Earlier this year I travelled round Thailand with my boyfriend and having written about our time in Bangkok I didn’t seem to get much further! But I’m back with another post about two of my favourite places in Thailand- Pai and Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is a city in Northern Thailand and just North-West of it is Pai. A small, but beautiful, town. To get to Pai you have to pass through Chiang Mai as there is no airport nor train station in Pai, so a very unforgettable bus ride (more about that later) is the only way. You can either get a flight or train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and as we had limited time we chose to fly (you can do this fairly cheaply too for around £30 with luggage).
Once we arrived in Chiang Mai we had around two hours to wait for our mini-bus transfer to Pai and in the mean time decided to look around the city. It was 40 degrees and extremely humid so wandering around a city trying to find the centre was-in hindsight a bad idea! We eventually found an airconned cafe (air conditioning is fairly rare in Chiang Mai!) before heading back to catch our ride to Pai.
Now we had been warned about this journey but were still at the least a little unprepared for the drive ahead. The minibus had a small fan at the front (so if you can pick a front seat) although it didn’t do a lot in 40 degree heat. The journey takes around 3 hours and consists of about 986 bends on the cliff edge, at full speed…Okay so this is a slight exaggeration but this is what it feels like! If you suffer from travel sickness be extremely prepared!
Once you get to Pai, it is all worth it! You’ll be greeted by a quaint mountainous village which comes to life at night with stalls and food stands lining the streets. The best way to get about is to hire a moped which costs around 200 baht per day (roughly £5). This way you can drive out through the rolling countryside and visit memorial bridge, Pai canyon and the waterfalls (to name a few) in your own time.
The street food here is the best we had throughout Thailand with so many choices including my personal fave – Nutella crepes. There are plenty of stalls to buy souvenirs and gifts and the streets are laced with bars and restaurants.
At this point I need to apologise for the state of us during our time here, as previously mentioned average temperatures were around 40 degrees with little escape and the humidity was unbearable- in other words, looking nice was not an option!
Obligatory Moped Selfie
FYI- Having ridden a moped previously is not necessary! I was a complete beginner but picked it up within minutes. I would advise asking for a helmet as not everywhere gives you one automatically.
Do not give your passport as they are notorious for claiming you have damaged the bike and keeping it! (we gave one driving licence and took photos)
Health and Safety doesn’t exist at Pai canyon, in some ways this is so refreshing coming from the UK where health and safety rules prevent you from doing pretty much anything! This means you are free to walk along the thin path of the top of the canyon- at your own risk! Many people flock to the Canyon at sunset to watch the sun go down which I would definitely recommend.
On our last day in Pai we wanted to visit Lod Cave. You can take an organised tour here, however we loved exploring the countryside so much we chose to drive ourselves. A map confirmed it was around 2 hours away with a straight forward route, so we set off. On the way we experienced some spectacular views and stopped at a few ‘resting points’ to refuel- our mopeds and ourselves.
The breeze from driving gave a little relief from the relentless 40 degree sun but about 2 hours later we were burnt, hot, fed up and couldn’t find the cave. We thought we must have taken a wrong turn and decided to turn around and get back in time for the canyon sunset. We found out later that the cave was less than 5 km away (gutted).
I should mention the roads are extremely steep and winding so not for the faint-hearted! You see a lot of people with scrapes and grazes all over which is more than enough encouragement to drive slow, meaning the journey will take slightly longer than predicted.
However it’s definitely the best way to explore the area- even if you don’t make it to the caves!
Stay tuned for more on Chiang Mai and our time at ‘The elephant Sanctuary’!