Monday, 14 February 2011

Pai in the Sky with Diamonds ...

Too much weed can do this to you (that's the last straw ...)
Few places have such a strong sense of place as Pai does.

Sometimes it calls itself Pailand. Every shop is Pai Something, or Something Pai. And it does an amazing line in kitsch and cutesy souvenirs. But they're invariably one-offs or limited hand-made editions, not mass-produced low-grade Chinese nonsense.

Kombis are worshipped deities here.
VW Kombis are afforded hero status here, venerated as footballers might be in other parts of the world. Vespas run a close second.

So you can't help love the place for that retro hippie chic. Think of it as Thailand's answer to Nimbin (the dreadlock-and-dope capital of Australia), where there's an overdose of love hearts and rainbows and marmalade skies.

Pailand is about 150km from Chiang Mai, although the distance is deceptive because it can only be accessed by the most serpentine of roads through alpine coniferous forests. Some people never find their way out of the place. They arrive as young bucks and leave as old men.

It was a firm favourite on the hippie trail for many a year, cruising along in a cloud of blue smoke of its own making, with endless Eden-like vistas of rice fields and misty mountains. Then came a couple of movies -- Pai in Love and Ruk Jung -- that thrust it into national prominence.

Suddenly the odd clapped-out Kombi was supplemented by hordes of mini-buses, with hotels, resorts, cafes and restaurants sprouting like magic mushrooms. And a nightly walking street market, where all the kitschery mentioned above is for sale.

I'm not gonna take it lying down ...
Now there are Moroccan-styled chill lounges like Pai Post. And of course no place like this would be complete without good places for munchies, and the Lonely Planet rates Almido's Pizzas the best in Thailand, jing jing.

Er, the post orifice is on this side of the box.
Midnight Oil once had a hit with a song called 'Place Without a Postcard'. Clearly that place was not Pai. I don't think the largest philatelic museum in the world has as many postcards as are sold on a daily basis in Pai. Because part of the rite here is to send a postcard, thanks to Pai in Love in which love letters are regularly exchanged.

So in addition to the Kombi van, the red English-style postbox is another icon now accorded hero status. With the post code 58310 emblazoned everywhere.

Perhaps they should make a sit-com next, and call it Pai Hills 58310. Or American Pai.

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)