No-one can say we hadn’t been warned. 762 turns however – I don’t think anything could prepare us. Although I tried: two travel sickness pills later, I was as ready as could be, and in no time at all I was spaced out amongst the bags at the back of the van – needless to say I thought the 4 hour trip flew by. I think everyone else feared for their lives a little more, definitely at least once each. We arrived in Pai in the pouring rain, and tried to get hostel directions at the bus stop – somehow the lady had no idea what I was talking about. We paused for lunch (to escape the rain) where I had a watermelon shake – the beginning of the end.
We stayed at a place called Darlings which was NZD 6.00 per night – located at the end of the main road, across a dubiously constructed bamboo bridge – and due to the current weather situation, a path that had converted itself into a swamp. It had been highly recommended we stay at Spicy Pai – however it was full by the time we eventually got around to making our booking. We finally made it to our 12 bed dorm; literally a dozen mattresses laid out on the floor in a shack. It was perfectly adequate though, we were Darling’s darlings’ and boy did she let us know it. She was the kindest, most good-natured woman, and her story of losing everything in the floods a few years back was just heart-wrenching.
We hired some scooters and began to explore. We found the Hot Mineral Springs – one pool had a very bizarre sign… which the meaning of became clear once we saw some Asians boiling their eggs for their noodles in the pool. After paddling for a bit we decided we were cold, wet and hungry – but saw little point in returning to the hostel (as we weren’t sure any of the facilities were capable of curing any of those problems!) so instead we found a pub in town for some food and pool. And then it hit me. Food poisoning, at both ends – presumably from the ice in the fruit shake. We bee-lined back to the hostel, where my earlier disgust at the toilets’ location right inside our room was overtaken with relief (I don’t think anyone else agreed) and I began what was going to be an extremely long night (for both me and my poor roommates).
The next morning I woke up better, but still a little shady – so we located some chocolate milk (my go-to remedy for sickness of any kind or form) and caught some fresh air by scootering out to Moh Pang waterfall. It was so lush, so peaceful, and so beautiful; it felt like we’d been uplifted into another world. We then explored Chinatown, made our debuts as Katniss Everdeen (that is, we tried our arms at archery) and then my lack of energy got the better of me so I headed home for a quick kip. Meanwhile, the others indulged in massages, before us girls got braids and we all went for an explore of the infamous night market – one of the cutest I’ve ever seen. We tried durian (it was almost enough to make me sick again) before we headed to the Bob Marley cafe to relax for a bit. Kelsey mentioned feeling queasy, so we went to grab some dinner – she deteriorated quickly. Before our food had even been served she was spewing (also from both ends) and unfortunately it was her turn to make everyone endure a long night. I’m sure our roommates loved us.
Like me the previous morning, Kels woke up feeling better, but still not 100%. We took the bikes out again (we still had a lot of fuel left in the tanks) past some elephant camps, the Memorial bridge (amazingly still standing), a huge canyon, a strawberry farm (so iconically Asian, it was hilarious), and then back to the temple that towered on the hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen). Kels and Summer couldn’t muster the energy to climb it, but Cam and I (somehow) did, and it was well worth it for the panoramic views it gave us of Pai.
After returning the bikes we headed into town to catch a bus back to Chiang Mai. I was sad to go – illness, combined with the rain and cold, had detracted from the beauty of Pai a little – however I still think this was my favourite place in Thailand. Pai was sick, literally.