Prepare to postpone any planned adventure activities, as this town 120 kilometres north of Chiang Mai has a relaxing effect on most people's minds that often puts paid to planned itineraries. Activities available are river rafting (on bamboo rafts for a slow ride or on rubber rafts for the real-deal white-water thrill), elephant riding, yoga, rock climbing, off-road motor-biking, reiki and meditation. Due to the remoteness of the surrounding tribal villages a trek from Pai still offers an unspoiled experience of the subtropical rainforest and its colourfully-clad inhabitants.
The leeches are a significant nuisance - like we travel journalists, they are always after a free meal.
If you can’t be bothered to trek then maybe just hire a motorbike and go wandering around the country lanes surrounding Pai, which are edged by wild orchids and, in the green season, pretty deserted. If you feel a bit guilty about being too lazy to go trekking then hire a manual, rather than an automatic, motorbike – at least your left foot will get a bit of gear-changing exercise that way. You don’t need to plan your motorbike meander too carefully, just wait and see what happens, but don’t forget your camera. Maybe the setting sun reflected in the rice terraces will take your breath away, or maybe it will take the sight of your beloved, posing as if to hold up a rainbow, to make you realise how lucky you are to be right here, right now.
A major activity in Pai, and one well-practiced by locals and tourists alike, is simply doing nothing at all. Somewhat surprisingly for a little town in the middle of nowhere, there is a thriving live music scene, with DJ’s, buskers and bands from all over Thailand and the world contributing everything from jazz to the blues and from reggae to rock’n’roll. If you like to shake your bits to different music every night under a cool, starry night sky then this is the place for you.
Many male tourists in other parts of the country rapidly sicken of scantily-clad females calling out “welcome, handsome man, young man” as they hurry past a bar looking the other way, not least as they either know or suspect that the ‘ladies’ in question really mean “your money is welcome, so we’ll put up with your ugly, old face”. If you think, when such ‘ladies’ call out ‘welcome nahling’ to you, that they are mispronouncing the word ‘darling’ as ‘nahling’ then you are mistaken – ‘nah-ling’ means ‘monkey-face’ in Thai. If you are one such male tourist then you will enjoy the absence of any girly bars in Pai. Whilst the town also lacks any 5-star resorts and gastronomes will bore quickly, for most people the town’s cooler climate and lovely atmosphere more than make up for the lack of truly luxurious establishments. Pai does have several resorts which are more than comfortable as well as having more informal atmospheres than many of the 5-star resorts elsewhere in the country.
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