There’s a feeling most get when a vacation or weekend getaway comes to a close. If it was a satisfying getaway, you feel sad to leave; usually because you have to go back home to a routine and responsibilities that you could stand to live without. Sometimes, you getaway to a place that seems impossible to say goodbye to, but doesn’t make you resent wherever it is you call home.
For our second extended weekend of the semester, fourteen of us piled into a minibus and headed to Pai, a quiet mountain town just three hours from our bustling Chiang Mai. We decided to book the trip after the hundredth person had exclaimed, “you HAVE to go to Pai!”
We arrived in Pai around 9:30 at night, after three hours on the road–the better half of which was spent hauling-ass uphill and around the sharpest turns I will ever see in my life. We checked into our hostel, SpicyPai, famous for having amazing staff and an atmosphere to match. As soon as we stepped out of the van, a group of people that were sitting in a raised bungalow greeted us ecstatically. We settled into our beds for the weekend, and joined our hostel-mates. Most of them were from the UK, but there were also a few from Canada, Germany, and Denmark. They were from all over the world but seemed to share a calm happiness and a sense of camaraderie that can be hard to find in a group so large and diverse. Our first night in Pai was spent playing hilariously confusing drinking games and wandering around the refreshingly mellow bar scene in town.
I woke up to the kind of nature sounds that bring you out of sleep calmly. I’m not a graceful morning riser—like, at all. But, waking up in Northern Thailand to the sounds of small birds and frogs in a room made of bamboo and banana leaves is too epic to not put a smile on your face. A few of us made plans to have a day in town exploring and to spend sunset at a hike-able canyon—then we found the hammocks. We spent that day swaying comfortably in hammocks at Spicy, baking our bodies in the sun at the local pool, and swaying comfortably in hammocks at Spicy to watch the sun set behind the mountains. That night we celebrated our hostel-mate Mikkel’s birthday, all of us strangers coming together for a night that he called “extremely special”.
The next couple of days were filled with more hammock swaying and some venturing into the little town of Pai that we’d fallen in love with so quickly. We met a quirky old policeman trying to relocate someone’s wallet. We went to the walking street and ate made to order baked potatoes the size of my face. You don’t know true happiness until you eat a warm baked potato filled with avocado, cheese, and pesto. We found hand-made jewelry shops and witnessed the hilarity that is Thai, Chinese, American, and other tourists attempting to rent and ride motorbikes. Some of us took rewarding hikes to breathtaking waterfalls, canyons, and amazing viewpoints.
On Sunday, it seemed insane to be leaving such an incredible place. But we knew that Pai will always be there, just a few hours away from our still beloved Chiang Mai. (Seriously though, these cities in Northern Thailand have a habit of making you fall in love with them…) We left Pai, knowing without a doubt we’d be back again and again. The life of Pai was incredible enough for me to be that one hundred and first person to say: you HAVE to go to Pai!