Pai is truly a curative paradise.
Like many others, I battle with the constant ‘need’ to be doing, seeing and accomplishing. I push and push trying to make it to that next big thing and when it doesn’t come as expected, or at all, frustration can set in. This frustration is often brought on by unrealistic expectations of situations, people and places.
During the end of my one-month jaunt through Thailand I found myself falling into a negative rut due to expectations about how things ‘should’ve’ been and spreading myself too thin. The outgoing extroverted side of my personality that was shining brightly during the beginning of my trip was also starting to fade, and I knew I needed a break from the constant “go-go-go”. It’s all exhilaration and thrills until you’re exhausted.
As I left the frenetic pace of Bangkok behind my “plan” was to fall in love with Chiang Mai—but the universe had other things in store for me. The city was too busy for my liking, and I found myself in a vulnerable situation with another traveler. Within five days I could feel I needed something else. I wanted to find somewhere I could slow down.
Serenity in Pai, Thailand. Photo courtesy of Marina Ivanova via Shutterstock.
I’d heard stories about you, Pai.
Your natural beauty—canyons, hot springs, mountainside views to be explored by motorbike and days spent lazing in hammocks. Situated between the bustling city of Chiang Mai and the relaxed Mae Hong Son, it was only a few hours drive away. Five U.S. dollars later and I had a ticket for the next mini-van into town.
After a 3-hour journey from Chiang Mai through winding mountain roads, with a driver who had me clinging to my seat for dear life, I finally arrived. Despite the streets being alive with people making their way through the night market the pace of things seemed slower. No one seemed to be in a rush, the constant hum of motorbikes didn’t seem as hectic as the larger cities I had visited, and the drunken backpacker madness at large in Bangkok was replaced with chilled out vibes.
As I wandered the dirt roads looking for a place to sleep for the night I could tell I was exactly where I needed to be.
Pai, the hippy aura you glow made for an eclectic mix of expats, travelers and local inhabitants—which I thoroughly enjoyed. Though small, there was a relaxed nightlife scene with reggae bars, a nightly market filled with handmade goods, and a wide variety of foods including Western, Indian, vegetarian and Thai dishes. But I was there to experience your beauty beyond the town itself. The surrounding natural wonders beckoned me to come and ground myself.
To clear my head the mornings were spent gazing off the hillside balcony of my hostel as the town below me slept. The morning air was always cool, and being at the tail end of the rainy season the view was lush and green. Relishing in the scenery around me I was given the much needed reminder that connecting with nature always brings me back to my center where I feel at peace.
Rak Thai Village in Pai. Photo courtesy of narokzaad via Shutterstock.
For 12 days I explored your alluring essence, and as each day passed it started to feel like a weight was being lifted. I allowed myself to be open to what each day could bring and the universe so kindly put me in the company of an amazing group of people. Days were spent speeding down open roads past rice fields with the mountains peaking through in the distance. On the outskirts of town we found natural caves that we toured by boat, a canyon to hike and natural hot springs to soak our bones.
There were moments of absolute bliss as I meditated in the sun at the top of a waterfall, walked barefoot through the canyon at sunset and took in the breathtaking views, wind in my hair, by motorbike. The simplicity of moments like that is what made them special.
By being present and observing the world around me I was no longer focused on my irrational needs of needing to be some ‘perfect traveler.’ Instead I focused on redirecting my thoughts to appreciating being able to experience a small sliver of this glorious world.
As I made my way back to Bangkok for my flight home almost two weeks later it felt as if I had been cleansed in some indescribable way.
One of the greatest gifts this Earth gives us is always being readily available to take us in and refresh us from the burdens we tend to create for ourselves. I hope that this in turn can spark the desire in another to find their connection with nature. Maybe you find your heart at ease on the shores of a beach, hiking through the jungle or even your own backyard. Whatever it may be, plant your feet in the sand, splash in the waves, breath in that fresh mountain air as deeply as you can.
Remember to have gratitude for the world outside your door and it will heal you.
By Mariana Ruiz
top photo credit: Pai agricultural district. Photo courtesy of sandyman via Shutterstock.