As we bolted down (rasen) the highway out of Chiang Mai doing 120km/h, I started to wonder (such fragen) if this journey would be so bad after all. The 146km from Chiang Mai to Pai was supposed (sollte) to take three hours but we’d be there in no time at all this rate (Geschwindigkeit). Had I really not learned anything from our minibus travels in Asia?!
The small mountain town of Pai lies in the very north of Thailand, just 50km from the Myanmar border (Grenze). It is set in a valley (Tal) with stunning scenery (atemberaubende Umgebung) and is renowned (berühmt) as a chilled out backpacker favourite. The road winding (schlängeln) up the mountains from Chiang Mai is famous for it’s 672 corners (Kurven) which – we’d read in several (mehrere) places – could be a rather (eher) torturous (qualvoll) journey if your bus driver likes the throttle pedal (Gaspedal) (every single bus driver in Thailand then!). But we’d done a three hour bus through the mountains to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia so how bad could this really be?!
And as we took a stop at a service station at the 1.5hr mark we both agreed that the journey so far really hadn’t been too bad at all. Sure, he was driving quite fast (ziemlich schnell) but we’d surely turned a good number of those 672 corners by now? How wrong we were.
The ‘rest stop’ could better be described as an opportunity to psyche yourself up (mental auf etw einstellen) for the rollercoaster ride (Achterbahnfahrt) ahead. As we set off again, the bends got tighter (Kurven burden enger) and much more frequent (häufiger). Neither of us (Keiner von uns) are particularly (besonders) susceptible (anfällig) to car sickness (Autokrankheit, wenns einem im Auto oft schlecht wird)but we were both feeling quite queasy (uns war es ziemlich mulmig) after just a few minutes back in the van. Before we started the journey, I’d chosen the seats just behind the driver which are better when suffering (leiden) from motion sickness (weans einem schlecht wird, wenn sich etw schnell bewegt) as you can at least see the way ahead (voraus).
We were flung around (herumgeworfen) in the back as the driver flew into blind corners (toter Winkel) at breakneck speed (halsbrecherische Geschwindigkeit) and overtook (überholen) cars and lorries (LKW) without checking (ohne nachzuschauen). 672 corners sounds like a lot but, trust us, it feels like a hell of a lot more when you’re bracing yourself in your seat and hoping there isn’t a lorry coming the other way!
Upon reaching the summit (Spitze), the road mercifully (zum Glück) straightens out (gerade) a bit and we rolled into Pai town centre where we’d been told to hire (leihen) a moped for the 7km ride out to Pai Poshtel where we’d be staying for the next three nights.
Run by an English couple with a cheeky (frech) sense of humour called John and Gaynor, they have two small bungalows and one larger bungalow in the garden of their home. There’s also a pool and a nice common area and we felt right at home straight away (direkt). The larger bungalow is split into three with four dorm beds and two private rooms (one of which we’d be in).
By the time we’d checked in and dumped (abstellen) our bags in the room it was late afternoon so we hopped back on the bike and headed to Pai town to take a look at the street market and grab some food. The market is on every night and completely takes over three streets in the centre of town with a massive selection (Auswahl) of food and other handicrafts (handgemachte Waren). It was similar (ähnlich) to the excellent Chiang Mai Sunday market we’d been to a few days before except (nur) much smaller.
For starters (Vorspeise), Tessa had a freshly (frisch) fried spring roll and I tried a Northern Thailand spicy sausage (Wurst) which was delicious. As we wandered, Tessa spotted her favourite corn on the cob (Maiskolben) so we, obviously, had to have that too! We also tried some butter cake from a – very English looking – cake stand and finished off with some mango sticky rice. We were thoroughly stuffed (vollkommen vollgestopft) and the bike was definitely a little slower on the ride home!
Next morning we got up bright and early at 10:50 to have breakfast ten minutes before they finished serving. Seeing as it was already SO late in the day, we decided to just spend the day chilling by and in the swimming pool and also catch up on some of our backpacker administration (Verwaltung) (diaries, expenses spreadsheet and blog posts!).
One of the main reasons we chose Pai Poshtel was the fact they’d left some funny and rather sarcastic replies (Antworten) to some of the reviews (Bewertungen) they’d got on Booking.com. A bit of character from the owners (Besitzer) is always a good sign. However (Alleridngs), the more we sat and chatted (unterhalten) with John and Gaynor, we started getting the impression (Eindruck) that the sarcastic replies (Sarkastische Antworten) might not have been solely intended as a joke (nicht nur ausschließlich als Witz gedacht). In between the usual chatter, they seemed (es scheinte als ob) to spend a lot of time moaning (sich beschweren) about some of their previous guests (vorherige Gäste) and some of the, in their opinion, silly complaints (dumme Beschwerden) they’ve received (erhalten). Most were silly like the people who complain it’s a long way from Pai town – it is but they make it very clear in the description (Beschreibung) on Booking.com and LOOK AT THE MAP (SCHAU AUF DIE KARTE) – or that there’s not a 7-Eleven nearby – a good thing in our opinion! But we experienced (erleben) first-hand (aus erster Hand) that, in their eyes, the customer (Kunde) wasn’t always right.
The shower in our shared bathroom was rather temperamental (temperamentvoll) throughout our stay and when we asked them about it, they went on a rant (Schimpftirade) about how one of the other guests must have been playing with the knobs (mit den Schaltern herumspielen) and doing their laundry (Wäsche waschen) in the shower. If someone did laundry then wouldn’t they have had to hang it out (auffhängen) somewhere? John ended up ‘fixing’ (‘reparieren’) the shower but it still ran hot and cold whilst in use. It’s just not a very good shower!
Another uncomfortable point (unangenehmer Punkt) was a sign (Schild) they had in the common area regarding (bezüglich) guest reviews. The sign said that, as they had 9.7 score (Bewrtung) on Booking.com, 5 stars on Facebook and five stars on Trip Advisor, if you left (hinterlassen) a review less than that score then you would be “harming the business” (“dem Geschäft schaden”). This, along (neben) with the sarcastic replies to reviews, was clearly an attempt (Versuch) to intimidate (einschüchtern) people into leaving a very positive review or no review at all. Of course, they want 10/10 every time but websites like Booking.com and Trip Advisor are built upon honesty (Ehrlichkeit) and transparency (Transparenz) so the impression (Eindruck) they were giving off didn’t sit all that well with us (kam nicht gut bei uns an). That isn’t to say that we didn’t have a great time there as it is a lovely accommodation in a wonderfully peaceful (friedlich) location but those small points left a bad taste (Geschmack) in our mouthes.
During that day, John had told us about a monthly “hippy festival” that was taking place that evening so we thought we’d head along and check it out. The Pittalew Festival is a gathering (Treffen) in the gardens of the Pittalew Art Gallery, just outside Pai town centre, which is basically a big informal jam session on a small stage with a some stalls selling organic food (Bio) and drinks or handmade (handgemacht) goods. It can definitely be classed (klassifizieren) as ‘hippy’. And, as Tessa says, there are lots of ‘happy people’ there.
We grabbed a couple of fruit shakes and sat on the bamboo mats in front of the stage to enjoy (genießen) the music. Some of it could most definitely be described (beschreiben) as ‘experimental’ (experimentell) and some of it could most definitely be described as ‘crap’ (Mist/Schrott). Some of it was also very good, especially a French guy singing with an accordion.
We ended up staying for a couple of hours and had a good time even if some of the performers were of questionable ability (fraghafte Fähigkeiten). Still an evening well spent and another experience to add to the list.
Our final day in Pai was to be spent sightseeing around the town. The main attraction of Pai is the surrounding (umgebende) scenery and the atmosphere of the town; the sightseeing attractions are somewhat limited (limitiert). But there’s enough for a full day riding round the town so we set off early, this time having breakfast at 10:30am!
Our first stop was Pai Canyon which, as the name suggests, is a series of canyons which you can walk around. The views from the tops are pretty spectacular but it was a baking hot day (verdammt heißer Tag) so we didn’t end up walking round the whole thing. Our next stop was the World War Two Memorial Bridge just south of town. John had told us that it was actually constructed out of several bridges (aus mehreren Brücken zusammengebaut) as the Japanese had originally built it when on the retreat (Rückzug) from Malaysia and southern Thailand; deconstructing (zerlegen/aubbauen) bridges along the way to hamper (erschweren) their enemies (Gegner) and using the remains (Überreste) they brought along with them to build a new bridge crossing the River Pai. One of the metal sections has a stamp (Stempel) on it which, ironically (ironischerweise), says “United States Metal Products Co”.
Next, we looped round and drove into Pai town centre where we arranged ourselves another motorbike to ride back down to Chiang Mai the next day. The company, Aya, would take our bags back to Chiang Mai on one of their hourly (stündlich) minibuses whilst we rode through the 672 corners ourselves – much more enjoyable than being chucked around (herumgewofen) in the back of a minibus again!
Our next sightseeing stop was the Yun Lai viewpoint to the west of the town which afforded (leisten) us amazing panoramic views of the Pai valley (Tal). The first night of our stay, one of the houses behind Pai Poshtel had a gigantic fire (rießiges Feuer) in their yard which looked out of control (außer Kontrolle) (10-15m high flames) but John reassured (versichern) us that he was just burning foliage (Laub) which was common (normal) at this time of year to avoid (verhindern), as the Australians say, bush fires.
As we looked out from Yun Lai viewpoint, we could see many areas of scorched (verbrannt) earth on the hills around. It made us a little rueful (reumütig) that we were visiting in the middle of the dry season (Trockenzeit) rather than a few months earlier when the recently departed monsoons (kürzlich vergangene Monsoonzeit) would have made the already beautiful scenery even more spectacularly green.
Our final stop for the day was the Land Split (Riss) which was previously called the Land Crack, presumably (vermutlich) until a Englishman informed him of the unfortunate name (unglücklich gewähler Name, da ‘crack’ im Englischen ein Wort für das weibliche Geschlechtsteil ist)! In 2008, a farmer (Bauer) discovered (entdeckte) one morning that the field (Feld) behind his home had acquired (erlangen/erworben) a one-metre split (1 Meter breiter Riss) in the earth. Over the years, this split has grown (wachsen) to be several metres wide (breit) and even deeper (tiefer). It is quite an impressive (ziemlich beeindruckend) sight but, at the end of the day, it’s just a split in the ground (am Ende des Tages ist es einfach nur ein Riss in der Erde). The *really* good bit (Der *wirklich* gute Teil) about the Land Split is after you’ve finished (beendet)!
Once you’ve walked round the Land Split, you can sit down at a table and the farmer comes and serves you a glass of rosella juice (similar to hibiscus) alongside a selection (Auswahl) of fresh (frisch) snacks which he’s grown (anbauen) on his own land. Chunks of sweet potato (Süßkartoffel), peanuts (Erdnüsse), dried banana chips (getrocknete Bananenchips) and some sour-flavoured fruit (und eine sauer schmeckende Frucht). All delicious!
The odd (eigenartig) thing about it is that it’s all free! The farmer originally charged an entrance fee of 20 baht but the local authorities then wanted to charge him a fee as a business which he couldn’t afford (Der Bauer hat ursprünglich einen Eintritt von 20 baht verlangt, aber dann haben die Behörden eine Gebühr für ein Unternehmen haben wollen, welche er sich nicht leisten konnte). His answer to this was to let everyone in for free and then ask for a donation of whatever you felt it was worth (we gave 50 baht) (Jetzt kann man such alles umsonst unseen, und umsonst essen und trinken, aber er erbittet eine Spende). Really nice man, great food and drink and a very memorable experience!
That evening we returned (zurückgeben) our original motorbike, picked up our new one from Aya and ate again at the street market. Tessa discovered some delicious fried potato bites with spinach (Spinat) and cheese inside which she ended up going back to for seconds (Nachschub). Amazingly, she managed not to go for corn on the cob that evening but she made sure she had a few bites (ein paar Bissen) of mine! After trying a few other local goodies, we headed back home excited for our ride back down the 672 turns to Chiang Mai in the morning.