On Top of Pai, 8 Musts

pai-circus-infiniti-pool-blog

Pretty much everyone who visits Pai, Thailand extends their stay. This chill little town has been making it onto every backpacker's itinerary if time allows (the only downside being the aggressively windy 3 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai - there are 762 hairpin bends). I logged over a month here and would have extended except the wifi was pretty lackluster and my Visa expired!

  1. Cozy Pai: Only 150-200 thb per night, this spot is a 5 minute walk into downtown Pai and 1 minute up the hill to the famous Circus Hostel. You'll find great little bungalows, shared bathrooms and HOT water. There is a nice social atmosphere here but it's very chill and relaxed - a nice alternative to...
  2. Pai Circus School and Hostel:  Private bungalows are around 300 thb per night, slightly more pricey and the beds are hard as a rock (unless you upgrade to the newly built Presidential dorms) - or 100 thb for a day pass to the pool. What you're paying for here is the EPIC social atmosphere. This hostel has a capacity for 170 guests and has endless activities. This is the only hostel in Pai with an infiniti pool (known to staff as the Beverly Hills of Pai based on the hot topless chicks + shameless flirtation), circus act trainers from 4-6pm every day, a full bar and a small restaurant. And don't forget the Pagoda, this "smoke" friendly portion of the hostel is 4-20, 24-7. Read also: 
  3. Chedi Phra That Mae Yen: White Buddha overlooking Pai. Amazing place of worship and stunning craftsmanship. Recommendation: do not pay for a group tour, rent a motorbike, bicycle or get some exercise and walk. It's only 3.2 km outside of the city.
  4. Om Garden Cafe:  This tiny cafe has a robust healthy menu and is vegan friendly. The vibe is very chill and relaxed along with the prices. Note: They were closed for over 7 months in 2015 for "renovations" and have now reopened, let me know what you think!
  5. Pai Canyon: A preferred spot for sunsets just outside the city. Do not get a tour or van, they're too expensive and limit the fun with time constraints. Make sure to bring your shoes as this place is not very sandal friendly if you want to explore past the first hilltop (or do as I did and go barefoot!).
  6. Doi Mieng Lookout: This is an entire day adventure which requires good motorbike riding ability. Note, your passenger on the back will be walking from time to time as the hill gets steep and typical bikes won't be able to handle 2 people. Do not attempt in rainy season or just after a rain. Also of note, it isn't on most maps and most motorbike companies forbid riding to the Lookout (LOL OOPS). To get here, locate The Land Split and Pom Bak Waterfall, then keep driving straight and up. Some of the road is paved but most is not. There are big ruts and rocks in the road and in some parts expect to get muddy, BUT the view is quite worth it. At the top you can purchase petrol, snacks and beer, but they close up early and the prices are not cheap. Give yourself plenty of time and start early, as it would be a nightmare going down in the dark. P.S. SOMEONE was trying a yoga pose and kicked off the top of the #1 at the top... See photo evidence below! #guilty
  7. Saeng Thong Aram Markets: Local food market with local prices. Walking Street in Pai is great but caters to western tourists with higher prices. This market is local and there are rarely westerners, in the morning you can find fresh fruits and vegetables along with meat + fish. At night many local street food vendors show up. There isn't anywhere to sit and eat (aside from on the curb, which we did), but it's worth it! Of special note: Bags of curry and basil dishes, the pork (beef?) jerky, and the chicken vendor across the street.
  8. Piranha Fishing Park: A very chill + relaxed place to fish and drink cheap gin & tonics.  If you like to fish or just hangout in the shade during the day this is a great place. They have over 25 different fish stocked in the pond and a board listing the biggest of each species caught. Cost: 100 thb for 3hrs to rent 1 pole.

Of special note, The Promised Land is an up and coming party venture in Pai that a Circus friend is launching, looks PROMISING and epic!

Carnie Life Ends

We bid adieu to the Circus yesterday. I thought at times the end couldn't come soon enough (non-stop partying can get exhausting for an introvert), but once it arrived I was so sad. We had a traditional goodbye Leo (a beer "tradition" according to the Toastie King, a coworker named after his frequent late night 7 eleven runs for Toasties) and a big hash brown breakfast from Big's Little Cafe (serious must have Pai breakfast) w a crew of 10 fellow carnies who then cheered us on as we parted ways down the dirt road - and of course I was in tears.  

When we left, a portion of the transient backpacking community at the circus seemed to have leveled off for a few weeks with staff plus some longer-term residents. The rapport was on point and I really felt part of this strangely lovely, weed/alcohol/Toastie bonded incestuous little family. What follows are some quotable notes I took somewhere between the hours 11am to 4am during our 3 week stay...

  • "I don't know who sober me is anymore."
  • "My ex of 5 years would only ejaculate on my face, because he was very Catholic."
  • "I hate getting told I'm infected."
  • "I almost ate Jack's balls." (Jack, the now neutered yellow lab)
  • "My penis has been described as really fucking handsome."
  • "I can fit 30 ecstasy tablets under my foreskin."
  • "When we had sex he would make me listen to live music. He pretended the applause was for his performance."
  • "Getting choked out is like DMT, this is a game-changer."
  • "It distinctly states in the Pai Circus rules that we do not provide drugs for guests, however if you leave the premises and walk 200m to the right you will find _____, where you can purchase a bag of weed for 500 baht."
  • "I am going to miss you, I can't wait to see you grow up on Facebook."

We talked about normal things too, like our digestion and how Thai food was wrecking havoc. And who was banging who (cheers to one Brit, who averaged 2-3 girls every 24 hours for weeks on end). And which staff hut was a rockin' the night before (a real standing ovation goes to Mexican Undercover/Quadzilla). I baked brownies and banana bread from scratch with Thai ingredients (not thai weed) and both were a success which was as much of a shock to me as it should be you. Over 20 of us broke out in the Lion King theme (ayyyy sapennnaaaa...) when someone held up a fat joint. 

Pai Circus. A place where all the weirdos are welcome, most extend their stay and the days melt into nights. It's like the last day of summer that never ends. 

Pimp My Hut

hut-bungalow-pai-circus-hostel

Circus life continues. Free lodging in exchange for a few shifts of "work" per week. Me coloring on chalk boards while showing guests to their room, T staying up late night and hushing guests/breaking up debaucheries of all sorts... Sex on the trampoline + fist fights to name a few.

Our bungalow (hut?) just got pimped out (like pimp my ride but more of a glamping twist). I was whining about my sore back and trying to get a back-rub out of the deal but somehow this inspired T to renovate our space (and once began he was a man possessed). AKA borrow mattress pallets + plastic rug + fan from empty staff bungalow next door, rotate bed and bug net horizontally for optimal space utilization, check on-site storage for odds and ends to score a coffee table and re-jigger our clothes line inside so towels would be out of head range. Plus I scored the backrub as well.

Benefitz of pimped bungalow:

  1. Cozy environment to invite in others for a smoke of Indonesia's finest
  2. Babe magnet, "So you're T... I hear you have the best bungalow and you pimped it out... Can I see?" - "Probably not a good idea, my girlfriend is in there sleeping right now." "Oh"... I WILL CUT YOU
  3. Menta l health and less of a feeling of transient-homelessness

Mental Shift

It a mental exercise to remember what side of the road is the correct side to drive on. It's the opposite in the States and sometimes I just can't remember!

Another mental exercise is redefining my worth. I never put a ton of stock into being a "career woman" but I was fairly successful in <5 years of digital marketing from going from $18 per hour to $80+k. Now I am looking for scraps and odd jobs for freelance work and volunteering at a circus for free room + shift meals. This is not a complaint or a bad thing, however it is a weird mental shift. It's the space between.

elephant-girl-pai-thailand-travel-wander

The space between finding a place to live for a few months and getting divemaster certified.

The space between defining my budget and what I can earn.

The space between knowing for certain (or as certain as we can) that we should stick together as a couple or if we will part ways amicably or catastrophically.

I didn't save much to begin this lifestyle - in fact I basically only have what was budgeted for November's rent. So in terms of being an equal partner with finances I feel like I'm on really shaky ground. This isn't an issue between us, it's my issue. a lack of control and mobility. I'll have it back once there is a defined stream of income, but currently there is a certain scramble-mode in my brain.

The easy solution is pack-up + head back to the states, save some money, define income streams that are sustainable overseas... The creative solution is one where I find a way to create an sustainable income that allows me to save + live. The kickass part? I am debt free + that isn't going anywhere. I can live on very little and be happy. Pairing down my belongings to always fit in my 50L bag is an exhilarating feeling.  The rest? Ha, just noise. It will work it's way out.

Dawgz

Jack Daniels

Jack Daniels

I have a new dog almost every day. This is quite an easy feat, and thoroughly documented via my Instagram. The dogs in Southeast Asia coexist on the streets with a savviness that keeps most of them fed, humped, and not run over by the loads of tourists on motorbikes. So humped in fact that the females generally have nipples the size of my thumb that flop liberally, not dissimilar to a cow's udder.

The dogs here are quite creatively built. They are shortened + stout versions of all sorts of dogs we have in the States. In addition there is the occasional full breed that hasn't been mixed into the fold yet. An example of this is Jack Daniels, Pai Circus Hostel's yellow lab.

schnauzer-pai-thailand-dog-cute-love-travel-dog

On today's sojourn, I've joined up with a golden retriever and a schnauzer/wirey-furred old thing (who I have to kick out of the circus at least once a day). As my pack and I pass a farm, 3 angry dogs came out to protect their zone so I have to play my alpha card and shout them off. Further along our way, an Asian (non-Thai looking) couple motorbikes up and scolds Isabel (the golden) to come home. My wirey companion and I continue on for a bit but as we approach the circus, she realizes there will be no red carpet entrance (and in fact a fierce yellow lab protecting his turf) and we part ways. 

I miss my Olive, but having a little bit of time with many dogs around the world is such a healing experience. 

Brownie Delight

"You want in on this?"
"?"
"We're making brownies from scratch in the kitchen."

To be fair, I'd probably want in on any of the zany ideas that arose here at circus camp but BROWNIES?! F yes. A few of us then proceed to make brownies out of chocolate sauce, eggs, butter, flour and brown sugar. The color is a bit light and the consistency is pudding-ish but this is Northern Thailand and there are no brownie mixes nor dark chocolate that I am aware of. As I dig in on licking the bowl, the manager asks me, "So, umm do you trust the eggs in Thailand?" Hm, no-ish but I'm on day 3 of the typical Southeast Asia ailment of "peeing from my butt", so what harm could it do...?

At 3am I'm in the bathroom again. At 4 I'm tossing in bed w a fever and my hearts racing. T comes back and comforts me as best he can but notices my elevated heart rate (of course he does, these human ticks are exactly what he's trained in). 

"What is wrong and what is going through your head?" To be fair the physical responses are mainly due to the world of shit I put into my mouth that night after already being sick (spicy Thai family meal, brownie batter, brownies, 1 large Chang, some chips, some more nachos...). But it has also hit me - in Boston I had created a safety net for myself. no person or job or romantic interest could shake the stability I had set up for myself. A lovely apartment, supportive friends, financial freedom, autonomy, an active and fit lifestyle. I've surrendered that for this crazy adventure we are on and we are still only just getting to know one another! Being sick had magnified that because I wanted to be cared for a little bit, and holy shit I don't have a safety net. I've opted out of that. 

I explain this to him in not so many words (or maybe more, it's 4am, who knows) and he says "These situations bring out the best in people, when they are learning how to survive."

How true. My heartbeats slow down a little and I'm able to sleep.