This blogging thing is hard. I mean trying to find an interesting angle, a new twist on places that have been visited by millions and written about by thousands isn’t easy. So, with this blog about Chiang Mai and Pai, both located in Northern Thailand, you won’t see temples, ancient forts, or elephants.
Instead, we’ll focus on street life, via street food vendors and urban art/graffiti or whatever the in vogue term is these days. The nice thing about this subject matter is that it will be less word-intensive and more picture-intensive. So it’s a win-win for you and me: I don’t have to think of clever things to say and you don’t have to read my babble and can get to the photos quicker.
But, I will bore you with a few details so hang on. No jumping down to the photos! First, how did we get here to Chiang Mai and then Pai, you ask? Well, we grabbed a train in Ayutthaya for the 10-hour ride to Chiang Mai. Spring for the air-conditioned second class car. You won’t regret it. The first half of the trip is speedy along flat agricultural fields; mostly rice paddies. Then it gets interesting, rising into the mountains switchback by switchback, surrounded by rain forests. If it sounds picturesque and adventuresome, it was, except for all the smoke.
You see, March and April are the months that the farmers burn their fields and for good measure burn some of the rainforest. I have no idea why they do this, but it prevents the viewing of some spectacular scenery. So now we’re in Chiang Mai. To get to Pai is a 2.5-hour minivan ride over incredibly steep mountains, which means more switchbacks. The good news is that the road is paved and well maintained.
The proprietor of our first guesthouse in Pai told us that a mere 20 years ago, before the paved road, Pai was not accessible from the ‘outside’ during the rainy season. Nor could you get out if you got stuck there. I wonder how many visa violations occurred back then?
But I digress. I said I wasn’t going to be wordy and here I am: Blah-blah-blah.
Let’s talk Chiang Mai: The old quarter is the place to be. From inside this ancient walled city, you’ll have access to all the restaurants, shops, street food, guesthouses, and all the 7-Elevens that you’ll ever need. We chose our guesthouse poorly. Poorly managed, not as clean as we like, and a cranky/shady proprietor.
We spent our days there basically the same way we spend our days in most places; eating, drinking, and taking pictures. We would find coffee/breakfast in the morning and walk the streets until mid-day. Then head back to the air-conditioned confines our room until sunset. Then we would wander the streets looking for food and picture ops.
For you foodies; don’t miss the Khoa Soi, a soupy, mild yellow curry with chicken thing. When done right the chicken meat falls off the bone and the yellow curry broth will tickle every little taste bud you have. You’ll have to find a ‘regular’ restaurant for this one, as it is not available on the streets. Our Chiang Mai Highlights?
The evening market and the amazing graffiti. Both highlighted in the pictures below.
Now let’s talk Pai. First, why someone hasn’t marketed a pie business here is beyond me. I looked everywhere for a strawberry pai or apple pai or durian pai. But I couldn’t find even one pie in all of Pai. So, if you’re the entrepreneurial type and want to relocate, here you go!
Basically, Pai is where many of the young backpackers end up. It has lots of bars to attract them and, from what we heard, drugs were readily available. There are also many natural and man-made attractions in the area. You know, waterfalls, temples, and animal life. But we’re over two months into our S.E. Asia adventure and we’ve seen it, done it. What was fun was that at sundown the streets became alive with street vendors and ‘exotic’ people. Fun to just walk, eat, and people watch. We were amazed at how much Mexican food we saw here. Don’t know what their fascination was with Mexican food, but it was all over the streets.
Carrie will detail how we got from Pai to Bangkok and out of Thailand in her next post. Oh, remember at the beginning I said that I wouldn’t be long winded? Nevermind.
Hike Drink Live Laugh
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