I spent nine day on Koh Tao not meeting any people or feeling like socializing. It was fine, I did not mind. Pai was the exact opposite for me. Everybody seemed to be on the same wavelength and meeting people was effortless. You just walk on the street and strike a conversation with a stranger. Instant friends for life. Even before arriving to Pai, I met a bunch of people on the way thanks to hitchhiking. While most places are dominated by Swedish, Pai is different. No Svenska here, but Dutch are the majority, followed by Germans. There are a lot of Russians too. Not your typical package-trip type, but apparently a down-shifter crew from Goa. There are surprisingly many Finns as well. In fact I met more Finnish people in the span of two days in Pai than during half a year of my travels. Funny that. One of the most interesting encounters was Anna from Helsinki. It turned out that we share a bunch of mutual friends and I had been several times to the commune flat she lives in, never meeting her before though. It is a small world.
While most tourist places are catered to Western junk food, Pai’s speciality is healh-freak restaurants. Vegetarian, vegan, raw food – make your pick. There is a small restaurant called Link, where they prepare everything from scratch, including picking up vegetables from the garden. A meal can take up to an hour to prepare (considering it is one woman operation), but the end result is well worth it. Then there is Witching Well with its selection of exotic herbal teas and raw foods. My favorite one, though, is Good Life. A charismatic restaurant owned by a Ukrainian man Kostya, who made Pai his permanent home. Some of the specialities they offer include bortsh, kombucha tea (a fungus that turns tea into a fermented drink), a wide selection of fancy teas, wheatgrass shots and so on. Not your average selection of pad thai and fried rice. Add good music and an impressive library (I snatched Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) and you have got a recipe for a perfect restaurant. On top of that, the owner does vipassana retreats once in a while in a forest temple not so far away. And all that in a small town lost in the mountains of Northern Thailand!
Pai’s nightlife is versatile, but yet tranquil, without a messy touch. Live jazz and acoustic music is on every night and proper jungle all-nighters are twice a month. And if that is not enough, there are always things going on here and there. The personal highlight was the art-gallery/installation/live music event at Baan Pittalepew. I did not know anything about it and had no expectations apart from “a bar with live music”. What I found was a massive open-air space with an art gallery, a gigantic bonfire, quirky but quality live music and dance/yoga performances. Mind. Blown. Just like a mini-version of Fusion with a Thai flavor. On top of that it was the season closing and also my last day in Pai. It made me really happy that I had not left Pai two days earlier as I had planned to. Talk about excellent timing.