Jan 3-5, 2021
Visiting Aida and Sofie in Pai
Location : Pai (district), Mae Hong Son (province), Thailand
I love Chiang Mai. But when Ashtanga yoga teacher, Aida and her daughter Sofie, invited me to Pai for a New Year break, it felt like a refreshing R&R from my routine. Also, it would be great to see 'Madonna and Child' one more time and see how they're doing.
Last time I was in Pai was exactly 2 years ago, fresh from my 3-week stint at the Wat Pa Tam Wa Temple for my Vipassana Meditation. I've always had fond memories of Pai as a quaint hippie town.
Madonna and Child
It was great seeing Aida and Sofie again. They remind me of a past life when I was still with my kids, who at that time was of Sofie's age now. Sofie's upbringing is unique because she's not corroded by normal establishment traps. She is home-schooled by Aida which means knowledge that goes to her is already filtered from government or social bias. They don't watch TV, so mainstream propaganda cannot reach them. They are both in pursuit (or at least, Sofie is immersed) of expressing their true selves through the tenets of yoga, spirituality and conscious evolution. Aida doesn't baby-talk Sofie, so Sofie and I can carry on a conversation as two adults (of course, being mindful that Sofie is still a tender child with very limited life experience). Aida and Sofie are in their own universe while interacting functionally with the default world. I am really curious how Sofie would be like when she becomes an adult. How would she differ in her ways from the rest of us? I haven't met such person. Not yet.
Pai's Hippie Community
Pai has a tight resident hippie community - they are a tribe. The hippie transients have already left for Kho Pangan (for fear of a lock-down), leaving those who call Pai their home. This leaves a sense of grounding with roots. In fact, Pai probably has more grounding compared to Chiang Mai where people I meet are either arriving or leaving (and just staying for a bit). Also because Pai is a small area, you can hang out in any cafe along the night market and see all your friends pass by - this will not happen in Chiang Mai. This leads to more hangouts and activities (sauna, ecstatic dance, etc.) which can go into the wee hours. Indeed, this seems to be the life in Pai - laid back, socials, and hippie rituals. Of course, they need to do their shtick (a person's special talent, interest, or area of activity) to keep afloat.
The Dog Bite
As misfortune would have it, Sofie got bitten by a dog when she tried to pet it while sleeping. It was a deep bite that required a trip to the nearby hospital and anti-rabies shots. Definitely not a pleasant experience for a 7-year old. Although traumatic, I see such things as rites of passage. Sofie is still fortunate to be surrounded by loving and caring people who created a safe space for her during this trying episode. Other kids aren't as lucky.
I had time for myself coasting on Aida's bicycle around the main drag. I found familiar spots that brought back happy feelings. I took pictures of Pai's street art which added animation to this already animated place. Hanging out by a student cafe, I saw familiar faces whiz-by on their motorcycles. Indeed, Pai is small with its fairy charm.
The Forgotten Backpack
There were a few noteworthy synchronicities to this trip, one of them being my tattered 15-year old NorthFace backpack that was begging for replacement. It has been repaired and stitched a zillion times and was falling apart. But still, I would stubbornly not replace it, even though it was already uncomfortable to use. During Gabriella's New Year party, it was forgotten, leaving me with no pack for my Pai trip. Solution? I had to buy a new one, given the rare moment I actually had money for a new pack. Upon arriving home, my old pack was miraculously at my hotel already - Gabriella brought it with her (love you dear ❤). But too late, I already bought a new backpack (thankfully!). This new pack simply made travel so much more pleasant. I should have replaced it a long time ago. As I mentioned to Swan, "Hey Bro, just to let you know, your 'forgetting' to bring my pack, actually needed to happen, given how things unfolded for me. Yes, without your knowing it, you played your role in my karmic process. No such things as coincidence."
I thought I would stay longer, but after 2 nights, I felt complete. I didn't feel the need to remain longer. I packed-up, bid Aida and Sofie goodbye and I was off to my beloved Chiang Mai. Pai will always be special. I'm sure I'll be back.
Thank you Aida and Sofie for opening your home and giving me a privileged glimpse of the special lives you both live.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
- Pizza Nite with Aida and Sophie Mar 14, 2022
- Visiting Aida and Sofie in Pai Jan 3-5, 2021
- Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga Yoga with Aida Yoga Oct 18, 2020
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Pai FYI / Tips
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is clustered near the bus station. You're not too far away from anywhere in Pai
- November through March is high season
- late December to early April is burning season (wide areas are burned to clear land for the planting season, but the air becomes heavily polluted)
How to Get to Pai from Chiang Mai
- Pai is one of the most common destination from Chiang Mai and they have developed a system around it. At the Arcade Bus station in Chiang Mai (platform 13), there are vans leaving for Pai through these transport companies - Prempracha and Aviabooking (3 hours of winding road, B150). You will be dropped-off at the Pai bus station. It's walking distance to the hotels from there.
- Chiang Mai to Pai vans take hourly trips beginning 6:30 am to 5:30 pm
- Pai vans to Chiang Mai take hourly trips beginning 7:00 am to 5:00 pm
Things to do, Places to go in Pai
- Pai Canyon (Kong Lan) - 8 km from Pai with nature walk and open lookout with panoramic view
- White Buddha on the Hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) - 353 step leading up to the White Buddha on the hill, overlooking the valley below
- The Land Split - in 2008, the land cracked and opened 2 meters wide and 11 meter deep...the widening continues through the years. Donation-based to the farmer who makes hibiscus drinks. Along the way to Pembok Waterfall
- Pembok Waterfall - drive out to kilometer marker 93, you will find a sign that points you to Ban Pam Klang on your right. If you take that road & drive for 8 kilometers you’ll find Pam Bok Waterfall on you right hand side just before reaching Pam Bok village
- Tha Pai Hot Spring - 8 km from Pai in the Huai Nam Dang National Park, just 2 kilometers off Route 1095. Water temperature at 80° Celsius. B200 for foreigners. Best to use the private spas for B100
- Charn Chai Muay Thai Gym - located within the city, the place to learn Muay Thai, Thailand's national sport. 174 m.1 Chaisongkharm Road, Pai, Thailand 58130
- Mor Paeng Waterfall - 3-tier waterfall with chance to slide off rocks into the pool...but be very cautious as the 2 tiers are not doable
- Nam Yang Kung Fu - study Kung Fu and practise meditation in a retreat format
Pai Cost Index(US$1 = Thai Baht 35.691 = Php 46.791 as of May 22, 2016)
- B55 small bottle of Leo beer
- B40 standard price for a soup noodle or rice topping dish
- B40 hot coffee in a decent cafe
- B200 one hour massage
- B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours
- B20-30 coin operated laundry
- B150 van to Chiang Mai, 3 hours
- B100 dorm room, shared toilet during low season
- B10 one hour, internet cafe
- B30 haircut
- B14 1.5 liter drinking water
Travel Tips for Thailand
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
This process is BEFORE Covid 19. Not sure what it is now.
- Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
b) flight booking to Thailand
c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
d) filled-in tourist visa form
e) 2 passport pictures
f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
g) passport with at least 6 months validity
- After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
- NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.
60-Day Thai Tourist Visa
NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.
- bring the following to the Immigration Office:
a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
b) Baht 1900
c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
- submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
- when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
- when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
- when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.
Book Train Tickets in Thailand
Book Train Tickets in Thailand Online by Train36.com
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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