Monday, 21 June 2010

Pai -- some cool places to eat, drink and be merry

For many people, Pai is a chilled weekend break. For others, it becomes a place to hang while they work out the meaning of life in their minds. Dreadlocks seem to be virtually compulsory (I was given special dispensation) and, dress-code wise, anything more than a loincloth seems acceptable in most places.

As a result, the cafe culture is strong, with lots of places to enjoy your brew of choice (be it coffee beans or beer hops), as is the restaurant scene. The photo above is the money shot taken from Coffee in Love on the road eastward out of town.

Banjaroen Restaurant is the real deal, serving what Thais call 'palace food', an old-style authentic Thai food that used to be the staple of the royals in days of yore. It was one of the most different and interesting Thai meals I've experienced in 22 years of traveling and living here. Jing jing! Gourd with a sort of tempura batter. Also several excellent prawn dishes, minced chicken with lime. All had a subtle earthy taste, not too sweet/sour like most Thai cooking. Downside: mein host seemed a bit gruff, short on smiles and welcome even though we were the only diners there at first. Corkage: 120 baht.

We got there early for dinner, around 6pm, so enjoyed the views over the rice padis. The place was empty till about 7pm when other tables drifted in.

How to find it? Take the Rangsiyanon Rd, the main one out of town, up the hill in direction of Chiang Mai. You will see it on your left before Bebop Bar. If you get to Coffee in Love you have gone too far.

Here are some of my other favourites -- in no particular order -- discovered recently:

Ting Tong bar -- I love it just for its name along (ting tong means crazy). You can chill under the stars here, just near the police station and school.

Bebop Cafe -- head here if you're into blues and jazz, as they have live bands regularly (probably nightly) which the cool folks come to check out, usually starting later. On Rangsiyanon Rd, on the road out towards Chiang Mai.

The Quarter -- one of the many fashionable boutique hotels that's sprouted up in Pai. For exquisite Thai fusion cuisine overlooking the padi fields and mountains, try their restaurant.

Cafe Del Doi -- it's the lovely outlook here that makes this so good. On Thapai Rd after the Japanese Bridge on the road out of town.

Lun Laa Bar -- A small bar in a little arcade of shops opposite Wat Pa Kam, Lun Laa is a popular place to hang out, enjoy some drinks, and watch Nong and his band bang out some blues, funk, reggae tunes. Live music nightly from 7pm till 11pm, with jamming some nights. If you get there early enough you can score the comfy sofa, otherwise chairs and tables inside and outside in a little courtyard are cool. A good place to warm up, before heading off to the night market or Bebop Bar.

Ok, OK, OK, I've got time for one more tip ... but please leave now if you can't stand the thought of doing something without an alcoholic beverage in your hand for, say, half an hour. (Damn, I just lost half my readership!)

Head up to Wat Pra That Mae Yen to catch the best Pai sunset, with a glorious panorama as the sun disappears behind the vast ranges behind. Great view of the town down in the valley in front. It is quite a popular spot, so you won't be alone with your thoughts. It would be perfect to pack some beers or a bottle of wine, but as this is a temple, no alcohol is allowed. Follow Raddamrong Road out of town. The 'Temple on the Hill' is well sign-posted once you get over the bridge on Raddamrong Road.

Next, we pack the bike and head west towards Mae Hong Son, near the Burma border. Make sure you join me for that ride ...

No comments:

Post a Comment

DO please leave your comments below ... always happy to hear feedback and suggestions from engaging fellow travellers (but if you are an auto-bot kindly $#@& off)