Now that I was backpacking solo, I had the world at my fingertips! I didn’t know where I would stay or who I would meet in Pai, but like I mentioned in previous posts, it’s the unknown that kindles me! I am rarely worried about that.
I booked a bus to Pai from Chiang Mai that would take approximately four hours. I got a ride to the bus station but had to wait longer for the main bus to come get me. It eventually arrived but I had to sit and wait for other passengers to get here first. So after about an hour so of patiently waiting in the sweaty heat, a van packed full of backpackers pulled up and got into my ride. From the sounds of their accents, I could detect that some were French, some were English, and some could of been German. Some of them, came on the bus drunk and with booze in hand. Amongst them, I met two backpackers who I would end up traveling through Pai with. One of them, Kevin (Germany) started talking to me about where I came from and what he’s been up to. A real nice guy. He’s been traveling for a few months already with his buddy Björn (Germany) and are both traveling to Pai for a few days. I asked Kevin what he plans on doing in Pai and he mentioned he heard there is white water rafting he would really like to try out. I think my eyes lit up when he said that because I had no idea you could raft there. It’s something that I was looking to do sometime in Asia and at that very moment the three of us decided to join up. It was also convenient because they didn’t book any accommodation prior to Pai either, so we could all find a place together.
When the bus finally dropped us off in the middle of Pai City, another backpacker who was also on the bus joined us to find a place to stay for the night. He introduced himself as Maximillion and he’s from Austria but also has dual citizenship for the United States. So far, most of the backpackers I’ve met have been really cool, but I can’t say the same about Max. He was a bit obnoxious. He was already hammered when we met him and he reeked of alcohol the entire time. But regardless, the four of us looked around for a place to stay. A random girl on the street suggested we stay at Giants Bungalows. It’s in the middle of a jungle, has cool bamboo huts, and super laid back and relaxed. Done deal! So we walked a little less than ten minutes to Giants and saw that everything that girl said is true! A series of elevated bamboo huts, overlooking a field outlined with trees and a river stream flowing by. On the other side of the field was a bar where live music can be heard at night and everybody can get their chill on. This would be my new home in Pai.
Of course Kevin and Björn shared a hut together, so by default I was stuck with Max, who decided he would be in charge of the sole key for the hut. He was pretty drunk and I wanted to convince him that I should hold it instead, but I also wanted to avoid a potential argument with an intoxicated nincompoop, so I just let him take the key. Once we all got settled in, we walked into the main area of Pai and found some tasty burritos at a street stall. I began to understand why everyone I met loved it here so much. There was street food everywhere, a few cushy bars, everyone was super relaxed, and it was a cool place to just take it easy and hangout. We went back to the bar at Giants where the Stickyrice Blues band was playing popular reggae hits to a crowd of care free, happy-go-lucky, tourists and locals alike!
During the music, Max decided he wanted to go find a 7-11 and come right back, so I didn’t bother asking him for a key. Bad decision on my part as he didn’t comeback until about 5 hours later; around 2:30 am! I had to ask the manager to find a way to let me in the hut. The next day, thankfully would be the last time we would see Max. I know that sounds harsh but this guy was incredibly bothersome and opinionated. Whenever any of us said something that he didn’t agree with, he let it be known that our opinion is invalid and his is fact. Jerk. Kevin, Björn, and I all wanted to go on a two-day rafting trip along the Pai river the next day, so we went to go get details and book it. In the process, Max wasn’t interested and left us to join another group of backpackers to go on motorbikes instead. Hopefully that group of packers would tolerate him better than we did! Afterwards, the three of us explored the city, grabbing bites to eat along the way.
I ran into other backpackers I met in Laos and in Chiang Mai along the walk. Small world! I got talking to Kevin and Björn and they were telling me their adventures prior to coming to Pai. A few months ago, they started off in India, made their way through Nepal, across to Malaysia and the Thailand Islands. What was most interesting to me was their story from the Borneo jungle. They went on the unbeaten path and found they came face to face with a wild tapir. You must be asking yourself, “What’s a tapir?” It’s one of these things:
That mythical looking pig beast thing is about the size of a cow but with a face of a mutated hog. It backed up a bit, made a weird wailing scream, and charged straight at them! I would of LOVED to see the looks on their faces as the two Germans high tailed it across the jungle, running away from the tapir! They managed to escape unscathed, thankfully.
The next morning, we checked out of Giants but let the owner know we would be back in a couple of days. We had a trip to the wild river rapids of Pai ahead of us! I just had to endure a nauseating ride up and down the mountains to get there. Well worth the pain!