All the friends I made in Chiang Mai left for Pai on the same day. I planned to stay in Chiang Mai and wait for my debit card, but after one day without them I decided I missed them and woke up the next morning at 9am, found somewhere to book a bus to Pai, and was on my way by 10:30am. The plan was to stay for two nights, then take a bus back to Chiang Mai to get my debit card before heading to Laos.
The bus to Pai took about 4 hours, and was a beautiful ride winding through the mountain jungles. When I arrived, the hostel I was staying at (the same as my friends) looked to be about 1/3 of a mile away, so I decided to walk rather than take Jordan up on his offer to pick me up on his motorbike. It was a nice walk through the tiny village and across a bamboo bridge, but the last part of it was up a steep hill in the hot sun, and I definitely regretted passing up the motorbike option!
After checking in, Jordan sent me a message saying the group was going to go to a
waterfall and invited me to join them. He came and picked me up on his motorbike and took me back to the center of the town where we met up with Marc, Leo, Kenny, Matt, and two new girls to our little group (Roxanne from Quebec, and Louise from Australia). Between everyone, there were just enough bikes for us to ride two-up to the waterfall together.
The waterfall (I can’t remember the name) was a short hike from where we parked our bikes and was a nice place to sit on rocks and enjoy the shade and coolness from the water. We stayed there for a good chunk of time, and ran into Simon, Alex, and Cecile there as well.
Afterward, Jordan suggested we all go to a small village they had found out in the jungle (when getting lost trying to find a different waterfall) called Valhalla. Valhalla is probably one of my favorite experiences of the trip so far. It really is a small, removed little village of maybe four huts, right in the middle of the jungle and surrounded by
beautiful green hills. The people who lived there didn’t speak English, but were SO hospitable and excited to share their village with foreigners. As soon as we arrived, they busied themselves making us places to sit in the shade on their pillows and blankets and offered us (bottled) water and beers. Because of the language barrier, we couldn’t communicate past introducing ourselves, but they were happy to have us and we were happy to admire the relatively untouched nature. One of the locals that lived there was so excited to have us that he kept taking pictures of and with us, and I don’t think he ever stopped smiling like an excited little kid. For more pictures of Pai and Valhalla click here.
We left Valhalla right around sunset so we wouldn’t be driving back to Pai in the dark. We were lucky enough to see probably the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen.
Once we returned to the hostel and had our showers and everything, we headed into town as a group to find some dinner and drinks. The street food in Pai was much more extensive than I’d seen so far, and it was fun to bounce from stall to stall buying various things at each – in the end, I made a meal of chicken skewers, fresh papaya and mango, red curry spring rolls, and sweet corn on the cob. After we had our fill, we just wandered the streets of Pai (which really is a cute little town), looking at the various things for sale and stopped for drinks and beers when we saw places that looked good. It was good to see my friends and I really enjoyed getting to know Louise as well (Roxanne was a sweetheart, but is French Canadian, so communication was more difficult).
I had an awful night’s sleep due to sleeping in a bamboo hut with no air con with roosters that started crowing(?) at 2am, so I slept in the next morning until about 10. I barely made it to the common area in time for free breakfast and Roxanne, Kenny, Marc, Matt, and Leo were getting ready to go on a 5 hour hike. Louise and I decided to stay behind (me on a long hike in this heat will probably never happen) and relax around the hostel’s pool and maybe go into town to do some shopping. I enjoyed a relaxing day trying to get a tan (didn’t happen) and when everyone returned from the hike we all went into town for Israeli food for dinner and then had a laid back night playing cards and drinking in the hostel’s common area.
Leo came down with a fever during the day and by the time night rolled around, his fever was pretty high. He’d already been to the hospital twice in Chiang Mai (once after going to a water park and breaking out in a rash that turned out to be a yeast infection from the water and a second time after having an allergic reaction to the medication they gave him to kill the bacteria), so he was really worried that he might have something more serious than he originally thought (maybe Dengue Fever or Malaria) so he decided to go to the hospital in Pai. None of his friends that he was traveling with offered to go with him, so I asked if he wanted me to go so he wasn’t alone and he said yes. Being such a shy, quiet guy, him accepting that offer from a girl he barely knows shows how scared he must have been, and I got really annoyed with his friends for not stepping up (I let them hear about it later haha).
The hospital we went to was TERRIFYING and I hope I never get seriously ill in a small town like Pai. It’s hard to describe, but what you’d picture of a small hospital in a small, rural town in Thailand is probably not too far off. In the end, Leo was tested for Dengue, Malaria, and had a broad blood test done to test for other infections and it was determined he just has a common virus. They gave him medication to bring his fever down and by the next morning he was good as new.
I left on a bus back to Chiang Mai the next morning with Roxanne (who would continue traveling to Laos) and Louise (who was catching a flight back to Australia). For the first time this trip, being back in Chiang Mai was the closest feeling I’ve had to “going home.” Somewhere I was somewhat familiar with and comfortable in (: