This is the story of our seven-day, 1,400 km. trip around Northern Thailand. [If you missed the first part please open this link]
The fourth and fifth nights of our tour of Northern Thailand with Ben, our driver, we spent in Pai, Northwest Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. That day it was a very long drive for Ben. From Chiang Rai, we initially headed back towards Chiang Mai and picked up the famous Mae Hong Son road. En route, we stopped in a Chinese ethnic village, with people from Yunnan Province, Southern China. The scenery on our way to Pai was spectacular but with hundreds and hundreds of sharp bends, it is not recommended for those who suffer from car sickness, or have a problem with heights (open link for photos). This was a truly amazing drive and stunningly breathtaking! We spent two nights in a lovely, quaint, 1930s boutique hotel, with a French theme, in the center but also quiet, overlooking the river – this was the location of the film “Pai in Love”.
Pai deserves a special mention. Now it is arty and trendy, having shaken it’s earlier image as a beacon for hippies. It’s a really lively town, with busy markets, restaurants and bars, with foreign visitors typically being quite young – there weren’t too many people of our age in Pai and we were probably the oldest swingers in town! The night market was fun, with its stall after stall selling similar merchandise and many bargains to be had. The town was also full of well-fed, stray dogs. We met an American man who spends his winters in Pai and told us a lovely story about two dogs who had fallen out with each other and he brought them back together again – one dog he described as “the toughest dog in town!” Pai is a resort well-known for its beautiful scenery, arty atmosphere, cookery classes, meditation classes etc, not to forget the numerous massage parlours, all cutting prices against one another. Our second night in Pai, we had two excellent Australian rib-eye steaks having had a rare craving for some Western food.
Our sixth night, we spent in Mae Hong Son, another tough drive for Ben from Pai. En route we stopped at Than Lod and Namlod Caves, saw the Musa & Lysie minorities trading in the small towns, as well as the Padaung people – famous for their long necks which they stretch using a metal collar. They have refugee status from Burma. We were intrigued by the metal collars that were a series of interlocking rings, with rings added as the neck grows, they start this practice from a young age and they do not remove the collars for sleeping. We saw the sunset from the Wat Phrathat Di Kong Mu temple. We had a simple but comfortable hotel in Mae Hong Son and that night had pizza in a famous Chinese restaurant and no, it wasn’t “stir fried!”
On the seventh day, we returned to Chiang Mai, an epic drive for Ben. Our round trip for the seven days was 1,400 km. En route, we stopped at the lovely Mok Fa Waterfall, part of the Doi a Pui National Park, and went for a delightful walk in the forest. It was so nice to stretch our legs.
We got back to Chiang Mai late afternoon, and returned to our familiar boutique hotel near the river. This was our third stay here and the staff waived the check-in and just took us to our room where our suitcases were waiting. We had been travelling light with Ben, just our rucksacks and another small bag. That night we went to our favourite restaurant overlooking the river, relaxed and were delighted to be back in Chiang Mai once again. In all, we stayed another three nights in Chiang Mai before heading off to a seaside resort for our thirtieth wedding anniversary (another blog). We really love Chiang Mai and thoroughly chilled out. We visited the famous night market and the familiar sights in the old town.
Chiang Mai felt like home. It was no surprise that so many ex-pats had settled in Chiang Mai. We very much hope to return to Chiang Mai on our next trip to Southeast Asia.