Food / Thailand

Little slice of Pairadise

The small town of Pai, far north in Mai Hong Son province, was once a quiet Shan market town famed as a blissful hippy enclave- and is apparently seen by some of its old-time visitors and as shadow of its former self. The Pai I experienced, however, was in no way a disappointment- and was still one of those towns where travellers come and never seem to leave. As well as being incredibly popular with Thai and Chinese tourists, there is a very visible Western expat presence in the area, with plentiful English language community boards for the longtermers and most excitingly, streets worth of authentically done Euro cuisine. Sure, it’s only been a few weeks, but being reunited with bread, cake, and classic coffee again was a luxury I thoroughly enjoyed… (All About Coffee was a particular pleasure I’d thoroughly recommend- fantastic food and the warmest staff in the town.)

Pumpkin pie- obligatory nod to late October

Pumpkin pie in Pai- obligatory nod to late October

The living here is easy, slow and village-like- though tourism does dominate the local economy, there is not a wealth of particular sites or attractions, so the visiting population are uniformly laid back and lazy, stepping off the Thai backpacking circuit a while for an upmarket holiday of sorts. Indeed, the shops and restaurants here are more akin to offerings you’d find on Stoke Newington’s Church Street than the slightly tackier charm of the main Thai hotspots. The locals are open and friendly, the surroundings infinitely discoverable by scooter, and the scenery pinch-yourself breathtaking. All in all, it made for a very restorative stop-off.

Shacked up in the fields

Shacked up in the fields

The good life

The good life…

Edgy retail of an Asian persuasion

Edgy retail of an Asian persuasion

I stayed in a wood and woven hut, half outdoors, in the middle of rice paddies surrounding the town centre (at SpicyTao hostel, which was a favourite of the trip so far). For amusement, I made like a local for a few days, and inducted myself in the only real way to get around here- the 110cc bike, which even for a driving dunce like me was fairly easy to get the hang of… Thai authorities sometimes fortunately have little regard for health and safety, so weren’t at all phased at my lack of license. The driving was pretty thrilling, in fact, since the region’s roads are legendary for their switchbacks- the 762 curves between Chiang Mai and Pai were no underexaggeration, as I’d discovered on the stomach churning minibus ride up. Along with newfound friends from the hostel, I spent my days roaming around the roads to visit canyons, waterfalls and hotsprings, and made my way up the hill overlooking the town to size up in person the gigantic marble Buddha watching over us all. Evenings were spent grazing the bountiful offerings of the night markets, relaxing, barhopping and barbequeing, and if it wasn’t for the call of the islands, I may have ended up an expait…

Shopfront sign at a stopover on the Chiang Mai-Pai minibus. Really, the curviest road in the world...

Shopfront sign at a stop point for the Chiang Mai-Pai minibus. Really, the curviest road in the world…

The Pai night market- full of culinary wonders

The Pai night market- world of culinary wonders

Countryside biking- the Pai Canyon

Countryside biking- the Pai Canyon

The watchful hillside Buddha...

The watchful hillside Buddha…

...like many things in Thailand, still somewhat under cnstruction

…like many things in Thailand, still somewhat under construction

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s