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I heard mixed reviews about Pai. Many people said I would love it and others said it is similar to Vang Viang or Sihanoukville, my two least favorite places in se Asia. There are certainly Vang Vieng-ish elements to Pai, but I enjoyed my time there. Pai is a city that, in the last decade, has transformed into a backpacker/new age/hippie haven. I do not consider Pai to be very Thai at all, but it certainly has redeeming qualities.
I spent my first night in Pai at the Villa de Pai Guesthouse. For just under $7, I had a private bungalow with a hammock and wifi. Life was good, until the rain came… There was a pretty substantial flood and the Villa de Pai was forced to evacuate and close. I found a suitable replacement about 1km outside of the center called Farmer Home Guesthouse. It also offered private bungalows with hammocks and wifi. I only had one meal at FH and it was a really good Thai style fried catfish.
There is a waterfall about 5km from town and I went to see it on my first afternoon in town. On the way to the waterfall I was flagged down by 5 different local families trying to sell me drugs. The waterfall itself wasn’t great and was crawling with tourists. There is a Yunnanese village similar to Mae Aw on the way back from the waterfall and I stopped for some moo pan pee. It was good and very spicy, but nowhere near the level of goodness as the moo pan pee I had in Mae Aw. As I had my dinner, I got to watch throngs of tourists snapping photos around the village. Welcome to Pai….
It dawned on me that I was in a different place than the rest of the Mae Hong Son Loop and had to take it for what it was. I went to the new ageist place I’ve ever seen, The Art of Chai, daily for the rest of my time in Pai. It is a cool little place downtown that specializes in fresh chai. The tea was great, I met some really cool people there and the owner, a Thai dude named Otto, was very cool as well.
There is a tex-mex place called The Mexican Grill that is supposed to have the best Mexican in Thailand. Rather than pay 3x the price for tourist oriented Thai food, I gave it a shot. The food was decent, which equates to Amazing considering the fact that I was having enchiladas in northwestern Thailand. It was also the most expensive meal of the trip. A 3 way combination plate was just under $8 and a margarita was $5. The Texan owner was another story… Despite never serving in the armed forces, he spent a great deal talking about war, the military, and the necessity of using nuclear weapons. His portrayal of women, especially in Thai women, led me to believe he is not a feminist. He also dropped the n-bomb… 3 times. Nothing like a little taste of Americana for you.
Outside of the ignorant, racist, misogynist, expat scumbag, the people were very friendly and welcoming. There is no doubt that Pai is a tourist town, but the people don’t try to really stick it to you as they do in so many other similar places. I’ve only gone for a few nights out this trip and had one in Pai. There is live reggae and chilled out bars that stay open until after the sun comes up. The highlight of my time in Pai was a 2 day/1 night trek I did with Mr. Chart. The trek was so amazing that it warranted it’s own blog post.
I enjoyed my time in Pai and think it’s definitely worth a stop. I met quite a few people that went for days and have been there for months or years. It reminded me of 4,000 Islands, Laos in that respect. It’s a laid back place that is tourist oriented, but not overdone. It’s important to take Pai for what it is: a place to relax, chill out, and take a break for a while.

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