Pai is beautiful. It’s an oasis of green land and clean air far away from the chaotic streets of Bangkok. And I never would’ve known it existed if it weren’t for three new friends made in the back of a pickup truck after swimming in elephant poop.
“It’s so beautiful, we wish we had more time there,” the trio echoed in dreamy British accents. They spent three days in the unknown land.
We didn’t have three nights, but we had one. So with the snap of a finger, our tour homie at Brickhouse Hostel booked us a three-hour van ride to see what the hype was all about.
It wasn’t what I expected.
Pai was tiny. You could walk the entire town in two hours, maybe less.
Oddly, it didn’t seem like Thailand at all. Thai locals were hard to find. In their place were backpackers, early 20-somethings that wanted nothing more than to get high in a foreign land, and restaurants and hostels run by expats. As I stepped out of the van, I wondered when my welcome weed would be served.
Maybe that’s why everyone loved it so much. It was a break from the regular hustle of Thai cities. It was an escape from the local culture.
But I craved the culture. As much as I loved those dreamy British accents, this wasn’t a trip to Britain – it was a trip to Thailand.
Still, I wasn’t about to let my 24 hours go to waste and I quickly found the hidden secret to making Pai an exceptional destination: motorbikes.
Motorbike rental shops are everywhere across Thailand. I had done my pre-trip research and read countless TripAdvisor forums about motorbike scams, injuries and the occasional death. The forums scared the hell out of me and I confidently told myself I wouldn’t rent one during the trip.
Pai changed my mind.
It was the perfect place to rent a bike and feel completely at ease with risking my life on mountain roads, having no idea where the nearest hospital was, or even how to ride a motorbike in the first place.
But critically important, the motorbike shop, Aya Service, offered insurance for an extra 40 Baht – about one U.S. dollar. That was a rare offer, and the perfect way to get me in their shop and on a bike.
The price was 110 Baht for 24 hours. Added with insurance and some gas, this activity cost about $6 when converted to U.S. currency.
We hopped on and slowly weaved our way through town, carefully dodging tourists in the streets. A few minutes in, we found a back road free of cars, people and worries. Instead, it was lined with open fields of green, mountain views and elephant camps.
We sped down the road and I opened the throttle. The wind blew across my body, drying my humidity induced sweat-soaked shirt. It was heaven. We rode this route repeatedly, taking in the solitude and beauty while we could.
The bikes helped us see everything in Pai – the waterfall, the canyon, the temple and the memorial bridge. We even got to test the rental insurance when my friend lost her grip following a sudden downpour near the waterfall. She walked away with a scraped knee and the bike was clearly damaged with a nasty scrape on the side. Would the insurance work? We would soon find out.
And it did. When we arrived at the shop at the end of our 24 hours in heaven, the attendants didn’t even question the damage.
We put on our backpacks and loaded into a waiting van for our return to Chang Mai. Our time in Pai was over and I was completely content. Worth the adventure? Hands down. But one day was enough.