Pai is a small town in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province, near the Myanmar border, about 150km northwest of Chiang Mai. The road between Pai and Chiang Mai is a very scenic route through the mountains which takes several hours. It’s a steep and winding drive, with 762 curves, so it’s better if you take a plastic bag or sickness pills with you.
Northern Thailand is a mountainous region. Mountains, jungles, rivers, waterfalls, hot springs garnish the mother nature magnificiently here. Pai is set in a large picturesque valley. Apart from the wild nature there are also some agricultural fields and rice paddies spreaded in the bottom of the valley.
How good it was to be in this calm and peaceful environment after the magnificent but deep and intensive spiritual journey in India. Thailand and Pai was offering me a serene and soft embrace. This was the perfect place to be to absorb all the profoundness of my realizations. I was relieved after leaving most of the burdens of my mind behind in India. As the domination of the mind ceased, simplicity and stillness arrived into my moments. And now it was such a delight to be surrounded by the spectacular nature and celebrate the beauty and colours of this life.
I found a beautiful, cheap and hippiesh hostel at the edge of the town. It was the best choice as I was not in the settlement but still close to it with a 20 minute walk. There are many options for accommodation but I guess the best ones are the traditional bamboo huts for a delightful experience.
I so much enjoyed to relax and rest here, gaze at the huge rice paddies and lush green hills, watch farmers work on their fields. It kept on raining softly almost everyday. I love monsoon, I love its mildness, I love how it brings many magnificent clouds up in the sky. Listening to the rain I love reading Rumi. As always he is radiating light into my soul.
“Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.
A white flower grows in the quietness.
Let your tongue become that flower.”
Pai river first originates in the mountains then meanders through the town in north-south direction. Almost each day I was having nice and long walks along the quite river bank. What an abundance of water the area contains.
Pai is a tourism-oriented little town but it still offers a relaxed, laid back atmosphere with a vibrant tourist and backpacker scene. The town’s permanent residents are a harmonious mix of Thai people with some Westerners. Town centre is compact and best explored on foot. But for the greater Pai area motorbikes are the best way to wander around.
So I discovered the whole region in four directions on the motorbike. It was amazing to enter magnificent valleys, go through the hills up and down, stop at some view points opening to breathtaking sceneries. Pai Canyon (above) is one of those attractions that is located 8km from Pai. It offers a great view of high rock cliffs and the Pai valley.
Another beautiful spot is the bamboo bridge (above) that stretches over the fields of lush rice paddies. It almost goes for a kilometer and takes you from the fields to an entrance of a valley, ending with a Buddhist worship place at the edge.
Coming to Pai, one should definitely visit Nam Tok Mo Paeng waterfall (above). I spent hours here, just sitting on the warm rocks, dipping my feet into the river and feeling its vital energy, listening to the sounds of the running water. Being in this dense jungle I was totally mesmerized to see the intertwinement of all plants, trees, ivys. Water is a great element that brings life to each and every corner it touches on the earth.
Pai also hosts natural hotsprings. I spent almost one of my whole day at the crystal clear waters at Sai Ngam hotsprings (above). What a treat it was for my body and soul to stay in the warmth of the hotsprings. Surrounded by the dense jungles I let myself fully to the healing powers of water for hours. Under the soft monsoon rain I listened to the symphonies of the birds, crickets and frogs. I was totally entranced in this heaven like environment.
One other nice walk is to the Wat Phra That Mae Yen Buddha statue (above) where you can reach by foot from the town. It sits at the top of a hill and has terrific views overlooking the valley.
Every evening the colourful food market opens on the alleys of the town which is one of a kind really. Every stall offers completely different food and you can try each type you like in small portions. It is one of the best spots to try traditional Thai food as well and it is great that the prices are so reasonable.
I guess I have seen the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Pai. I was so impressed by the diversity in the menus. Each food is so nourishing, vitalizing, detoxifying. They offer wide variety of vegetarian dips, herbal teas, fresh juices, herbal shakes, wheatgrass shots, seeds, herbal remedies, probiotics like kombucha, kefir. I found Earth Tone Cafe the best in town.
I enjoyed spending some of my time in these creative cafes. Decorated with colourful flowers the food was always a visual feast. What a pleasure it was to my senses. Visiting different cafes each day, I spent peaceful times reading, writing my diary, sitting silently and watching the surrounding or meeting some nice people. Stan is one of the dear souls I’ve met here. He is a meditation teacher using self-inquiry as the fundamental practice. What a nice coincidence it was.
During my travels in different parts of the earth, all my discoveries of the outer world goes along with the inner explorations. Sitting at this spot above, gazing at the peaceful fields and hills I remembered how my inner spiritual instinct guided me in the last 9 months since my journey had started. I once more recognized the inner force that encouraged me to proceed in my spiritual path with perseverance, determination and courage. Even it was so painful at times, I kept my attention firmly on grasping what I needed to know. I made great effort on purging the impurities to still the mind. I honour this great inner force and wisdom.
(If you get interested in knowing this process that brought me up until now, you can check my India days in chronological order. There may be something there resonating for you.)
After my encounter with my Guru Ramana Maharshi in India, I was seeing how my consciousness was gradually openning to the reality. Meditations were in deeper extents with the guidance of strong orientations. I was abiding in ‘I am’ awareness. This perspective was infusing into the moments without the need of a meditation sitting. It was even in my dreams now. Self inquiry and this awareness was reaching gradually into an effortless state. I was in deep gratitude.
Apart from the explorations of emptiness, of non-seperate self, I was benefiting greatly from Buddhist teachings on compassion. In Buddhist perspective compassion and wisdom are simultaneously fundamental to create a meaningful life. Big shifts in consciousness are so significant and precious but if they are not embodied out in the relative world then the path is not complete. I was realizing this more and more each day. The words of my Buddhist teacher, dear Venerable Namgyel were ringing in my mind; “When you are off your cushion (meditation sitting), always have bodhicittha in your heart.”
*bodhicittha; the mind that strives toward empathy and compassion for the benefit of all beings