Posted by: facetothewind | June 23, 2015

Surviving Penang and Pai

Offering myself a toast at the pool for having survived my recent holiday…

Kuala Lumpur cocktail

Ever have one of those trips that when you get back, you feel like you should be awarded some sort of medal for making it back alive? I can’t say that EVERYTHING went wrong on this trip, but a lot did, especially early on. Chuan and I drove to Penang on a work trip (for him). On the way we stopped at a roadside food court and I got, guess what? Food poisoning. Wehoo, again. This is the 3rd time in Malaysia in less than a year, and the 4th, if I count poisoning myself with the kukui nuts. It was, after all food, and it was poison.


Dianna from Pai arrived in Penang and on her 2nd day out she got very ill with mono. We’re not quite sure how THAT happened but it did. Here she is on the plane back. Sick and tired, and sick and tired of Air Asia and the yackity people aboard the flying kampung. Considering the MERS scare and the fever checkers in the airport, I’d say she was lucky to be flying.

Air Asia

To add to my diarrhea, I also picked up a common cold virus on this flight with the requisite cough. So my cough was back in full swing after 5 weeks of it since Lang Tengah. Then I took off for Pai from Chiang Mai. The 12 seater plane is always a novel thing, getting to watch the pilots do their thing.

Kan Air Pai

Here’s me waiting for the staff of the guesthouse to pick me up. They were late enough that by the time they arrived, all the Chinese selfie and wefies had left. I waited and waited without a sim card. Finally they showed up.

Kan Air

Then there was the heatwave. Or was it just the normal summer for northern Thailand? Anyway, 38.9 C (below) translates to 102 F. Add in considerable humidity and the lack of widespread air conditioning, I’d say it’s a miracle in Pai that people don’t just keel over dead from the heat like they would if they had that kind of weather in Paris, for example.

heat wave Pai

I ended up sharing my bungalow with a notoriously nocturnal tokay gecko in the roof rafters by my door. Tokays are adorable but if you’ve ever heard them sing, you might think less cuddly thoughts. You can click here and hear what it sounds like. It’s something like a little “Ahem, I’m about to sing for you and destroy your sleep.” And then it earns its name by yelling TOKAY!! TOKAY!! TOKAY!! about 5 times and then it goes silent. For 20 minutes. And then it starts again. ALL NIGHT LONG. But it has some sort of weird otherwordly quality to the sound as if it is being amplified through an old plastic sound system. I asked the owner of the Pairadise Guesthouse to move the little guy and they said they would. But they didn’t. I tried to nap all day but they were doing low season construction on a number of bungalows.


So for 3 nights a tokay lizard sang me awake and saws and hammers kept me up all day until I finally changed guesthouses. I moved to the funky good vibes of Ing Doi Guesthouse to get some much needed sleep.

Ing Doi guest house Pai Thailand

And then the monsoons came. I was in one of those quaint little grass shacks with the thatched roofs when the rain began dripping on my face, bed, and laptop, just as I was about to have my first night’s sleep…on day 4. I finally just let myself have a very pissy American shit fit. I started yelling and screaming so hard, kicking the mattress like I was trying to swim ashore from a sinking ship. I think I may have sharted some diarrhea at that point. But go ahead Gilmore, you’re in the middle of nowhere and no one is gonna hear you, gurl. So, I moved the bed, did a double dose of Benadryl, covered my computer with towels and woke up the next morning hungover and wrung out.

Well, all things come to pass and so did this. Jake the owner came and fixed the roof and thank god there was no serenading serpent.

Now the good part of the trip.

After a couple nights of sleep, a fantastic massage from the local lady boy May, some wonderfully delicious food from Om Garden, some morning swims with Mark, my cough broke. It just stopped. I put myself on cipro to take care of the diarrhea and lo and behold I was starting to have a good trip!

Om Garden Carrot cake Pai

Here’s some food porn for you. Above is the legendary carrot cake of Om Garden Cafe in Pai. It truly is a religious experience and the creation of the fabulous Anon. You just have no idea if you’ve never tried it. I hear his secret is pineapple in the batter.

Fruit Factory Pai

And above is the amazingly wonderful, creamy and tangy passionfruit ice cream pie from the Fruit Factory. The mint on top is a wonderful touch.


Here’s Anon and Mark (from Om Garden) on their new piece of land in the hills. The soil is a gorgeous orange and the land has fantastic panoramic views. Anon gets out his buckets and fetches water from the pond to water the trees they’ve planted.

Art in Chai Pai Thailand

Daytime in the summer in Pai was spent in my bungalow with a wet towel and a fan trying to stay cool. Late afternoon, it’s off to Fluid, the farang party pool for a swim and some skin-on potato wedges.

Then nighttime, it’s off to the walking street food carts or to catch an open mic performance at one of the many cafés like Art in Chai (above). Pai has such a good feeling to it — friendly people, extraordinarily good food, rice paddies, and mountain views. And it’s all walkable, which coming from Kuala Lumpur, is such a special treat!

Pai Thailand walking street

Here’s the video of the trip, which goes all the way back to Chuan playing piano in KL and a trip with Mark and Anon to Malacca and then progresses from there to Penang and Pai. Enjoy…

A couple other things…

Rats Kuala Lumpur

Just in case you thought I made it up about the rats in KL, see the above article. Note that my local Malay market, Chow Kit, is mentioned. So, I designed a t-shirt that I’m going to get printed up and proudly wear…


What do you think?

AND, a bonus photo montage of the last few weeks: Malacca, Penang, and Pai. Click to enlarge and advance with your arrow keys, or hover over to see the captions…


  1. Good!! No, I mean excellent!! I think you should offer the t-shirts for sale online. D.

  2. Ah, travel is an adventure!

  3. Such an honour to be part of your travel experience and thankfully outside the diarrhea section – thanks for the fab pics too! Notice you forgot to mention your team coming second in the pub quiz 🙂 Love to you both x

  4. Piggie-clean laundry service? Really? Thanks as always David, for making me laugh while shaking my head in disbelief at your traveling experiences. I hope you are feeling better!

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