Pai, northern Thailand - Thursday, March 04, 2004

With only 5 days left in northern Thailand, we left behind the hustle and bustle of Chaing Mai for a small town called Pai. We were told that this would be a good place to chill for a few days, go on a hill-tribe trek, raft, and hike without being too touristy. The four hour ride halfway to the Burmese border from Chiang Mai was along the typical Thai roads - twisty and bumpy. The bus driver made like Mario Andretti and passed all the slower forms of transportation along this mountainous route. We are serious this time, NO MORE BUS TRIPS!

Pai was not exactly the peaceful haven we were expecting. It is a picturesque town, but people have found out about it and it's become very touristy. Pai is in a mountainous region which is green most of the year, but we hit town right at the end of the dry season. Farmers were preparing their fields for the new season by practicing slash and burn. Let's just say that visibility was very low and the air quality sucked. We couldn't even see any of the nearby mountains, nor could we go rafting because the river was too low. However, it was fun wandering around this little village and seeing all the creative ways the locals would use to differentiate their businesses in the town.

We decided not to go on a trek to visit the hill tribes as we had originally planned. First of all, with all the smoke, we wouldn't have enjoyed hiking very much. Also, we couldn't find a company who was running an authentic trip. We didn't want to be paraded through a village for 15 minutes and stare at and take a bunch of photos of a bunch of folks, too voyeristic. We were looking to spend time with the tribe to learn their customs, even stay overnight if possible. No such luck. We'll find a way to do that some other time when we come back and visit another town called Mae Hong Song which is West of Pai and much less touristy... We did manage to sneak one photo of the Pai River early in the morning. The smoke wasn't as thick, but it was still pretty bad. You'll notice that you can't see the mountain behind the hut and trees. Oh well.

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