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Pai

June 5, 2012

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Pai was the northern extent of my travels through Thailand, roughly 1400 kilometers from where I started in Trang. As southbound buses from Pai only go to Chiang Mai, I left most of my stuff there and carried a light load north.

Unencumbered by my larger pack, I flipped the script and rented a motorbike straight away rather than finding accommodation first. Motorbikes are cheap in Pai. Unlike the rest of Thailand, insurance is offered as well. I kind of like this. For about a dollar a day, I didn’t have to leave a deposit or my passport and I didn’t have to worry about scratching the bike. Of course, at this point, I’ve gotten much better with the bikes. Earlier, I saw them as an adventure and a source of worry. Now, I see them for the convenience that they are.

Pai was a very appealing place to be. Slightly cooler weather, and everything comes easy there. Biking around, meeting people, finding a place to stay, going out, it’s all simple. It’s a tourist town that is mostly free of touts. My guesthouse (The Happy House, nice place) had a cheap bar that travelers, expats, and locals hang out at.

In Chiang Mai some and even more in Pai, I did notice a lot of Bangkok hate coming from other travelers. I never really get this phenomenon, but it happened a lot in Korea regarding Seoul as well. Of course Bangkok can seem awful if you never leave Khao San Road, which is more common than you think. Just as I like Pai for being easy, I like Bangkok because it isn’t. Of course it isn’t. It’s one of the great cities of the world, they are always hard. In small-town Korea, I could go to the local expat bar or the Korean club and make friends instantly, be the star of the party. In Seoul, like in Bangkok, you have to earn it.

I have no pictures of it, but Pai has a pretty awesome roadhouse called Bebop. It’s on the edge of town, just like a roadhouse should be, and it’s filled with a wild cast of characters. Some of the patrons throwing down whiskey and large bottles of Leo Beer included uniformed police officers, shockingly ugly hookers, backpackers, locals, and the worst ladyboy I’ve ever seen – he was basically just a regular 47 year old dude in a dress. Everyone drank and danced while an all-girl punk band rocked the stage. The band consisted of two Thai girls and two white girls. The lead singer looked like a punk rock 20-something Amy Poehler and could belt out a song in perfect Thai.

On to the pics!

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Bike number five.

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Um yeah, now I’m riding an elephant. I drove past a few elephant camps and decided on the one that looked like it treated its elephants the best. I did a one hour ride to the river, and in the river the mahout had the elephant spray me and roll me off into the water. The elephant played in the water too.

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Here’s the view from the elephant. They are huge, of course, but it seemed even bigger when I was riding it. The ground was a long way down. It was pretty weird to ride an animal that could conceivably kill me in a number of ways at any time. They aren’t very comfortable to ride either. I was kinda grateful to be back on the motorbike when it was all over.

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One last shot of the elephants. These two Scottish girls rode with me for most of the trip. They were doing an all-day package, which meant they already got tossed in the river. This time around, they just got to watch the FNG get tossed around.

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This is the World War II Bridge, which was originally built by the Japanese so they could attack Burma. Camera Number Five finally died here after hanging on by a thread for the last year, so the rest of my pictures in this post were shot with my iPad. The quality will not be high.

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Pai Canyon.

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This is near a waterfall that I rode out to with these German dudes. I don’t have any pictures of the actual waterfall because I left my bag and iPad safely on the shore when I waded up the stream to see it.

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Bamboo bridge in Pai town.

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This was my favorite overlook. Getting there involved the steepest road I’ve ridden up thus far. Low on gas, I was able to ride in neutral for a couple miles on the way back down.

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Another view from the overlook.

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Pai nightlife. Any time you go to the bar alone and end up going to the next place with a saucy British lass and a Dutch model for buckets, times are generally good.

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