I'm now on my fourth day in Thailand. We spent our first two days in a small northern city called Chiang Mai, and the next day in a tiny town called Pai (pronounced “buy”). Chiang Mai might seem chaotic and third-world to an American fresh off the airplane, but it seems cleaned-up and reasonably organized to me. The internet is actually fast enough to run skype. On our first full day there, we took a tour called Flight of the Gibbons, which involved an insane number of zip lines and rappels between various trees in the jungle. I got some great first person and third person videos.pyrokitten_mew
described Pai as similar to Berkeley, and she wasn't far off. I would instead describe Pai as more Berkeley than Berkeley... it's basically a rural Haight-Ashbury. Pai for whatever reason became a magnet for hippies, both domestic and foreign, and they've all settled in. Even though the downtown is not strongly Thai in flavor, it feels more authentic than a place like Vang Vieng, where the locals are in the business of extracting as much money as they can from visiting frat kids. Pai is hippies selling to hippies. The rumors of a bar callled “Buffalo Exchange” (with the same logo as the Haight St thrift store) are true... I have the pictures to prove it.
In Pai we signed up for an elephant ride. One particular business caught my eye because they let you ride the elephant bareback and “play” with the elephant in the river. It turns out that you climb onto a trained elephant by stepping onto its raised front leg and then hoisting yourself up by grabbing onto its ear. Apparently this doesn't hurt them. What's an extra 75 kilos to them? Elephant hide is very thick and covered in hair like toothbrush bristles. The skin is stretched so tight over its skull that the top of its head feels like a hairy rock. However, the back of the neck is warm and soft, and you can sit there. My friend visiting from the US, a pampered first-world princess who would not be offended by the description, bowed out early. This put her in an excellent position to film me “playing” with the elephant in the river, which consisted of the elephant dousing me with trunkfuls of water and playing the role of a rodeo bull while I tried to stay on. There are videos that should make it online at some point.
Chiang Mai has an organic restaurant called Blue Diamond. Even though it's mostly Thai food, it's the taste and atmosphere of home. This is not surprising, given how often I eat Thai food at home. They make their own ice cream, including hard-tofind flavors like lemongrass and dragonfruit. They sell Goji berries. It's full of *interesting* expatriates, as opposed to the other expatriates. The other expatriates consist of unattractive middle-aged foreign men paired with young slender Thai nymphs.
Long bus rides -> More Blogging.