Thursday, 5 February 2009

A slice of Pai heaven

(I wrote this a while ago but didn't get round to posting it. Am now on my way to Phi Phi after spending a few days with my wonderful friends from home in Krabi, south Thailand. I will post some pix soon.)

I think I must have died in the jungle and gone to Thai heaven, or should that be Pai heaven? My guardian angels are Toshiro, a talented musician/film maker/photographer, and his girlfriend Lek, who runs a wonderful postcard gallery cum-coffee-shop. Lek makes the beautiful postcards herself from the most stunning photographs she has taken during her travels in SE Asia.

The Lonely Planet describes Pai as a place where the "hippy trail is alive and a cool, moist corner of a mountain-fortressed valley". It's cool not just in the temperature sense - the town oozes creativity at the twist and turn of every mountain road. Pai is a place where bright, young cartoonists mix with older fine-artists, where you find accomplished street performers at one end of a street and funky jazz bands at the other. Long haired, flared trouser wearing Thais and travellers mix with the gifted bohemians that reside here, without fail being caught up in the laissez-faire attitude that infuses this enchanting town like the delicate patchouli perfume one can smell everywhere. I hope that some of the creativity rubs off on me.

It's like a slice of Chorlton in south east Asia, but better. Even I, a Chorlton devotee, have to admit Pai has the edge, not on the art/music front, but one can't deny that temperate hot springs, cool rivers and lush mountain valleys are better than the water park. Only just mind.

My home is a tent in the grounds of Lek's shop (, but I'm far from roughing it. Inside you'll find a comfy mattress, a bedside table and lamp, and the facilities are of a boutique hotel standard. Rhan Lek Lek is at the foot of the sacred Mae Yen temple, which has spectacular views over Pai. In the morning you can see a "sea cloud", a candyfloss blanket of white, fluffy cloud, over the town. It's either that or I really am in heaven. I awake to the sound of chimes at the temple and clucking hens and their chicks that roam freely around the yard. Lek and Toshiro have been the most gracious hosts, making me feel so at home and treating me to the most delicious welcome meal of whole fried fish, Tom Yam Goong (hot & sour prawn soup), fried vegetables and rice. Thanks to Lek I'm eating things I have never tried before, such as delicious stir-fried forest fern. Yum.

When we go out we bump into so many locals it feels like home. Lek, from Bangkok, moved here two years ago. Like her, many people have migrated to Pai for it's impressive art and music scene. It's a perfect place for me to while away a few days, being inspired with ideas for Victoria's Vintage. That's when I'm not busy hopping on my moped to go to the market in the town, where you can eat the most deliciously piquant red curry for 40p.

My next stop is Chaing Rai, then I am racing down south to see Fi and Green, two of my fave peeps in the world. I cannot tell you how excited I am. I'm so excited that it took the edge off my nerves when I performed at my first open mic night the other night. Pictures to follow.

No comments: