Pai: A charming little town in Northern Thailand
When I arrived, I knew I had made the right decision. The 4 hour bus on very winding roads wasn’t so fun, but wow was it pretty here! I chose a small guesthouse with little bungalows as rooms. It wasn’t a very bright room and was very simple, but it was clean (no bed bugs this time) and there was a veranda over a small pond that had a lovely view of the mountains; perfect for yoga! I headed down to the ‘Walking Street’ to get some food and meet Tasi. This was essentially a street market, mainly of all types of food. There was mini-tasters, crepes, noodles, falafel, burritos, Indian – spoilt for choice!
I opted for traditional Thai food though as I was craving curry and still hadn’t had one. I sat on the normal plastic garden furniture and was joined by a red-headed, smiley girl named Dora, and we got chatting. She was lovely and we agreed to do a walk together in a couple of days as she had a cooking class planned the following day. I then went to meet Tasi, she was on the way to a festival, but we had some time to catch up. I I headed back along the road, but not before trying the dark chocolate truffles that I had spotted earlier on a stall they were rich and bitter but a satisfyingly nice chocolate hit. It was just over 2km back to my guesthouse and I quickly regretted having walked as there were no streetlights. I walked quick and got back safe, and was greeted with the peacefulness of the place, made even more so in the dark.
I got back to me with some yoga on the beautiful veranda that looked out to the mountains. Just what I needed.
I then headed off to visit the canyon. I walked the 8km there, you guessed it, along the road! This time it was a pleasant windy countryside road, and I got to really see Pai’s surroundings. This included a huge white Buddha and a chrysanthemum field with a bench in it for people to pray, where I met a small family with a very friendly little boy who wanted to know where I was from and here all about England. I carried on for another half an hour or so in the sun and got quite a shock as I was greeted by an elephant. I was told she was retired and lived in the fields behind their house but was kept here in the shade in the day. She looked bored, understandably so. I went to say hi and asked them if they gave her water, he said yes. She had tears running down her cheeks, but probably just from the dust, but it added a sadness to her.
I unfortunately then came across more elephants, this time in 2 separate elephant camps; Thom’s Elephant Camp and after that Karen’s Elephant camp. Two of the elephants were about to be ridden. This was a sight I knew at some point I would be met with whilst in Thailand, but the reality of it was worse. These huge majestic beasts, ???? to being a fayre ride for a tourist. The Mahout ushered the elephant to the mounting platform, huge bull hook in hand. It was midday by now and the sun was hot, not the time for elephants to be riding humans around, they would normally be finding shade and bathing in the mud, as these are native to the jungles of Thailand, not the desert. I stood and watched in despair, I began chatting about it to a woman nearby and soon realised that she was the parents of the 2 teenagers riding them. She said she had no idea what they had to go through to be trained and thanked me. Maybe she cared, maybe she just wanted to get rid of me, but I had to say something.
I walked on and was met by the second camp, this time no riders, but some hot and bothered elephants huddled together outside a shelter where their keepers sat and offered people rides. One of the elephants had an injured leg, it was obviously he couldn’t stand properly. They said he had it from an injury as a child. I asked if they had water and the guy pointed to a tap a little way behind where they were sat. He wanted me to get it. I got them water and they all rushed to the bucket and started spraying themselves. What kind of life is this for them to be stood in the sun all day waiting for tourist?! I went to each and met them with some love; an insignificant act, but it was all that I could do for them. Well that and make sure no one goes to these camps and hope they become a sanctuary instead for people to visit. I walked on sad, got round the corner and burst into tears. It was this kind of situation that is so upsetting, I couldn’t help, other than be their voice, and so walking away knowing that things wouldn’t change for those animals was hard. It is at times like these when the biggest passion I have arises; this fire of compassion that has always burned inside me and led me to want to help make the lives of animals better all over the world and help save the planet. I was born with it for sure, and is my purpose. It is brighter and stronger than anything else in my soul and I can’t wait to be able to do work to be a voice for animals, people and places in need of protection and help. I believe that some of us aren’t here to fit in, we’re here to change things for the better, usually in ways seen as controversial to the masses, but the only sustainable and loving way forward.
On the way I also passed the famous bridge that had been built, destroyed, and rebuilt many times by many different people, starting with the Japanese. It also included and unusual bunch of statues:
I got to the canyon; a big bag full of rubbish from the roadside in hand (what is it with people and littering!). It was quite a sight, kind of like a very mini version of the Grand Canyon. Most people were heading to the first outcrop and then heading back after photos, but I decided to explore. Some of this involved using my hands too, to scramble down red sand slick slopes, it was fun getting to where no-one else was (safely) and the view rewarded me.
This is what I posted after:
New Years Eve
I was in sleepy Pai and although there was a party vibe somewhere I’m sure, but after a yummy falafel wrap, I decided to embrace my quiet surroundings and reflect this on the inside also for New Year’s Eve; something than can often be tricky in the hype of travel. There is a tradition in Thailand to light a paper lantern and send it up into the sky on New Year’s Eve. Sat on the small veranda at my guesthouse, looking out to the mountains I could see all the lanterns floating up, and from afar they looked like candles in the sky. Then the fireworks began too; my decision to have a quiet relaxed night was a good choice. I swung in the hammock, confirming my goals moving forward and visualising the dreams I continued to have to make a positive mark on the world. I knew that my dreams were already being realised after years of manifesting, saving, hard work and planning and it became clear to me that all the little things, every moment is important in living the life you dream of and helping the world. I wondered how far I could reach out with love, so I sat and meditated under the stars, sending Meta out to the world <3
Mae Yen Waterfall (marathon) walk with Dora (who’s definitely an explorer)
The next morning I had a brilliant Skype session with Elyse, and then Dora met me to begin our waterfall walk. She said that she had mixed reviews that it was from 2 hours up to 6 hours walking, but that there didn’t seem to be a clear answer. We had all day anyway and I needed to train so off we went. Once we met the trail, we quickly realised that along this walk we were going to either take our shoes off a million times to cross the rivers, or we would do it barefoot – we opted for barefoot. Now this seems bonkers walking barefoot through the jungle, and well it kind of was, but the path wasn’t too stony and our feet sort of got used to it after a while. The water crossings were the tricky part as often you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet, meaning standing on sharp rocks or ending up deeper than you imagined. At one point I did just that, stepped in a deep part onto a slippy rock and ended up on my ass in the stream! Dora pulled me out, I was soaked, but luckily it was pretty warm and if that was the only incident of the day we were both relieved as we were by now a few hours deep into the jungle without phone signal; not the time to hurt yourself. We walked past a couple who were coming the other way, we had only seen one other couple previous to this, so it clearly wasn’t a busy walk. We were now on the steep part of the walk ascending up to the waterfall so we asked how far it was, the guy replied ‘not far’ so we assumed it wasn’t far. We were wrong and we concluded that he was a bit of a knob haha.
About 45 minutes later we reached the waterfall; not my idea of not far! It was pretty and deserted, so a nice place to rest and snack. Neither of us had brought lunch, faux pax on our part, but I had snacks (as always) so we had nuts and oat biscuits and then headed off as we had calculated that the 3 hours walk abck if we set off now would get us back just before dark and we didn’t want to be doing this in the dark that’s for sure!
We had food at the walking street that night, Dora had Indian and I had a burrito, which was my first Mexican fix since being away from home, and it was bloody delicious. If you go to this market, you must find the lady who sells lasagne and burritos! We then sat in a little café and treated ourselves to heavenly vegan chocolate cake and caramel steamed soya milk; enough to make anyone feel sick, but after the walk we had done, we really enjoyed it.