I had a gut feeling as I bought my minibus ticket to go to Pai from Chiang Mai. The feeling was…in a nutshell, “Don’t Go.”
But everyone told me I had to go to Pai. So…I did.
I was reluctant even as I was boarding the bus, mainly because I loved Chiang Mai so much and I didn’t want to leave. But, got on the bus I did.
I had heard horror stories of car sickness from the 762 turns on the road that leads to the little town. Luckily, no one was sick in my bus, so the drive to Pai was tolerable. I quickly learned, though, that a tolerable ride to a place that you don’t really want to go becomes a miserable ride.
I took a long walk to my hostel and it wasn’t what I expected. The atmosphere and the people were amazing, the room was decidedly less so.
For the first time in the two weeks I’d been in Thailand, I was unsettled.
Pai was beautiful, but packed with backpackers who were just passing through or had come to live in the little hippie town. Even so, the pace was slow and lethargic. Maybe it was too slow of a pace for me, especially after spending the last three years in New York. Maybe I wasn’t ready for such a chill place. It was a shock to my system. I was all like, “What’s up with all this nature?!”
There were parts of Pai I enjoyed–I certainly wasn’t miserable for the entire 48 hours I was there.
I liked getting to practice my motorbike skills, since I didn’t do so hot riding one the first time. I got to meet up with some of the people I had met in the past couple of weeks. It was a nice mini-reunion. I certainly liked the laid back atmospheres of the bars, especially in comparison to Bangkok. (Edible Jazz was my favorite!) The walking street at night, lined with stalls of food and souvenirs was nice to stroll (and eat my way) through.
When my two nights were up in my hostel and it came time for me to decide how many more nights I wanted to stay, I made a spontaneous decision. I had anticipated staying for at least three nights, but as I pulled out my wallet to pay for another night, I changed my mind. Instead, I booked my bus ticket back to Chiang Mai for the next day–barely two days after I’d arrived.
At first I felt guilty, like I was moving backward, but once I arrived back in Chiang Mai, that guilt disappeared. As soon as I got off the bus in the city, I instantly felt better–like I was home.
It is my first travel lesson in listening to my gut and traveling my own way, even if people tell me to travel differently.
Now, I am camped out (and incredibly content) in Chiang Mai for about a week until my visit to the Elephant Nature Park!