A winding drive with 762 curves could take me from Chiang Mai to Pai but I took another option: a jet plane. Avoiding car-sickness was one reason; the other was a bird’s-eye view from a plane’s window. Luckily, the sky was clear on that day, revealing mountains painted with healthy green – thanks to the rain that has just paused – while some were shrouded in mist.
IN THE MIDDLE OF SEA MIST
Spotting its lavish mountainous landscape, I had no doubt why Pai is home to lush surroundings, rich water flows, and fresh air. Starting from ‘Yun Lai View Point’ at the dawn, I sat on the summit of the hill, drowning in a tender sea mist and sipping warm Chinese tea, while waiting for a spectacular sunrise. One good reason to visit Pai during this period is the sea mist gets overwhelming after rain. No matter how massive the mist is, it fades when the sunlight appears; in the meantime, a boundless vista of verdant Pai is unveiled.
GO ALONG THE WATER FLOW
Other benefits from the rainy season is that it looks like the falls are full of water; so was the three-tiered ‘Mor Paeng Waterfall’. The stairway led me to the second level which, in my opinion, was the best spot for relaxing and swimming. Water fell – not so hard – from the upper level into a shallow basin, allowing me to get soaked with refreshing water. Another spot worth stopping by is ‘Pam Bok Waterfall’ which I found less crowded. Probably, it needed more effort to walk along a narrow track and climb some rocks to approach the falls. But my attempt paid off with the gorgeous setting of dazzling light and fizzy water falling through majestic rocks.
Another impressive nature wonder is ‘Pai Canyon’, or Kong Lan in dialect, which has been formed by continuous erosion over decades. Narrow red ridges with steep-sided valleys lured me to stroll along, scrambling sometimes, while the stunning views over the surroundings were so impressive. Be reminded, from my experience, to wander in Pai Canyon in the early mornings or at the end of afternoons, as there is not much shade on the walkway.
MORE THAN A BAMBOO BRIDGE
Despite the enchanting nature, I would say a part of Pai’s charm is derived from locals, their stories and their way of life. I voted almsgiving at the bridge of merit ‘Kho-Ku-So’ as my favourite. With slight rains that morning, the 800-metre bamboo bridge looked very rustic, passing through contrasting verdant rice fields. The bridge was built for joining the village Ban Pam Bok and the temple Wat Hauy Kai Kiri, giving a convenient walkway to monks and villagers. I joined the villagers in lining up along the bridge, waiting for the monks on their alms round, nestled with hearty rice fields and mountains.
NOT A TYPICAL CHINATOWN
Another place that rendered me a fun experience is ‘Ban Santichon’ – Yunnan Cultural Village. Owing to a mixture of the Yunanese and Thai tribespeople, this village seemed like a cultural melting pot. Beyond the traditional Chinese clay houses, mud-and- clay-made tea shops, a replica of the Great Wall of China, donkey riding and shooting games, the big wooden ferris wheel definitely got my attention. Soul-stirred but pleased, I was amazingly swung up and down by two men who use their body weight to spin the wheel.
TILL THE DUSK
Seeking for some restful place to be at dusk, I was recommended to visit ‘Wat Phra That Mae Yen’, a temple atop a hill. A long staircase led me to pay respect to the seating white Buddha image and when I turned around to go down, I immediately found a fabulous setting. Then, I seated myself on that yard, bathing in a cool breeze and watching the entire city turned dark when the sun went down.
It showered a bit in the early morning on the day I left Pai. It was the end of my first unforgettable life after rain in Pai and it is going to be the next, absolutely.
Text and photos by Goongging Thanisara