Pai – The 500 Baht Tour
Decided to head further up North for a couple of days, so booked a mini bus to Pai with the rest of ‘Niraj and entourage.’ The roads to Pai were… less than spectacular. A coworker advised me to sit close to a window as it wasn’t uncommon for people to upchuck their breakfasts on the way up. (there’s even a ‘vomit here’ sign along the road; thanks Deb, very VERY handy advice.)
Case in point…762 turns later, happy to say I survived the two-hour-that-felt-like-a-lifetime ordeal!
Got to Pai and settled in, really didn’t do much that day. I made reservations for a couple of muay thai classes across the road from my hostel (Charn Chai Muay Thai- the instructors there were absolutely the best, I highly recommend checking it out if you ever find yourself in Pai and feel like kicking something!)
Later that evening after dinner, I decided to set out for a short walk. The most of Pai is situated right off of one main road. You can find tour vendors, restaurants, and souvenir shops flanking either side of the road. I kept seeing signs for a ‘500 baht tour,’ so figured ‘why not’ and signed myself up for a tour the next day.
The tour began at 10 the following morning, the first stop being a lookout point up in the mountains. It was yet another rough journey getting up there, but the view made the struggle worth it.
Looking out over the mountains in Pai
After gazing off into the distance for some time, I, in the typical Jasmine fashion got a tad hungry. Looked around and found a woman roasting what looked like eggs and potatoes over hot coals not too far away.
Cue said Potato woman.
Perfect snack! These tasted like sweet potatoes, but with a way starchier mouthfeel. Cross purple potato from Pai off my bucket list…
It began to downpour so we piled in the back of a pick up truck and headed off. Next stop, Nam/Tham Lod caves!
These caves are known for their bat/bird inhabitants and rock formations. We were sectioned off into groups of four and assigned guides equipped with what I assume were kerosene lamps.
Once we entered the caves, I understood the need for the lamps.
Pitch black darkness, hi savior.
Leading the way
We were able to see plenty of different rock formations along our path to the back end of the cave.
‘Buddha’ rock formation
While making our way to the end of the cave, the bird chirps start to sound a little funky. One of the girls asked the tour guide and we learned that we were hearing bats, and not birds.
Cave buddies… Yikes!
Once we reached the end of the cave, we piled into standing row boats and made our way back towards the entrance by way of a small river running itself through the caves.
Now I was perfectly fine with this situation, that is until one of the guides lit her lantern for just a second. I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and noticed two HUGE spiders just inches away from my toes.
One of the spiders. I know it looks small, but it was easily the size of a tennis ball (legs included.) Before I could say anything, the guide turned her light on and I spent the remaining moments of darkness hoping to dear God that the spiders wouldn’t make their way up my legs. When light from the opening of the cave illuminated the raft once again, my spider friends were nowhere to be seen. Yeesh..
Got shat on! Bird or bat? We’ll never know.
But as with most struggles – warranted or not- the view was, yet again, very much worth it.
Stopped for a quick lunch at one of the pop up shops near the caves.
This might seem like a fairly unexciting plate, but let me tell you, never was I happier to see leafy greens. Throughout both Myanmar and most of Thailand, my ‘veggie intake’ was limited to carrots, beans, eggplant, and the occasional mushroom. Pictured here is ‘swamp cabbage.’ YUM!
Views out the back of the pick-up truck
Next stop, natural hot springs! The water in these springs are heated naturally (natural hot springs yeah yeah) by the Earth’s mantle.
A bit crowded, but gorgeous nonetheless.
Nature’s own ‘infinity pool.’
Threw on our bathing suits and climbed in. The water was a perfect temperature, safe to say we were all pretty bummed when it was time to go.
Our guide informed us although the tour’s next stop normally would be a waterfall, the rain had left the area rather muddy and unsafe for tourists. We opted to visit a local market instead. Some of our fellow group members were bummed, but I was pretty excited. If you couldn’t tell already, I love finding and learning about different types of foods. A local market is almost like a zoo.. but for food from that specific location. You can go and see hundreds of different types of foods that you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else. Perhaps a horrible comparison, but I like markets. A lot.
Egg rolls and gelatinous custards flavored with pandan leaf, coconut, and another flavor I couldn’t quite make out.
More desserts! These little plastic baggies are typically filled with a mixture of coconut milk and flavored gelatin noodles.
Can your fish get any fresher? Pictured to the left is swamp cabbage.
Crepe fillings! Honorable mentions to pizza and raspberry, very interesting….
I… dont know…
New friend who plopped down next to us while we watched a street vendor throw together a drink that seemed similar to halo halo. (mixture of coconut milk, milk, sugar water, various gelatins, young coconut, and mung beans.)
After circling the market quite a few times, we piled back into the pickup for our next and final stop on the tour. Pai Canyon!
Though the cloudy weather prevented us from watching the sunset, the view was still something else.
Headed back for dinner and stopped by a restaurant called ‘Na’s Kitchen’ as per glowing reviews on TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor, you do not lie. Although not as good as the Pad Kee Mao from Thai Singha to-go in Philly (must try if you’re ever near 20th Street,) this was absolutely delicious. The spicy noodles paired with the sweet Thai iced tea were phenomenal, I couldn’t ask for any better.