It’s my first afternoon in Pai, a little town in Northern Thailand and I’m already considering extending my three night stay to five, even though I’ve just arrived. That’s how much I like this place. As I type this, on this late afternoon in October, the rush of a river outside my bungalow dampens the sound of nearby motorbikes, creating our own little hideaway hole. My arms are adorned with beaded bracelets bought at the market a few nights earlier and our own rented bike sits outside, ready to speed us down the backroads and into town where we can buy street food, or second-hand books, or t-shirts printed with the word ‘Pai-radise’.
A quick glance at a calendar tells me I’ve been in Thailand just nine days.
Something about Pai slows the traveller down. We are barely aware what day of the week it is, or even what hour of the day. We wake whenever, eat when our tummies grumble, and walk to a nearby bar when dusk sets in. Puncturing these idyllic days are motorbike rides to waterfalls, lookout points, temples, rice paddies, bridges, hot springs… you get the picture.
It’s worth mentioning that I’ve been here before. 2012’s Pai was a little smaller, a little quieter, a little more geared towards budget backpackers. Not worse. Not better. Just different. But every now and then I notice a café or street art that looks faintly familiar and it’s almost like coming home.