I’ve had a few comments from people on this blog and other forms of social media that we are absolutely living the dream on this trip. In the main this is absolutely true. We’ve done things we’d never have dreamed of, and experienced things I’d never have expected to see, but it’s not all fun and games. The 14 hour bus journeys, unexpected things that occur,constant hassle from touts and taxi drivers, illness, trying to find a hostel at 4am after barely sleeping a wink all night, and spending an hour looking for a place to eat that’s just that little bit cheaper than the last. These are all trivial issues I realise, but after a while the build up can be incredibly monotonous.
Then there’s the situation we landed ourselves in recently, where being meticulously organised months back came to bite us in the arse. I call this place Pai.
After an unforgettable time in Chiang Mai and surrounding jungles we decided we needed to go see Pai; it’s somewhere literally everyone who has been said you have to go, so we went for it. The notorious journey to Pai spans about 180km from Chiang Mai but contains about 760 sharp turns around mountainous roads, where coming face to face with a Lorry on the wrong side of the road is commonplace. It notorious for giving those with the most iron of guts some pretty hardcore travel sickness, and certainly succeeded for the Chinese ladies sat next to us!
We decided to book into Circus hostel which is literally as it sounds; a hostel that is pretty much a circus! This place had some of the most beautiful views I saw in Pai, overlooking the main town and surrounding mountains, with an infinity pool on the crest of the hill, and hundreds of circus goodies to try your hand at. I made most use of the slack line with a bit of juggling in between to keep me entertained. We were staying in another very simple bamboo hut which totally did the job, I’m actually thinking I’m going to need to build one when back on English soil purely for nostalgic reasons! After a quick play around with the Goodies at the hostel we ventured into the town to explore the famous night market. Similar to Chiang Mai, this was a unique market not selling quite as much crap as were used to selling, but this market took over the WHOLE town! We probably spent three hours exploring what was going on! That evening I enjoyed some awesome fire acts from the longer staying residents of the hostel. I didn’t even know you could do fire rings!!The following day we went to explore the outer parts of Pai in the more rural areas, when we really fell in love with the place. The whole atmosphere in Pai is so relaxed and friendly, we just wanted to stay longer, not to mention its surrounded by absolutely gorgeous landscapes!
This is where planning in advance really stung us. We had booked our transport to Bangkok and booked a hotel well in advance to avoid being caught out over New Years. After two days in Pai we decided we wanted to spend a week there, including over New Years. However upon investigation we realised we couldn’t reorganise our bus without effectively voiding the tickets, and couldn’t cancel the hotel without incurring a charge. In total, we would have lost about £80, an expense we simply couldn’t afford or justify sadly. So with that, we waved goodbye to Pai after just two days, we got back on the bus to Chiang Mai, and got a sleeper VIP bus to Bangkok.
First thing to say here is Thai VIP buses aren’t so VIP…. You spend about 12 hours trying to find legroom in front of your quasi reclined seat; the lights come on at random times throughout the night, and you’ll stop for dinner at around 1.30am. Lovely stuff! Just be aware there is no vip to this trip! If you want a bed, make use of trains!
When we arrived in Bangkok we stayed a ten minute walk from the famous Khaosan road, a notorious backpacker road filled with street food, bars having decibel wars all night long, ladyboys and forceful touts pushing you to go to a ping pong show. After reading other blog posts about the dark side of the sex tourism industry in Thailand this didn’t really appeal to us at all, and to our surprise we barely saw any evidence of these shows anywhere: maybe the tides are turning, or maybe we just weren’t looking hard enough (if at all).
Either way, we spent NYE on Khaosan road and surrounding areas, which was crazy to say the least! Tens of thousands of people roamed the streets looking for a party. We didn’t even go into a bar that night because it was so busy on the roads we didn’t need to! It was cool being there, but not the NYE I would have liked in Thailand really. Man I wish we could have stayed in Pai!
The next few days were spent exploring Bangkok, but again were unsuccessful in the main, apart from exploring the famous temples which were very cool! Apart from this, the city was a total ghost town! I’m not sure if over here things just stay closed longer (like until the 3/4th jan after the new year celebrations) but we literally walked one day for 5k to see nothing open;very surreal. The whole of Thailand is still in mourning for the King too, and I suspect this too had a part to play in the slightly toned down celebrations (including no fireworks in the capital)! We didn’t know this but the king was actually lying in state whilst we were there. We saw tens of thousands of people queueing for hours to pay their respects all wearing black; a very surreal experience.
I appreciate this is a fairly dull and miserable post so far. We did actually enjoy ourselves in Bangkok! The NYE celebrations may not have been what we hoped for but we still had a great night, and seeing the temples around the palace areas of the city were very impressive; it’s just a shame we couldn’t have stayed in Pai. You live and learn I guess.
The unexpected continues sadly. I’m currently writing this from Koh Tao island, south of Bangkok and on the East coast of Thailand. It’s a beautiful island known for stunning beaches and some pretty amazing diving! Sadly since the moment we arrived the island has been battered by one hell of a storm that’s destroyed the island! I’ll write another post about this later in the week, but here’s a sneak peak of what we’ve endured here.