When you travel it is about seeing the sights and experiencing as much of a place, culture and people as you can but when you live somewhere I find you form habits, places to eat, where you shop, get your laundry done. I put travel on pause while I’ve been in Northern Thailand have come to call Pai just north of Chiang Mai home for the last year or so.
It becomes about finding a rhythm and for me one of them is what I like to call the laundromat where I eat if I am not going to Charn Chai Muay Thai. I came to Pai to do muay thai for a month or two and ended up staying for more than a year. In some ways it’s become home and I’ve come to know it well from the Pai Canyon, the swimming pool Fluid to any number of the walking street vendors. It’s good to get a chance to know a place and the people there even if it is through a simple greeting to the people at the local Thai shops where I get snacks, water or fruit.
One of my favourite places to eat in Pai, is a small restaurant that has no name. I call it the laundromat. If you go to the end of walking street in Pai and turn right to the street with most of the bars. Here during the day you will find in-between the aptly named Burger Queen and Almost Famous a small restaurant/laundromat that has a sign out for the cheapest place in town to get your laundry done, 20 baht per kilogram for the next day and 50 baht forthe same day.
You’ll notice that they also serve food there, this place is one of the cheapest places you can go for a meal in Pai where a dish can range from 30 to 50 baht at most. As a creature of habit I usually have the same thing chicken noodle soup or rice soup but they have curry, pad thai and a wealth of other Thai options to feed an empty stomach. You can grab a beer, have a fruit shake or have a coffee. It is open in the mornings around 8 or 9 am until 9 pm every day.
Pai as a tourist town is built for travelers from backpackers to couples and whoever and it caters to those with hippie tendencies and during high season it is always busy. But I usually go to the small local businesses or wandered down walking street in the evenings for a fruit shake, some chicken on a stick or a crepe.
Nothing beat the laundromat for me though for a meal, the people have always been nice, the food is good and you just can’t beat the prices in Pai itself. During the day it is tropical in Pai but as dry season has started to make its presence known you can feel the change in weather. As the sun sets within a few hours the temperature quickly cools and you go from being in shorts and a t-shirt to sometimes needing something more.
I got a simple long-sleeved green shirt from Zalora Thailand which you can above because of the cooler nights which can mean you don’t always want to be in short sleeves especially in Northern Thailand. While it is always hot during the day in the dry season night brings the cool and sometimes even the cold.
When I started going to this place I would do my own dishes after I finished and I just kept on doing it and then I started doing it for any dishes that were at the sink. It kind of became a habit of mine that I still do when I eat here. Probably one reason she remembers me.
In Pai you can find a lot of nice clothes but for me they tend to be too touristy and while I love the wrinkled elephant shirts as much as the next guy since I have more or less lived here I like where plain coloured clothes so I don’t seem like just another tourist. It’s cool to do but I just like being as nondescript as possible when traveling.
Living in Pai means that you are never more than a few hours away from Chiang Mai but sometimes going down those 762 curves can make it feel a lot farther. It’s not that it’s hard to go to Chaing Mai but I have seen many people feeling ill half way through the many curves especially now with the road construction taking place on the highway which makes the trip up to Pai or down to Chiang Mai even more off-putting.
Pai is a small place nestled in the valley in the hills of Northern Thailand. Since I’ve been here it’s changed a lot from the owners of certain places to the new building that start getting built during rainy season in anticipation of the high season tourist throngs that they know will be coming. Already just of walking street is a new hotel being built and just a bit further down another small boutique hotel catering to the high-end traveler from China who have seen the movie and others that come for a few days.
Pai has been a great place to stop, to live, to know and meet people. Many people just come for a few days but there are those of us where those days become weeks, months or even years and that isn’t a bad thing that is a gift I have come to cherish every moment. This will not be the last time I come here and I am sure that is true for many that visit Pai and I am sure we wouldn’t want it any other way.