|Pai Now cafe made the town of Pai famous ...|
You see the curving, meandering, side-winding road has around 1100 curves in it, and -- by my unofficial count -- conservatively about one coffee shop per corner.
But what's great is there is not a Starbucks in sight. All these are home-grown coffee shops. Real cafes. Usually with charm. And art. And a smile. And, most importantly, coffee to keep you alert along the often precipitous route.
My favourite is probably Pankled, which is only about 50km or so out of Chiang Mai near the Mork Fah waterfall turn-off. A love swing seat. Acres of landscaped lawns. Paper umbrellas. Original silk-screen prints hanging in the toilets.
Then you get to the hill just before Pai and there are at least 20 coffee places perched on the hill, the most famous being Coffee in Love. Little known fact: You are not allowed in to the town of Pai unless you can show them digital photographic proof that you have stopped and taken a cheesy or cutesy photo there. Really: there are military roadblocks to enforce this, jing jing.
In Pai itself, Pai Now is the most famous coffee shop. In fact, you could say that that coffee shop spawned the town because of it's appearance in the Thai movie Pai in Love. Of course there are hundreds of imitators all over the place.
By now, your hands are already shaking violently, eyeballs popping and threatening to spring from their sockets.
Then every Ma and Pa shop on the way to Mae Hong Song dishes up coffee, coffee, and more coffee, all grown in the nearby northern Thailand tablelands of course.
It's Gonzo travel with a difference. Great trip, man!
Problem is, I won't be coming down for at least a week ...