Bicycle centric hospital - Pai!
Thai Garlic Fried Pork - a favourite! Can never get tired of eating this.
What can I say about Pai that hasn't been said? This is such a beautiful town in Northern Thailand and has been the hangout for greenies, hippies and druggies until it was found out some 15 years ago and it changed quickly into tourist Mecca. Every time I come here I spot new hotels, restaurants and cafes and thankfully, not at the lightning pace of Siem Reap. For today, the agenda was to take it easy and rest. No cycling, only sightseeing.
This time what really got super developed was the KMT Village 5km up the hill from Pai Town. It used to be a quiet Chinese village but has turned into a tourist circus with big money pouring in and turning it into a Chinese Disneyland. What put me off was when we were going to see the sunrise (yes, a few of us actually got up and drove up there), they wanted 300B or $12 as parking/entrance fee. The whole car park was also littered with shops selling all sorts of the same stuff for tourists. We said no thank you and went off. After all this is the sunrise and it is open and wide for all to see.
Fortunately, I remembered a beautiful restaurant on a hillside that had a wide balcony which was 5 mins drive away. Though it was closed at this unearthly hour, we managed to open the gates and quietly made our way to see the majestic sunrise. The owners didn't seem to mind so long as we were quiet.
It was special to be watching the breaking of dawn at a coldish 13c - darkness turning slowly into light as the majestic sun peeped through the mountain range. I admired the changing portrait of God's artistry in front of my very eyes and it stirred my soul. Truly, we were all so glad and blessed we came to experience this moment.
We hung around for at least an hour until our stomachs started to rumble. Looking for breakfast in the old part of Pai near the market was easy as there were plenty on offer. I settled on Kwey Chap, some sort of stewed pork in soya sauce while the others had Kao Tom (congee) and for 40B, it was a breakfast for champions.
Sitting beside us was a Thai father and his kids also having breakfast and we enjoyed their company. It was a true joy seeing the little boy enjoying his Khao Tom!
We then went for Round 2 for some hot soya milk and side dishes. This particular store was pretty crowded even at such an early morning but the service was friendly and efficient. I particularly loved the little donuts with coconut jam. It was fun to see the local traffic passed us and a man riding a sidecar, with the cutest dog in it, caught my eye! KC also spotted a lady on a full laden touring bicycle and that got exciting when we spotted her in Soppong the day after.
We went back to collect the late birds who then went for breakkie. This was also a good time to bring Lance to Pai Hospital to get his dressing changed. Here compared to Samoeng Hospital, there was an additional 200b fee for foreigners which was understandable but we appreciated the immediate attention.
For a start, we visited the KMT Village once again for the sake of the rest. As mentioned earlier, investments have been poured in to make it tourist friendly and especially catering to the China Tourists as they are the ones with the Bahts to splash these days.
The "rent a traditional costume" booth was kept busy as many came in beautiful dresses and gowns of old looking great and they made for colourful photos. Loh, a fluent Chinese speaker, went into a museum that explained their version of the war against Mao and the many "victories" they had. The keeper then asked for a substantial donation for the education of the children - which he instantly smelt a rat.
Our next stop was Boon Ko Ku So Bridge some 12km from town. This is a bamboo bridge built across the rice fields near a river and it was something new to me. Getting there involved going through some very steep, narrow roads and slightly harrowing roads but the reward was worth it. We stopped at a waterfall along the way for a break.
I have always enjoyed rice fields for they symbolize life-giving as rice is the staple for many Asians. This one is a bit different as its vast green fields are surrounded by beautiful mountains and credit to those who thought of making this a tourist attraction by simply building bamboo bridges so that people can walk across and above the wet fields and admire the beauty. Smack in the middle was also a nice cafe and I enjoyed my Cha Nu Ron. Unfortunately, we came just after the rice was harvest but it still was worth coming.
We hung around for too long until our stomachs growled and we drove back to town for lunch. Wayne and Lance met us in the restaurant but not before visiting a rabbit cafe. There they took lots of cute photos of these critters.
We ate at Om Garden Cafe. It lived up to its name with lots of greenery and plants. The food too was fresh and very organic themed and this attracted herds of Western tourists. It is definitely worth a re-visit and no wonder it is currently the #2 restaurant in Pai according to TA.
It was back to the hotel for a rest before we head out to Charlie and Lek for a Thai dinner. This has been around for a very long time and like Nong Beer, Pai's eating institutions. We were welcome warmly and the food and service did not disappoint.
After that, it was off to the night markets once again to get some last minute souvenirs and gifts. The vibrancy and atmosphere truly are unbeatable. We also bought some Chinese Hot Air Lanterns for later before making our way back to Ban Nam Hoo.
Pad Thai with the longest queue in Night Mkt Pai
The temperature was definitely dropping and hitting around 15c and expected to fall to 11c. This was the perfect time to gather around a campfire and our arsonists-in-residence Wayne and Mark skillfully got a bon fire for us going in no time. It was fun to sit and huddle around a warm glowing fire on a cold evening.
Our last activity for the relaxing day was to launch our lanterns. At only 3 for 100B, they are very affordable and during the New Year, thousands are launched into the air making for an amazing spectacle.
Pic - Globotreks.com
But we launched only a few, saving this fun activity for later days. It was special to see how the hot air slowly fills up the lantern and it is a good way to teach the young the value of patience. Upon launching, it left our fingers and drifted up slowly into the night sky filled with a million stars that was sparkling clearly in front of our eyes.
What a special way indeed to end our enjoyable and easy day in Pai, and to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Lovethefold Adventures! The best part was that we were only half-way through the tour and my heart was thankful at this privilege given to me by the good Lord to see this beautiful part of the world with such wonderful friends.
Pics KC ST n Al