Hmmm… where to next? The town of Pai circuits in rumors. In a mountain-fortressed valley surrounded in greenery this little corner of North Western Thailand is known for its music, art and New Age scene.
After hours of winding roads atop plunging cliffs and beautiful views we arrive at Pai and settle rather quickly in a gorgeous little bamboo bungalow in a garden by the river. Relaxing will have no problem here in the sleepy season, romanced by the cute balcony and hundreds of dragonflies flitting about. We decide to stay in for the night and take advantage of our little shack, which turns out to be a great idea as the reason for the low season pumels down wet around us, lighting up the night with spectacular lightning followed closely by cracking and long low rumblings of thunder. Wow, a storm to be revered for it’s power and beauty and a splendid ambiance for our indulgence in Sang Som and cards.Woo hoo Emm wins again!
Breakfast is always at a gorgeous little place across the road called Good life. Everything is made of wood and the walls are covered in wheat grass and books. We alternate between sitting at the table with swing seats and the little roofed platform with cushions, reading random books from the shelf and wishing we had more time and money as we look at the signs scattered about advertising yoga & Tai Chi martial application, music work shops, healing courses and inter cultural farming communities you can live with in the surrounding area.
The days are lazy and sweet, sometimes it’s the rain that encourages us to mosey around the hut or hang out at the cute little bars, sometimes it’s just nice to do little and eat, read, play cards and exclaim with wonder whenever we spot yet another crazy looking bug. A sweet smokey smell calls our attention to a nearby hut and we are invited to join Daniel and Avihai, a couple of Israeli guys, on their balcony for a puff on their Nagilla. Mmmmm, passion fruit. Conversation roams wide with these two and we discover more music and muse on the art explosion of Berlin and the ever popular subject of world politics.
The sun is out and it’s time to take advantage and see the many sites around the area. A motorbike is hired cheaply and we set off in search of Pai Canyon and a few Waterfalls near by. Zooming through the beautiful landscape we pass a cute coffee shop with a garden on its roof and stop for cheese cake. Adventurers have to keep their energy levels up of course. Falling water again and steps through the jungly terrain, over streams and small steps clinging to rock walls. More dragonflies and the buzz of unseen jungle life.
The small villages which zoom by house more small bungalows and old ladies calling at us to stop and buy opium. The small roads lead to an old chinese village nestled deep in the hills. Filled with the sweet smell of tea and a dormant wooden amusement park.
The path to the canyon is steep and filled with mysterious green-wrapped saplings and the forest has changed. Stepping out onto the plateau we have met the familiar sticky smell of pine and the ridges of the canyon rippling away like snakes in the air. The rocks have turned red and the cliffs are steep, all leading to ridges the width of a footstep. We trek the unknown depths of the canyon amongst a long dead riverbed and climb jagged cliffs to almost get lost in the patterns of pine.
The road to Tham Lod cave is a longer one, ( an hour & a half) but necessary to quench Tahn’s need for dank, dark places. We wind high this time to join the clouds towering above our little Pai valley retreat. It is cold in the sky and the roads coil tightly against the rock to keep from falling down the mountain. Two more Israelis stop to ask for directions and as the rain begins with ardour we zoom by their huddled forms struggling with ponchos.
Through treacherous cracks and downhill slides we emerge to shelter, huddled over bowls of rice as the water becomes a flood outside. The Israelis arrive and we decide that we must venture on together to beat the darkness. A small lady with lantern leads us slip-sliding through the mud to the huge jagged-tooth mouth of Tham Lod. A bamboo raft carries us into the dark with the dim light of the oil lamp casting shadows over the stalactites giving us the feeling of being lead into the under world via the river Styx. A rocky path appears in the soft yellow glow and our guide leads us deeper with us following in tow, drawn to the only light like moths to a flame. The caverns are GIGANTIC with the sound of running water flowing in the continuing maze of tunnels beneath us. Our guide calls to our attention every likeness a rock can have ( elephant ear, buddha, frog etc..) and we are soon blinking in the light once more.
Arriving drenched back in Pai we warm ourselves with the awesome that is served at the Curry Shack, by our third visit we had sampled most of their delicious curries.
Leaving Pai was hard, but our visa was running low and a place of darkness was to be explored.