|Too much weed can do this to you (that's the last straw ...)|
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.|
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 ...|
|Er, the post orifice is on this side of the box.|
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.