After a lazy morning in Soppong we once again strapped our stuff to the bikes and headed to Pai. We had toyed with the idea of skipping Pai altogether, since last time we weren’t overly impressed with the place, but in the end we decided that the food there was pretty good so we’d give it a try.
The ride there was excellent, with lots of corners, clear skies, and beautiful scenery. It was the clearest day we’d had since Chiang Mai. When we arrived we decided that staying out of town was definitely the best thing to do… then proceed to get a little bit lost and checked into a really nice place that turned out to be only 2 minutes walk to town. Once we realised this error we considered moving, since we were all tired and didn’t want to be kept up all night with Pai’s party scene. In the end we stayed and it all turned out well. We were on the riverbank in some nice gardens so it was a good place to relax. We checked out our favourite food places and found that the town had changed a lot, and is now even more overrun with tourists that 2 years ago. Since we were in northern Thailand’s party town, we went bar hopping for a while before heading to one of our favourite dinner places from last time.
Once we found out that the town was going to be packed the following night for a big concert, we thought that was our signal to leave so we once again packed up the bikes and headed back to Chiang Mai. Sadly we once again felt that Pai wasn’t our kind of place, and although we could understand some of the attraction for the hordes of tourists coming here, it was just not really for us. We loved a lot of the little food places, and the accommodation standard is great. We guess we’re just too spoiled in Luang Namtha with the beautiful mountains and nature that Pai with all it’s tourists and small amount of surrounding nature isn’t enough!
The first couple of hours of the ride back to Chiang Mai was also really beautiful, with nice views and lots of hairpin corners. As we approached Chiang Mai the traffic thickened, and our journey was soon over.
Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop with Tim has been so much fun and has had lots of unexpected highlights. We were all wondering if we should go ahead in the beginning with all the fires and smoke, it was so worth it though and we’re already thinking about when we can do it again to see all of the amazing views that we could only see through smoke haze this time. There are several places we’d love to spend more time in, and some awesome roads to take us there. Definitely looking forward to next time!
After 33 hours in transit, (9 of which were on the most awesome bus so far – think air hostess with private screen and in-flight (ride?) movies) we made it to Chiang Mai where we spent a couple of days at our usual Chiang Mai bungalow to recover. We also spent an evening on the sunday walking street which still never fails to impress us with the awesome stuff you can get there.
Then we took the bus to Pai, a hippie mountain town that we’d heard a lot of people talking about since we’ve been in Asia. Chiang Mai to Pai is apparently something like 762 corners through the mountains and the drive was really beautiful.
On arrival our friend Luke from Koh Lanta met us at the bus station and took us to our little bungalow on the river and we then set about exploring the town and the abundance of awesome vegetarian restaurants there. We were really impressed by the selection and quality of western and thai food. We also spent some time riding around to see some cool views and temples, one of which had a huge 1.5m swarm of giant bees on the front.
Basically though, the town is filled with 18 year olds getting drunk and then crashing their scooters, every 4th person you meet has motorbike injuries and the bars pumping until 4am every day was not our idea of fun. (Being able to party when you want is fun but being forced to listen to loud music all night every night is not so cool.) In fact there were so many ‘alternative’ looking people in the town that we thought our photos would probably be far more entertaining if we took photos of every person we met in town… but we never got around to it.
We always have said that we never want to travel so much that a place doesn’t impress us, but also sometimes it’s hard not to compare. In a nutshell, the scenery at Luang Namtha is way more pristine and beautiful than Pai, there aren’t drunken idiots everywhere and the vibe in Pai just wasn’t for us. So although it was quite pretty and the drive to and from there was awesome, we left after the 3rd night to get some sleep! One cool bonus of leaving Pai when we did was that we got to experience our first bus breakdown. What was cool about it was that it broke down going past a huge national park where we got to hang out looking at the mountains and trees for an hour or so and saw heaps of different kinds of huge moths. It was so nice there that we considered getting our stuff and staying there a few nights, and if our Thai visa wasn’t about to run out in a few days we would have… at least now we’ve just found another awesome destination in Thailand that we can’t wait to visit properly next time. Our photos of Pai are here.