24 Hour Adventure in Pai

After almost 5 months of living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Jorge and I were finally able to make it up to the small town of Pai. Nestled in the mountains of Northern Thailand, Pai is a hippie oasis that has become popular with backpackers, nature lovers, and anyone seeking a getaway from tuk-tuk drivers, traffic, and busy Thai city life of Chiang Mai. 

Although we live overseas and don’t live and work by the traditional 9-5 grind, we often times need to remove ourselves from our environment, break away from our computer screens, and get lost in the beauty of nature to feel rejuvenated and refreshed. 

So on a Friday morning, Jorge and I jumped on our moto and made our way north headed toward the famous Mae Song Hong Loop. As we began to head further into the mountains and the landscape turned greener and more lush, I could feel myself relaxing. The ride, which is mostly uphill with 762 curves and turns along the way, is not for the newbie moto rider. We took our time, breathing in the fresh air and mesmerizing landscape, stopping for a iced matcha green tea, and 3 hours later we arrived at our guesthouse with our butt cheeks sore and ready to dive into Pai. 

First stop, lunch! Although Pai is tucked 3 hours deep into the mountains, there is a heavy western influence, mainly noticed in the local eateries. Vegetarian and vegan options are plentiful as well as modern interpretations of Thai classic dishes. We headed to OM Garden, a hippie hangout with beautiful fish ponds, a relaxing atmosphere, where the sounds of barefoot harmonica players, and english speak patrons fill the air. I ordered a Vegetarian Indian Curry (I’m currently trying to be more plant-based), while Jorge took on the Khao Soy Salad; a modern spin on a northern Thai Classic. Just what we needed to bring us back to life and get ready to jump back on our moto to explore some of the sights. 

The foothills of Pai are great to get lost in deep meditation and to explore some beautiful Buddhist Temples. We set out headed toward the Temple on the Hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) a massive white Buddha statue that sits in between the mountain greenery. With the direction of google maps we found ourselves at a smaller desolate temple with a white Buddha state but NOT the famous Temple on the Hill. While we attempted to redirect our google maps, we could hear the sound of chanting coming from within the temple walls. We followed the melodic tones and came face to face with a solitary monk deep in his chanting meditation practice. After apologizing for interrupting him, we asked if we could sit in and listen to his chants. I have no idea what he was chanting about or what he thought of two random Americans sitting in on his meditation; but the sounds and the vibrations were so soothing I was transported somewhere even further away than the mountains and no longer cared about finding that Temple on the Hill. 

We jumped back on our moto to continue our magical journey through Pai; stopping at arguably the little town’s most well known attraction, The Land Split. What keeps drawing crowds to this uncommon site is not the actual land split, (it literally is a crack in the land down the middle of this family’s farm) but when you come for a visit you’re greeted with smiles and snacks from the landowner and offered a comfy hammock and shade. We snacked on potatoes, banana chips with hibiscus jam, tart tamarinds, roselle tea and hibiscus wine, all made by this sweet family and the products grown on their land. The best part; they offer you all these yummy treats and scenic views for free. A simple donation box is set up for visitors to contribute how ever much they’d like. 

Full on snacks we made our way to Pai Canyon with hopes of catching one of their epic sunsets. Although there was too much cloud coverage for the pinkish hues to peak through, it was still a pretty impressive view worth the stop over. 

A full day of exploring and wandering and we were ready to hit the nightly walking street to enjoy more locals eats. The food choices were plentiful and fresh and we stumbled across the absolute best vegetable stir-fry I have ever had. Sounds like a big claim to make, but trust me, this stir-fry which was loaded with fresh local and seasonal vegetables and a tamarind dipping sauce on the side still makes my mouth water. 

The next morning after a super cute breakfast at our Guesthouse and strong ice coffee, we started the 3 hour drive back to Chiang Mai and back through the 762 curves. With no set agenda or schedule, we decide to stop halfway at the Mork-Fa Waterfalls which are part of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The impressive 60-meter cascade was the perfect way to end our 24 hour adventure. 

Hours later, back in the city and settled into our home, I had a moment to reflect on how necessary it is to step away from daily routine and get outside. Who knew how a much a little bit of sunshine, fresh air, and a waterfall bath could make me feel so alive. 

Pai and it’s surroundings made such an impression on us that we plan on returning in November and spending our last weeks in Thailand feeding our souls with energy and life from mother nature and northern Thailand.

Marina De Lima