Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 23: Pai in the sky

My usual habit of waking up and hurriedly packing occurred once again, Sarah had sensibly packed the night before but my shit, as always, was spread out around the four corners of the room. The minivan which was taking us to Pai arrived promptly at 10am, got us first, then spent nigh on an hour picking up its other passengers. You win some, you lose some, we lost this one. After all the milling around we hit the winding roads towards Pai. Apparently there are over seven hundred twists and turns on the three and a half hour drive, but I was busy doing my homework whilst we winded up and around the mountain roads, so I didn’t notice much else. We stopped off half way and sat amongst some sunflowers, sharing a friend-maker with two Irish guys called Gerry and Philly who had been to Pai already and loved it so much that they were heading back. My friends Kat and Rachael were also planning to do that, which says a lot about the place. We arrived and checked out a hotel called Blue Lagoon which was meant to be pretty nice and have a swimming pool, which is useful in places where there’s no beach nearby, and checked in for the reasonable price of 400 baht. We realised soon after that the place was in major need of upheaval. The pool was really dirty and filled with dead bugs, there was only one sun lounger, a few broken chairs, a rusted, unusable exercise machine and a busted up pool table on offer to what few guests remained in this dilapidated dwelling. Regardless, I did a few lengths making sure my mouth stayed closed, as I’d already eaten lunch, then lay with Sarah catching the last rays as they dropped behind our building, and watching the highlights of Arsenal’s match the previous day. It was a strange, entertaining game which excited and annoyed me in one fell swoop. Typical Arsenal, conceeding a load of goals but still scoring more. Not only was our hotel in need of some drastic T.L.C, it had absolutely no vibe or character to it at all, it was the hotel equivalent of a bookish fifty year old that got left by their lover twenty years back and didn’t have the heart or confidence to try again. We decided to leave the next morning. We cleaned up, then went off to explore the town. The first thing I saw was a sign outside which read ‘Hotel for sale’, which I hadn’t originally noticed when lugging my luggage in the sweltering heat of the mid-afternoon. It all made sense after that. We checked out the main square, and walked along a rickety old bamboo bridge and back as the sun was lowering in the sky, then went off for an early steak dinner. I’d heard this town was laid back and stoner friendly, so we thought we’d test the water by smoking an appetizer at our table in the restaurant’s front garden. Nobody seemed to care or notice. Nice…nice.

A river runs through it
Our next stop was a happy hour bucket of Mai Tai at a small bar called Almost Famous, after I’d heard them playing ‘Who loves the Sun’ by The Velvet Underground as we were walking by. Whilst drinking from our bucket I noticed that one of their signs said ‘Est. 1978’ underneath the bar’s name, and another said ‘Est 1987’. It made me laugh, because both of those dates were probably made up anyway and the place was more likely only a few years old. As we were leaving they played ‘Nas is like’ by the man himself, so I insisted we stay until it finished. Pretty good work for entrance and exit music in the film of my life. As recommended by Kat and Rachael, the sisters I’d befriended in Laos, we sought out a bar called Ting Tong, which apparently means ‘crazy’ in Thai, and took a seat in front of a fire that was burning out front with chairs and cushions all around. There was a mirror which had ‘Are you Ting Tong?’ written above it, and a sign in a tree which read ‘Welcome to Pai’. There was a good energy in this place, and some cool looking Thai guys working there. I started chatting to them and it turned out that they were Tek and Tutu, the two guys who the girls had told me to find. I passed on their messages of love to the guys, had a few drinks with my lady and found a book called Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, which somebody had left there. Sarah said it was a great read, and as I wasn’t really enjoying the ‘Gig!’ book by Simon Armitage, which I’d been given for my birthday, so I asked the guys who it belonged to and they said that they didn’t read, and I could have it. As we left we made plans to spend the following day with them, and Tutu gave us a paper lantern to send into the skies with a wish. We decided to save it for the following evening as we’d been planning to make it special one, then turned in for the night at our neglected step-child of a hotel. I could hear the walls weeping after another night with no supper, so I gave them a stroke and said that I loved them, before switching the light and ending my night.

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