Posted by: facetothewind | June 18, 2013

A slice of Pai

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Meet Pai. It’s in northern Thailand, a 3 hour, 762 curve drive into the mountains from Chiang Mai. This is why I flew in a little 12-seater plane that took me 25 minutes. I could see the twisty road below and felt that the flight was well worth it not to be carsick on minibus while tourists watch me retch. I arrived at Ing Doi guesthouse to see my friend Dianna and meet her son Jake, his wife Ming and their son, Pansa.

Pai Thailand

Click to enlarge panorama.
Pai Thailand David Gilmore

Click to enlarge panorama.

The guesthouse is a series of grass shacks with amenities set amid rice paddies and ponds filled with lotus flowers and ducks.

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Here’s a typical bungalow that they rent for a very modest price. The views are of active rice paddies which come alive at night with the gentle song of a million frogs in the mud.

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Housing here is almost entirely compostable, the support beams made of wood or bamboo, the walls of woven bamboo and the roofs made of grasses or leaves. It smells like fresh wicker baksets as it heats up in the afternoon sun.

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Here’s Pansa who is a 5 (and a half!) year old  bundle of fun and adventure. He takes me on walks and we marvel at the mundane as only kids (and I do): crab skeletons in the mud, a piece of trash with a Buddha on it, a big moth with wings that look like an airplane’s. I take him to the pool on his little bike every afternoon. We ride along the dirt road through the paddies to the farang party pool where for $1.80 we cool off in the water with all the other sun weary (who are mostly western travelers and ex pats and a few Thai locals).

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Ming is an incredible chef. She makes the most wonderful dinners and we sit around each evening spraying on the mosquito repellent and waiting for her to serve up the Thai goodness. We dine family-style with her family and whomever of the guests choose to partake. The evenings are extremely pleasant in the 70’s.

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The days, however, are kicking my butt. We’ve had a heat wave and no monsoons. Blistering tropical sun.

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Late afternoon in the shade + 60% humidity.

I lay low, moving slowly and stealing naps in Dianna’s air conditioned room. Dianna has been afflicted with a nasty heat rash. But the Thai have the remedy: prickly heat powders. Tons of them…

Click to enlarge a powdery panorama.

Click to enlarge a powdery panorama.

After dinner, I head out into town for a stroll and to go people watching, maybe have a drink somewhere. I’ve met a couple new friends and the more I stay here, the smaller the town becomes. I run into the same people all the time who are friendly and easy-going. We trade stories about what we did, who we saw strolling, and some bad fashion.

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Pai is a feel good kinda town. Massages can be had on any block for $6/hour.

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The cute little grass shack taverns are soft and comfortable with colored lights, lots of pillows, and fun music that entice you in. A mojito is about $2.40 USD.

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It’s low season so the places are not too crowded. I’ve heard that winters here are intense with a crush of Thai, Western and now Chinese tourists filling the streets and establishments to capacity. Not now. No problem getting a table…

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The locals enjoy high season (winter) because it is when they rake in the Baht. But as a tourist, I’m braving the intense heat for the enjoyment of a more relaxed town. Pai is pretty sleepy by day but by night people hit the streets strolling and shopping the car free walking streets. Why have we in America not discovered the joy of a car free street?

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As anywhere in Thailand, food is never far away. It’s almost always really, really good food and cheap. I have never been sick in Thailand, even from eating on the street. (Knock on wood!) Thai people are remarkably clean about their bodies and food preparation.

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One of my favorite street foods is pancakes made from this sweet salt and pepper haired Thai woman. She recognizes me each night and her face lights up. She made me extra pancakes tonight for the same price.

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Cooked up fresh in front of you on her griddle and served in a compostable banana leaf dish with a toothpick, these tiny flapjacks have a slice of banana dropped into the dough, are then brushed with butter and finally chocolate sauce is poured on top of them. The cost: 60 cents for 10. Yummy goodness to share with a friend.

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I’ve always said that Thailand is like Mexico with bidets and without the machismo. Thai folks are very family oriented, value sharing good food together, and are mostly fun loving and easy. Their interiors mirror who they are as people.

Flowery and fun. It’s Pai…

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More to come soon.

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Responses

  1. Oh, David! Sigh! Pai! I LOVE Pai! And what a different Pai you are experiencing from the Pai of Nic and I. When we went (December) the streets of Pai were unwalkable, let alone unstrollable. Moving from one end of town to the other anytime after about 4 pm was like trying to get to the front of an open-seating Rolling Stones concert. It was terribly crowded, although still fun. My favorite photos are the one of the lady seated in her salon positioned against her pink flowers, so it looks as though the flowers are growing out of her like a rainbow, and the one of your friends awaiting dinner. The LIGHT in that picture, and the way the long wooden table shines, and the expectation of a great Thai meal with fresh basil and cilantro and steaming rice and coconut milk sauce………ohhhhhhhhhhhh….

    Are you reading my blog about Ireland??


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