After a few days in Chiang Mai at a lovely luxury hotel which Fran booked to celebrate my birthday, we moved further north into the hills to the little village of Pai. The journey was by minibus and after 5 hours and 762 curves we arrived in one piece. No thanks to the frankly maniacal driving which seem to get worse as we neared our destination with blind overtaking and top speeds of 120km/h on the straights.
Very much on the backpacker trail, Pai is a sleepy place next to a river and comprises many guest houses and restaurants mainly catering to a young hippy type set. In fact the place seemed to be stuffed with 20 something people, mostly young women. There was a lot of live music around, some of it very good. Our local had an act on every night. A male/female duo who sang some interesting tunes and another guy who sang the usual Clapton/Cat Stevens/Beatles stuff but did it very well. We were staying in a little bamboo shack which was peaceful and comfortable. Although one day a strange teenager appeared and stood about moodily staring at Fran and other western women causing much uneasiness, hence dubbed the Pai perv.
Our stay consisted mostly of eating, drinking and relaxing, we felt happy to potter about the town and not do any trips or tours, it was really too hot and humid to do much. There was a fab place over the street from our hotel where we had many a breakfast. They made a special juice drink from what looked like grass which they grew in containers which formed the ‘walls’ of the place. It was run by a very perky looking dutchman, his vital looks a testament to his wares.
We met some young girls from London who were just starting a big trip and a nice guy from the USA who was a geophysicist, we had a couple of fun evenings with them, a merry random mix of travellers. There are so many bars and restaurants it was bewildering in such a small place. One night we saw an excellent duo at a bar down our street. The main guy was a Indian trained flautist from Israel who also played guitar and sang with the use of a looper building up marvelous soundscapes and grooves. Also with him was a guest, Chinua, who played a beautiful melodic banjo. I later chatted with him and he turned out to be from the USA but lived in Thailand with his family. He is also part of an international band which plays Middle Eastern music, they only meet up to play tours as and when with no rehearsal, very spontaneous! I later met up with him and had a jam which was great fun. We played some Django stuff and some Turkish and American folk music sitting in a sleepy corner street cafe.
We whiled away our days until it was time to take the bus back to Chiang Mai and our flight to Laos. This time the bus proved too much for poor Fran who succumbed to motion sickness half way through the journey. We were sited right at the back and took every jolt and turn with a vengeance. I desperately clung on to my seat and stared out at the road for the 5 hour trip and managed to keep hold of my breakfast, but only just. Crawling out of the ‘Chuck-Wagon’ or ‘Vomit-Comet’, we headed for the ‘Top North Hotel’, a cheapo place in which to spend the night before heading off to the airport and goodbye to Thailand… for the moment… next stop, Luang Prabang.