Friday, 18 June 2010

Pai -- The Chilling Fields

It's one of my all time fabvourite motorbike rides, from Chiang Mai into the mountains to a place called Pai. Sure, you can drive there, and most tourists wend their way there on day trips in mini-buses (you can even fly), but ... excuse me, I'm getting all teary-eyed here ... nothing, NOTHING can compare with the two hour ride that takes you round 482 curves. A motorcyclist's wet dream, jing jing!

En route there are gorgeous coffee shops to relax in, and alpine vistas. Yes, this is Thailand we're talking about. Northwest of Chiang Mai. Some of my favourite countryside. With fir pine trees. The fresh scent of bracing mountain air.

My adrenaline is usually pumping so hard by the time I reach Pai, I feel oddly out of kilter with the town. Why? Because Pai takes laid back to new heights. If Chiang Mai is charming with its quaint northern ways, Pai is where Chiang Maians would go to get out of the big smoke.

Make sure you stop at Coffee in Love (on the road just south of town) for one of the most beautifully photogenic valleys you'll ever see. Rice padis and mountains in various shades of verdancy.

The town itself is studded with resorts and guesthouses, shops (my favourite is Apple Pai, an internet cafe which burns music directly into your iPod for about $1 per album), and cafes, and markets (there's a nightly walking market). But the energy level is way, way, way down. I'll blog more on the attractions of the town next, but for now, let's check in to the Pai River Corner Resort.

Pai River Corner is a delight. Right at the bottom of Chaisongkram, one of the main 'walking street' market streets, it is right on the banks of the Pai River, on a corner too, you'll be amazed to hear. A delightfully rustic setting, looking at Thai style villas on the other side of the river, and mountains beyond.

Pai is laid back but the service here is on the ball, under the management of Aussie proprietor Darren. I requested some wine glasses and was asked whether it was for red wine or white wine. Plenty of smiles, and lots of local tips available from the staff.

The resort's Red Chang Bar is a small but comfortable little hang out on the river, a good place to meet fellow travellers and have a few cold ones. I think this is like Darren's home office!

A small but nice pool area overlooking the river adds to the inviting tropical garden garden setting. If you want to treat yourself, request Room 7, the spa villa. Wonderfully, wickedly indulgent! The plunge pool/spa comes (see photo) off the four-poster master bedroom, and is walled in for privacy. (Only one complaint, the bathroom seemed to adjoin a staff shower, with net result we could peek into their shower, so I presume they could peek into ours.)

Location wise, this place is brilliant. Everything is just outside the gate, a short walk away, yet it's quiet and secluded. But for now, I'm not moving. I'll go and check out the rest of Pai some other time. I'm just going to lie in the spa and re-run each and every one of those 482 curves in my mind ...

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