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
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
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
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.