You know that catchy song by *NSYNC?

I assume you do, and now it’s probably playing in your head… sorry.

So, Pai. We finally arrived in Pai close to 18 hours after having jumped in to a cab to rush to the bus in Bangkok. We’d booked a VIP bus with reclining seats and food and drinks included. I was a bit sceptic to that as I usually can’t sleep on buses, but both bus rides ended up going way better than expected. I fell asleep within an hour after having sat down, woke up just after midnight as we stopped for food and drinks at a bus station, and immediately fell asleep again only to wake up just as we arrived in Chiang Mai. The seats were comfortable and my spontaneous purchase of a travel pillow in Berlin turned out to be surprisingly effective. Who would’ve known Primark would offer value for money like that?

According to the lady at the travel agency our bus to Pai was supposed to depart at 11 o’clock. Luckily, however, there turned out to be a bus leaving every hour, so we could take the following one leaving at 8.30 am. Again, I fell asleep right after we had left and didn’t wake up until we stopped for a short break. As mentioned earlier, the road from Chiang Mai to Pai is characterized by curve after curve (after curve after curve…), and known for being utterly awful for those suffering from motion sickness. To prove the tales right, a mother and her son were throwing up non-stop all the way from Chiang Mai to Pai. Thanks to my astonishingly good sleeping skills, though, I got to avoid most of that. Yes!

Smoothie break.

We were super happy when we finally got to Pai. The town itself seemed small and cosy, and we were excited to go get breakfast to one of the cute little cafes that we’d seen along the way. First, however, we had to find our hostel, which was located about 1,5 km from the centre of town. We’d been recommended to stay at Pai Circus Hostel by three different people, and consequently booked our first night there. Apparently they’d offer free circus lessons and yoga, and have a pool with a view, which sounded good to us.

Finally in Pai!

Turns out they did have all of the above, however, and we were not prepared to go camping. We’d booked two beds in a four-bed dorm, but they had managed to overbook, so we got upgraded to a bungalow. Sounds pretty nice, yes, but it turned out to be a tiny little hut with two hard mattresses (was it a bed?) hidden under a worn-out pink mosquito net, a fan, and a floor (un-)covered by inch-wide cracks. Welcome spiders and other members of the insect community!

The Hut. 

Suitable for some, but unfortunately not us. 

The pool area was quiet in the mornings when people were still asleep (it’d be packed during the day).

We’d been happy campers on Mount Rinjani, but were not prepared to go camping in Pai. In fact, I’ve come to realize that I’m pleased to stay in the simplest of hostels as long as they’re clean. To me, the cleanliness of a place strongly correlates with a pleasant stay. Having encountered a massive ants’ highway in the bathroom and vomit in one of the sinks, it became clear to me that this circus place was not going to be very clean.

We ended up staying for two nights just because we were too comfortable, lazy, to move.

Anyways. Once we’d gotten ’settled’ into our little hut we went for brunch followed by a one-hour Thai massage. It was my first one in Thailand and cost me a mere 3 euros! We visited the night market where all kinds of street food was served. Finally recovering from my stomach flu I was brave enough to try a pad thai and mango on sticky rice. The latter is as simple as sticky rice served with mango that’s been cut into pieces, placed on top of the rice and seasoned with salty-sweet coconut milk. Ah! So simple, but so good. All of a sudden I was craving Christmas porridge…

Having spent one month in Indonesia where wine is non-existent and those few times that it actually is available it is very likely to be crappy, we’d decided to crown our night with a glass of wine at some nice bar. The ‘nice bar’ that we’d pictured ourselves turned out to be a weird kind of hippie reggae bar, but the wine tasted good.

Why close for real?

The river.

Our second day was kickstarted with a run – yes, run! My plan was to run five songs there and five songs back, resulting in a total of 35 minutes followed by some squats. Based on the soreness of my legs a couple of days later I could tell that I’d been doing nothing but yoga for the past five weeks. It felt good to be back on track, though. Oh, the endorphins!

Green fields, blue skies.

A gas station. 

We spent a couple of hours at the Fat Cat Cafe, a super quiet and peaceful cafe just outside of town with absolutely delicious food. I had a kombucha and the tastiest fruit, yogurt and müsli bowl of my travels so far. It might sound like I’m doing nothing but eating all the time, but it’s just so good and so, so cheap compared to home, not to mention inspirational. I could easily spend my days sitting in nice cafes, enjoying the combination of fresh, tasty flavors, colorful layouts and a relaxed ambience which makes you forget all the worries in the world. I’m lovin’ it, I really am!

Yes, please!

In the cafe where I’m sitting right now they are playing super nice piano music. I just had a gorgeous bowl of muesli, fruits and yogurt and am just loving it here. So simple, yet so good. What else does one need?

…Christmas? It’s beginning to feel a little like Christmas. I know, but it does! It’s the piano music.

A little shopping, some more street food and an amazing live music performance at a bar were followed by a shitty foot and back massage just because we were too tired to walk back to the hostel just yet. We were massaged on the bones and twisted and turned in all directions, which made it far from enjoyable. After that we were so ready to go back and straight to bed just to get the night over and done with. We brushed our teeth outside our hut while watching a spider spin its web in the tree in front of our door. Life.

Ever since we first arrived our stay had been shadowed by the question whether we should stay or go, change hostels or leave Pai altogether. In the morning of our third day Lauren went for a run while I took a yoga class with a girl who’d gotten her phone “kind of destroyed” the day (night…?) before, so there was no music. It was quite obvious that she’d been partying.

Once Lauren got back we unanimously decided to leave Pai in the afternoon. Why stay if we weren’t really enjoying ourselves, so they picked us up in the afternoon. We were relieved to leave the place, both the hostel and the town that we’d been recommended to visit by so many people that we weren’t really sure where we’d gone wrong. Maybe we weren’t in the right (party) mood? Who knows.

Sometimes what suits everyone else might not suit you.

Consequently: checkin’ out, signin’ off… And Chiang Mai was definitely worth it!

x Anna