An Adventure in Pai: Finding Relief in Thailand’s Artist Colony

June 17, 2010
adventure in pai thailand

It was 40 degrees Celsius in the shade. The heat was so powerful it drove most of the country inside. Except for me. I was volunteering on a permaculture site, called Panya Project in the north of Thailand. For a month, it was a happy home for me. If you are interested in intentional communities, mud building, nurseries and fruit forests, it might be a happy home for you as well.

However, at this moment in time, I was roasting despite the cover of amid mango trees and there were not enough coconut shakes to cool me down. I sought relief in a renowned artist community called Pai.

This adventure in Pai was to be my last in Thailand and I was rapidly running out of funds. The farm is near Mamelay Market, in Mae-Tang. From here, one can take an air-conditioned bus for 150 baht. I decided to put my complete trust in Thai people, and their hospitality. Instead, I hitchhiked to Pai.

The road to Pai is not for those with fear in their heart. It winds and curves, and there is competition between the two lanes of traffic.

The road to Pai is not for those with fear in their heart. It winds and curves, and there is competition between the two lanes of traffic. I held my breath with each passing truck. After two hours, my ride dropped me off in the center of town. I did not feel picky about where to stay, so I walked to the first guest house, Duang on the main road. The guest house was plain but cheap.

I had arrived in Pai, after Songkran which is the Water Festival or New Year. The town had an empty feeling, like a revelry after all the guests have gone and left their mess behind. I walked about the small village, hidden in the mountainside during the middle of the day. I discovered that I had not flown from the heat but walked directly back into it.

Around sunset, I re-emerged from my guest house and watched from a rickety bridge as the sun descended over the river. On the bridge, I met a lovely woman from Chile. We struck an immediate friendship and together we explored all that Pai has to offer.

A sensible word of warning: It is not wise to visit waterfalls in Thailand during the dry seasons. You will only end up seeing trickle falls at best, and dry rock beds at worst. Together, we rented a manual motorbike and rode up and down those dangerously winding roads. The beautiful view of the country side still made it worth the while.

At night time, we sought out the many bars, hoping for some good music. We stumbled across too many empty bars, playing reggae music, even though their flyers had promised live jams. I went to the Bee Bop club two nights in a row, to hear a seven player blues and reggae ensemble. On my last night, we visited the Edible Jazz, where we met a variety of locals and traveling westerners. The atmosphere was so friendly that it made me want to spend just one more night in Pai.

Alas, it was not to be. I took a non air-conditioned bus ride back to the Mamelay Market, which I do not recommend. From there I hitchhiked back to the farm-But that is another story altogether.
Photo credit: SangHee Kim

About Danielle Barmash

Danielle BarmashDanielle Barmash has volunteered all over the world. Follow Danielle’s travels at Jews of Domeville.

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