paulathai

adventures in Thailand


3 Comments

GOODBYE PAI

GOODBYE PAI
The mini-van is pulling out of the lot in Pai as I begin this blog. Goodbye Pai. We’re winding our way slowly down the main street, one of four commercial streets in this town of 5,000 residents. Let’s see if the typing can continue as we navigate the road to Chiang Mai with its 762 curves.

Prior to arrival here, I wondered how I’d fill five days in Pai. The instant I landed, it became apparent that five days would not suffice. Therefore, I changed my dental appointment in Chiang Mai from last Thursday to today, Monday, and extended my stay. During my ten days here I met at least six other travelers who chose not to leave on their original departure date. That’s what Pai does to visitors.

I’d forgotten the enchanting beauty of this green valley completely encircled by mountains. Everyday bright sun and cloudless blue skies greeted visitors. The town bustled with activity at night as the two main streets became pedestrian malls with hundreds of vendors selling their wares. During the day, I frequented my favorite restaurants, enjoyed massages and while at Bueng Pai Farm simply hung out in the many hammocks and lounge areas overlooking its stocked fishing ponds. At BPF I also braved the cool waters of its natural swimming pool which got chilly overnight when the temperatures plummeted to the low 50s.

We’ve just past the Memorial Bridge built by conscripted Thais during World War II to aid the Japanese. So now the curves begin and this blog will have to end for now. MORE LATER. [Addendum: No one got sick during the mini-van trip to Pai—hurrah!]
…..
ON THE WAY TO THE BEACH
It’s the next morning, Tuesday, and I’m halfway through the two-hour flight from Chiang Mai to Krabi. Air Asia is surprisingly comfortable, especially for a low-cost airline. By booking the flight way

Leaving BPF  with me and my luggage in the sidecar. Note Pai's mountains in the distance.

Leaving BPF with me and my luggage in the sidecar. Note Pai’s mountains in the distance.

back in August, I’m flying from CM to Krabi and then Krabi to Bangkok for under $70, including charges for a 20 kilo suitcase. Dirt cheap! My guess is that the first flight is about 800 miles and the second more than 300 miles. It’s definitely better than Ryan Air which I flew once from Athens to Bologna.

In order to qualify for the pre-paid 20 kilo checked bag, I had to remove 3 kilos (over 6 pounds) at the airport. Why? It’s not due to too much shopping for gifts (though there was some of that). I visited the used book store in Pai and got a handful of English books and graphic novels for my friend who teaches English in northern Laos. She’s

first of 3 incredible meals at Om Garden Cafe. Pumpkin & Spinach Curry with coconut on brown rice. Probably the best meal I had in Pai.

first of 3 incredible meals at Om Garden Cafe. Pumpkin & Spinach Curry with coconut on brown rice. Probably the best meal I had in Pai.

meeting me at the beach. Plus my friend Caro, who was storing some of my possessions, gave back a big empty suitcase. So I put my smaller suitcase inside the larger one, adding weight. After removing 3 kilos of books and a beach towel of mine that Caro had kept, I returned to the check-in counter. I told the Air Asia representative that the books were for English students in Laos and she allowed me to put a few back in, despite my bag weighing about 22 kilos in the end. Very nice of her….and I managed to squeeze the beach towel back in.

Since I’m talking about the flight, here’s a small world item. I know two people on board much to my surprise and delight. If you followed my blog when I lived in Thailand, you might recall an entry about an amazing Thai wedding I attended in Chiang Mai a bit over two years ago. Well, the groom and his business partner are on board. They’re filmmakers, one Italian (the one I know) and one American, probably on their way to Krabi to film in the jungle where they make many movies. The Italian’s twin daughters (age 5 now) go to the Montessori school in Chiang Mai which is where I met their mother. I expected to bump into acquaintances in Pai but not on Air Asia.

Yesterday in CM I had my second dental appointment–teeth cleaned and the permanent crown put in. Cost $600 for both as opposed to $1400 for the crown and $200 for a deep cleaning at home. The thousand dollars I saved nearly covered the cost of my week-long package tour with airfare from L.A.

After dropping off my bags at the dentist’s office I searched the area for a reasonably priced guest house. Looked at three sub-standard (by my standards, anyway) ranging from $15 to $22 and returned to a more expensive one ($37) for the night. That’s the most I’ve ever paid directly for accommodations in SE Asia although the places I stayed during the package tour cost much more, no doubt. It was a lovely room with TV with BBC, AC, enclosed shower, fridge, big fluffy towels and helpful staff. The front desk ordered a taxi to pick me up at 5:10 a.m. for my 6:30 flight.

Just one more thing about Chiang Mai, then I’ll end this blog since some friends have indicated they’d prefer two shorter blogs than one long one. Last night my dear friend Tiew, who owns RELAX Massage in Pai, met me for dinner. She had been in her hometown helping take care of her sick father and was away from Pai during my stay. Luckily, she was spending the night in CM on her way back to Pai. It was great seeing her. I would have been very disappointed if our paths hadn’t crossed during my visit.
[For those of you who followed my blog from the beginning, you

my favorite lounge area at BPF where I relaxed in the hammock while reading.

my favorite lounge area at BPF where I relaxed in the hammock while reading.

might recall in Nov. 2011 an entry about my wonderful visit to Tiew’s humble home in Fang. Her mother thought it was the first time a farang (foreigner) had ever visited her village. If interested, you can go to wordpress.com to read my earlier blogs about the traditional Thai wedding of two Italians and my time in Tiew’s hometown.]

Stay tuned for the next entry with more details about my stay in Pai and my upcoming adventure on Koh Jum.

LATER: Tried posting this on Tuesday night but it wouldn’t transmit. So now it’s Thurs. a.m., Weds. p.m. on East Coast and will try again.
###


3 Comments

BEACH BUM IN PARADISE

KOH JUM: It took 3 attempts to find the island paradise that I had imagined: ¾ mile long soft sand beach, perfectly calm sea with tiny gentle waves creating a soothing aural background, small beach bungalow colonies featuring bamboo huts, rarely more than a handful of people on the beach or in the crystal clear water. I arrived here 4 days ago on the recommendation of a French woman whom I met on the boat to Koh Muk/Mook, my first foray into island living.

 

Each night on Koh Jum I’ve slept in a different place as I’ve sought the ideal bungalow. It looks like I might move again tonight in the same resort (using that term loosely) but into a more upscale bungalow. If I could only combine qualities from each of the 3 resorts I’d have the perfect spot. The first place had a fairly spacious room with built in shelves (but too far from the beach for $10). The second was right on the beach (40 yards from the water at high tide for $20) with a lovely porch and hammock (but no towel, soap, toilet paper, or mounted shower). The current place, called appropriately BAMBOO BAR and BUNGALOWS, has the most friendly and nicest guests (French and Italian). My complaint about this one revolves around my bungalow’s “stairs” which consist of 3 fairly narrow logs creating a ladder to ascend/descend the porch entrance and also one log to go down into the bathroom. The bungalows sit about 4 feet above the sand. The more expensive place has wider “stairs” and the bathroom is on the same level as the bedroom. Will probably splurge for the 500 baht place ($17) instead of the 300 Baht ($10) I slept in last night.

 

Well, this is probably boring you to death so let’s get on to more interesting stuff.

 

KOH MUK, my first island stop, also had a long, lovely beach but many more people than Koh Jum. Not crowded but definitely more populated. The highlight there was an all day snorkeling trip with a wonderful crew and excellent equipment to Koh Roc, a national park island. We had two long snorkeling opportunities while others made SCUBA dives. The water was perfectly clear and the variety of coral and fish was among the best I’ve ever experienced. At least 15 different species of colorful fish swam by and an amazing sea creature called Crown of Thorns intrigued me. The Crown of Thorns had a round purple body about a foot in diameter and 16 long legs or tentacles with huge black spikes radiating from them. Quite a sight! Definitely the most unusual creature I’ve ever seen underwater.

 

Koh Roc featured another amazing creature, this one on land. Two HUGE lizards fed off a pile of discarded rice and vegetables on the edge of the dining area. They reminded me of dinosaurs. The bigger one stood nearly 2 feet at its highest point and reached more than 4 feet from tip to tail.

 

Another adventure on KOH MUK consisted of spending my last night in a tent instead of a bungalow. My hotel reservation was for 3 nights and it couldn’t be extended. However, I wanted to go on the snorkeling trip scheduled for my last day. The dive shop called a resort on the other side of the island and all they had available was a tent. It wasn’t the fancy kind with toilet, sink, etc. like my sister enjoyed on her Thai trip for two nights. This was a basic dome camping tent. It fulfilled its purpose and my sleep was long and deep. Perhaps the fatigue from a day of snorkeling contributed to my good night’s sleep. In any case, it was thoroughly enjoyable and provided another adventure to my journey.

 

KOH LANTA offered accommodation for one night as I attempted to move from Koh Muk to Koh Jum. Turned out that the only boat to Koh Jum from Lanta left at 8 a.m., necessitating an overnight in Koh Lanta’s main town. Didn’t like it much but understand that there are many nice beaches and resorts dotting the island. No reasonably priced guesthouses had openings so I booked a room in a lovely modern small hotel built over the water. It cost 1000 baht ($34), the most I’ve ever paid in Thailand. Even in Bangkok, my hotels near the airport with TV, AC, etc. have only cost $20. Of course, you get what you pay for: big flat screen TV, AC, lovely modern décor, great bed with comforter, and my first hot shower in 9 days.

 

Prior to coming to these islands on the Andaman Sea (Thailand’s west coat), it was difficult to imagine how I’d spend my time “doing nothing” at the beach. It’s surprisingly easy! Usually I awake around 6 or 6:30 and take an hour long walk while watching the sunrise. Then the morning in the water, out of the sun by 11 or 11:30 to avoid the harshest rays. Lunch at a nearby restaurant or yesterday a 25 minute walk across the island through the jungle and past a small rubber tree grove to town for lunch and shopping (fruit and yogurt for this morning’s breakfast). Back in the water by 3 or so for a couple hours.  Shower and dinner at a restaurant with wifi where I can also charge my laptop.

The last two nights at BAMBOO spent sitting around with other guests and visiting in English or Italian. English is the common language so most of the conversation is in that tongue. Two nights ago the owner made a massaman curry, a southern Thai speciality, for his guests and I joined them prior to my move here. The owner and a lovely French man put on a fire show after the delicious meal. They twirled and threw/caught long rods with fire at each end. AMAZING.

###