Pai In the Sky With Diamonds

It’s official, we’re in our last new place of this trip – Pai. We went from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, staying there for a few days, then moved on to Pai, returning to Chiang Mai once we were done. The 130km journey is incredible, incorporating around 600 turns through the mountains, but it's not great for anyone who gets travel sick. It takes over three hours by minibus but the stunning views provide ample entertainment. 
Pai is a tourist town where there are more white faces than Asian ones, and it is about as touristy as a place can be. This can often cause a place to become a bit too much and the locals a bit pushy (Hanoi, Hoi An, Khao San Road, Bali, etc) but when it is done just right, it is delightful. And just like Luang Prabang, the atmosphere in Pai is just right. I’d go as far as to say that Luang Prabang and Pai are my fave places in the final four countries (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand). I would be inclined to agree...although out of principle I don't like to agree with David too often.

Now armed with a bit more spending power, in the form of Felipe and the joy of triple rooms, we stayed in the new Sylvana Pai Hotel. Run by a young couple, this hotel was a friendly and fantastic place to stay, and arguably the best place of our entire trip, and not just because of the massive all you can eat buffet breakfast! The room was really big, clean and well decorated.
The towels were arranged as elephants...
...and turtles
Another bonus of the hotel were the free tubes. After experiencing, as bystanders, the manic Vang Vieng, we were delighted to try tubing in the calm, shallow waters around Pai. The water was so low at times that we did hit our bottoms!
Notice the sunglasses
Notice the lack of sunglasses
Katie floated off and I needed to rescue her
The first night we bumped into Portia, a lovely English lass who has also taught English in Korea. We first met Portia on a ferry to Japan 5 months ago, and had spent the evening getting drunk with her and her boyfriend. Since that faithful night, we have accidently bumped into her (unless she is secretly stalking the famous blogging duo) in Kyoto (Japan), Manila (Philippines), and when we were roadside after our jeepney had broken down in Palawan. After four chance encounters, we decided to add each other on facebook and discovered she was two days behind us on Borneo - we feared that we would never see her again… But there she was in Pai.

The four of us (SobCoe, Felipe and Portia) had two full days on two motorbikes, exploring Pai’s surroundings, with the first day spent seeing underwhelming waterfalls.
Panoramic. Pai is stunning!!
As you leave one of the waterfalls, a local farmer provides a
superb feast of passion fruit, potatoes, tamarind, bananas, 

nuts, lychees, and roselle juice! All free + donation
Our bike gang - we picked up a lone Australian girl as well!
The second day involved another extraordinary journey on bikes, up and down a mountain, encompassing around 400 twists and turns, and eventually arriving at Lod Cave. Well that was the plan, but mine and Katie’s bike was a little older and struggled to climb the mountain. Worried we wouldn’t be able to both continue, we stopped and Katie offered to stay at the mountain-top viewpoint. When we did arrive at the cave, I realised that I couldn’t experience this without Katie by my side and so took Fel’s better bike back to get Katie – adding an extra hour and half of riding around these lush hills – what a shame!
The place with an awesome view where Katie stayed
When we finally arrived at Lod Cave, we paid for the bamboo raft return trip around all four sections. The cave was huge and very interesting - you can trust our judgement as we became caveoisseurs in Mulu, Borneo. I would argue that this cave tour was more interesting than Sabang (one of the new seven wonders) because of the lack of people and the run downness – it was more of an adventure.
Can you see the crocodile / rockodile?
One section was covered in bat poo (guano) and we all ended up feeling quite grimy but also adventury.
There was guano everywhere!
There were coffins, hundreds of years old

After three wonderful days and nights in Pai, we begrudgingly left for Chiang Mai to do some last minute shopping before returning home. We left firm in the knowledge that we would return – Pai is a place where I could spend a month, perhaps learning Muay Thai while Katie yoga’d.
Goodbye for now Pai.

Costs (per person)
Minibus from Chiang Mai to Pai = 250 Baht (£5, $8)
Pai Hotel Triple AC per room = 833 Baht (£17, $25)
Bike rental + insurance = 140 Baht (£2.80, $4.20)