Pai is a small town in far north Thailand with an attitude that exemplifies the entire country. It’s an isolated, sleepy community with a hypnotic energy that’ll make you forget what day or even what year it is. This past weekend, me and some friends visited Pai to see for ourselves what Thailand’s most “herbal” tourist destination has to offer.
From Chiang Mai, it’s a three-hour drive north through nauseatingly curvy mountain roads to reach this serene town. Me and a few other teachers arrived with plans to experience the ‘life of Pai’ for a couple of days thanks to the 4-day Buddhist Holiday weekend. For most of us, it was a much-needed break from the hectic life of an ESL teacher.
Incase you didn’t know, Pai is Thailand’s unofficial capital of weed, mushrooms and opium. The first thing you’ll notice about this town is how laden it is with psychedelic tourists. Dreadlocked nomads with heavy backpacks and stinky armpits outnumber Thai locals 5 to 1.
The quiet town is a popular stop for traveling hippies because it’s easy to score a spliff from local bleary-eyed Rastas. And there’s no fear of prosecution. Police presence is virtually nonexistent.
Pai is the type of town where you’ll plan to sleep for a night or two, but you’ll stay for months. When you try to leave, the road will just lead you right back into the sleepy town, like something you’d encounter in the twilight zone. Pai can make you forget that the rest of the world even exists.
Drugs aside, me and the holiday crew thoroughly enjoyed our weekend escape in Pai. We followed a very strict agenda during our stay: eat, drink, sleep, repeat. The only time we deviated from our gluttonous schedule was to take a dip in the nearby waterfall.
The best part of our trip to Pai was visiting the local hot spring. At the top of a hill, the spring bubbles water out at nearly boiling temperatures (80 degrees celsius). From there, it trickles further downhill into quiet, steamy pools barely temperate enough to sink into. In the nearby canteen, you can buy a small basket of eggs to cook in the hottest pools of the spring. Boiled eggs make a perfect snack when you’ve got the Pai munchies.
Overall, Pai was everything I expected it to be: a mountainous, quiet town saturated with tourists and potheads. It’s the type of place that reminds you what the word vacation means. Whether you’re a hippy trying to get a dope fix or a straightedge nomad weary from long travel, Pai is the perfect place to rest your weary bones. Just be careful when you enter this town. You may never want to leave.