Pai, Thailand


Pai, located in Northern Thailand, is a three-hour bus ride from Chiang Mai.

For this drive, you need a Buddha.

“The Road to Pai” is famous for it’s 762 hairpin turns. The driver of our 11-person minivan regularly crossed over the yellow line to pass other vehicles, which is what all the drivers do. I learned on this trip that, fortunately, unlike some of the other passengers, I don’t get carsick.

When I arrived, I was struck by the amount of dread-locked European and American kids running around, shoes dangling from the bottom of their backpacks. It was almost like being at Lighting in a Bottle! The first day there, I felt quite “other” and alone, but being alone is one of the lessons I knew that I’d have to learn on this trip. Eventually, though, I fell into the rhythm of Pai, and had some quite wonderful interactions with travelers and locals alike.

I had waited until the last minute to book my accommodations in Pai and decided to try AirBnB. I thought that I had a couple of places booked, but then they “declined” my reservations shortly thereafter. Of course, being a POC and knowing the issues that AirBnB has had with hosts declining guests of color, I wondered, was it because they had seen my picture or was it just because it was the high-season and I booked last minute? I guess I’ll never know.

The best part of “My Place”.

In any case, I did find my place. Literally, it was called “My Place”. The hosts, a Thai woman and Aussie man, were super friendly and helpful, but that couldn’t overcome the challenges of the lodgings. It was, spartan to say the least.  It was a two-story, welded steel frame structure. The room was small with particle board walls and was barely larger than “bed”, a platform with a mattress pad on it. There was no furniture, bare floors, the window was a 2’ x 2’ square cut out of one of the walls. Pai is in the mountains and although it gets up to the eighties during the day, it gets down to the low 60’s at night. Despite the blankets the owners gave me, I slept fully-dressed at night. The toilet was downstairs and outdoors, so I didn’t really want to make that trip in the middle of the night. If this had been Burning Man, I would have had a just used my “pee jug”, but it wasn’t Burning Man. I didn’t sleep very well.

I’m sure that “My Place” would have been fine for one of those backpacker I saw walking around in town. But, I’ve learned that, even after going to Burning Man for 15 years, I’m not that fond of roughing it.

However, My place did have several things going for it, very fast Wi-Fi, almost utter silence at night with dark, starry skies and a rooftop terrace with a commanding view of the Pai valley.

Pai also has an amazing Wat which is built high on a hill overlooking the Valley and features a giant white Buddha statue. I thought that I might make a great location for a sunrise time-lapse, and it did.

It’s so ironic that I would find myself living in places where everyone rides scooters. They are so integrated into the fabric of these societies. It’s not unusual to see a family of four and the family pet all riding on one small 100cc scooter. One day, I was exploring Pai on a scooter and I stopped to take this picture.

As I stopped, a white and brown kitten with a partial tail came up to me meowing it’s little head of and immediately started to rub against my legs. I gave it a little love, then when off to take the picture. When I came back to the scooter, the kitten was sitting on the floorboards, saying “Come on! Let’s go somewhere!”

I didn’t, but I really wanted to.


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