To get to Pai you need a sturdy sports bra, an empty stomach, and nerves of steal.
At 8:00am I was waiting for the mini-bus to arrive outside my Guest House in Chiang Mai and instead I got a little red truck with a tall camper-shell and seats in the bed. It drove me and a few German tourist to the edge of the city where we transferred into an old Toyota mini-van type mini-bus. It was old, but had air conditioning (no Mom it didn’t have seat belts but nothing here does). We drove out of town, speeding on what could be called a highway and passing trucks, cars and motorcycles by erratically swinging into the opposite lane and ducking into our own lane just in time not to hit on coming traffic. After just under an hour of this we started up the steep and windy road to Pai.
All I can say about that road it that I am glad of two things; 1st that I have always driven on winding country roads. 2nd that I have driven with Scoutt on those roads for the last 6 years. We zoomed around corners, tires squealing and the Germans gasping, and limped up hills having to turn off the air conditioning. Our driver found it completely appropriate to change the radio station as we cornered and passes a semi full of garbage.
It was all a bit tense but light hearted until we passed an overturned standard bus on one of the corners, then everyone fell silent and the last 30 min of the trip felt like I was holding my breath. But we made it safely to Pai and all that was worth it.
Pai is north east of Chiang Mai on the river that runs through Thailand and Lao. It is very small and has a diverse population of very friendly Thais and outgoing expats. On the suggestion of the Thai boy siting next me in the van, I walked towards the river, over the bamboo foot bridge and booked myself a fantastic bamboo bungalow on the river with an private shower and bathroom for 200B (about $6) per night. Then I walked along the river and over to a great vegetarian friendly restaurant, Good Life, with garden seating for lunch.
I have decided to stay here for until Monday when I fill fly to Luang Prabang in Lao.