So we were told upon arrival to Pai by our guesthouse companion, Leo (a 30- or 40-something Aussie who has returned to Pai many times over many years). Perhaps "guesthouse" is inaccurate though, "hippie commune" may be more apt. We stayed at Giant Guesthouse, which was slightly outside of the town center. It's comprised of small, basic bungalows along the Pai River, with a central bungalow and communal kitchen. Residents were either transitory travelers like us or people who had come to visit and had been living there for months. We're pretty sure the staff was completely stoned everytime we interacted with them and flyers for dreamcatcher-making and hula-hoop classes could be found tacked up in the kitchen.
Pai is an interesting place, an expat/backpacker's haven filled with organic cafes, open-mic/jam nights, and kombucha (!). I know many Brooklynites who would be quite happy here. The first evening we arrived we saw a sign for a weekly open-mic night at a cafe called "Art in Chai" - there was no question we would be attending. Thus began a hilarious game of seeing the same individuals over and over again from this happy-hippy, bohemian ex-pat scene during our entire stay in Pai. Whether it was the coffee at the Good Life Cafe or lunch at The Om Garden, the Thursday night open-mic or the Monday night open-jam, we found ourselves operating in the same circles of a community of organically-minded fellow travelers. Our friend Leo seemed to be a focal point, a man-about-town who quickly made friends with everyone, inviting us to join a group headed to the waterfalls or the hotsprings.
Side note - a curious thing about Pai:
All of the kombucha in town (which many places carry) seems to be made by one man: Mr. Kay, a well-established, Ukranian expat in Pai. He makes only 2 kinds, original & roselle, that come in the same size, same bottles you'll see all around town. He even offers an "Art of Wild Fermentation" class (whch I'll have to attend my next time around). He seems to be a bit of a kombucha mogul. It's so popular, why isn't anyone else making it? And why only 2 flavors?? Theree are so many amazing fruits and herbs and spices here! I've been itching for my kombucha laboratory...
But back to Pai. There are many interesting and beautiful sites aroud the city, and many tourists rent motorbikes to see the area. Even though we were given looks of great skepticism, we decided to do it via bicycle. The hills of the road weren't very condusive to a shitty rented bike with 2 to 3 semi-functioning gears (no road is), but we perservered through every up and down.
First stop: Pam Bok Waterfall.
It wasn't the height that was intimidating - the water was freezing!!!
On the road back from the waterfall we were enticed by a sign advertising passionfruit and stopped at a small road-side "farm". We walked up and were asked if we wanted to try some of their iced roselle juice. We said yes and were quickly ushered to a table and chairs. Without asking for anything we were presented with a Thai feast: a wonderful spread of various snacks and foods.
Peanuts, tamarind, papaya, unidentified jam, dried banana, roselle juice, passionfruit, potatos, salt, roselle wine. Donation based, pay-as-you-want! What entrepreneurs...
Next stop: Pai Canyon. The "canyon" itself wasn't all that spectacular, it seemed to be more of a geographical anomaly with great views of the lush mountainside.
On to the hot springs. There are many hot springs around Pai - our friend Leo recommended a resort where they pipe the water in in order to avoid crowds and tourists. After many days of sweat and cold showers, it was luxurious!
But my favorite part of the day was the bike ride back. As the sun went down we looped our way down curving roads: