA I will drop some lines for the curious reader in a future posting.
My stay in, Pai, was short and sweet. A major tease, really. However, I had a sweet guest house booked in Chiang Mai, and a flight to Cambodia to catch. So, with lack of desire to leave, I hopped on a mini bus back to Chiang Mai. Thanking my lucky stars for my friend in San Diego who highly recommended I get there. The street food was fresh and incredible(more health conscious, it seemed to me), the people were kind, and the scenery was so exquisite the best camera could not do it justice.
I look forward to another stay in Pai, Thailand. The next stay will be more lengthy. Perhaps I will figure out work trade options to stay somewhere free of charge. There are also still a few waterfalls I need to conquer, and plenty of paths that must be trekked!!