As my time in Northern Thailand is winding its way to a close, I’d figure I’d share more pics to show you what the mountains up in this part of the country are like. The highlands up here are (believe it or not) the furthest of the foothills that radiate out hundreds of kilometres from the main ranges of the Himalayas. They don’t reach up high enough to get snow in the winter time, but they do provide a bit of novelty for the Thai population nonetheless, as the coldest nighttime lows in December/January get nippy enough to cause frost to form!
Despite the fact that I described them as foothills, these mountains aren’t small exactly … you see that squiggley line in the side of the hill ahead? That’s just two of over 1,800+ curves on the Mae Hong Son loop, a popular motorbiking route that includes the mountain valley paradise of Pai. This road is not so great if you’re stuck in a bus or minivan, but a pure joy to ride on a bike (word to the wise #1: don’t rent a Honda Click, as you will struggle to get up steep inclines … word to the wise #2: check your fuel often … it’s actually remote in this part of Thailand!)
Just in case you think North Americans have the market on tacky tourist stuff cornered, think again! In addition to all the Coffee In Love attractions in nearby Pai, at the mountaintop viewpoint between Pai and Sappong, you can pretend to be a Karen tribesperson! Not my cup of tea, but I did find it amusing on this day in Thailand’s hill country!
Have you done the Mae Hong Son Loop in Northern Thailand? What did you think about it?
When you look at things like infinity pools, it’s easy to assume that these things can be only can be enjoyed by the super-rich, who have the cash to burn at $300/night hotels.
But those are the rules of the developed world. In Thailand, things are done just a little bit differently.
On the grounds of the Baan Krating Resort in Pai Thailand, there is an amazing infinity pool located just above the banks of the peaceful Pai River, with clear views out to the mountains that rise on the other side of the valley. While it is definitely more affordable to enjoy a touch of luxury here than back in the West (room rates start at 1800 baht or $60 USD a night), the common people can also sample an afternoon beside this aqueous oasis for an entrance fee of (drum roll please) …
50 baht. That’s about $1.65 USD for those of you doing the currency conversion at home.
To find this place:
Rent a scooter in town if you don’t have one already, and follow the handy dandy map I constructed for you below (I love Microsoft Paint 🙂 )
Have you ever been to Pai, Thailand? Got secrets to share? Divulge them to the travel community in the comments below!
Travelling to any area is made infinitely better when you have a local contact that knows about the many hidden secrets it possesses. For me, that was my friend Katie, whom I worked with at Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park back in Canada for three years. In the winters, she typically lives in Pai, located three hours northwest of Chiang Mai on a winding mountain road (762 puke-inducing curves, yeehaw!), a pastoral mountain valley with a series of small friendly towns and villages, and a lazy river running through the middle of it all.
This part of Thailand is also known for its hill tribes, people who have been traditionally nomadic, having immigrated and migrated across silly imaginary lines on a map for centuries. Back in the 1970’s, there were at the centre of a troublesome drug trade, growing opium poppies to get by from year to year.
Realizing the importance of getting them out of this destructive trade, the King and Queen of Thailand initiated a program to get them to grow high value temperate zone fruits and vegetables, allowing them to interact with the Thai economy in a legitimate fashion. Today, alongside a burgeoning handicraft industry, this is what keeps these folks gainfully employed and productive in Thai society.
The pic above is of recently cleared farmland, reached by muddy pathways that needed to be negotiated with great care, as the wet Earth can lead to slippage, and potentially a motorbike on top of your legs! Ouch!
Ever been biking in Pai? Share your favourite places to go to outside of town below!
On my first trip to Thailand, I spent a lot of time in the mountain paradise of Pai. About two weeks to be exact.
During that time, I experienced many of the things that the Pai Valley had to offer, including one of many elephant camps.
Thanks to my friend Katie, who seemingly knows half the people in town due to spending seven winters in this sleepy place, I was able to meet my new pal shown above.
Bob, was hungry, so I fed him some delicious elephant grass…
… and found out that he was more than pleased with my generous gift. Awww, elephant cuddles!
Have you connected with a friendly pachyderm on vacation in Thailand? Share your tale below!