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Partying in Pai & Arriving in Cambodia

Our next stop after Chiang Mai ended up being Pai, further North West towards the Burmese border. We hopped in one of the govt licensed mini vans for 150 baht each and set on our way. I don't know what else to say other than we loved Pai. The vibe of the town is so chill, with some amazing food on offer. I think on arriving in Pai we felt like we truly were on holiday.

I read somewhere that the further North you go in Thailand, the climate is supposed to get cooler. Maybe that's during the wet season but it only seemed to be getting hotter, still it's nothing a cold beer can't fix. On embarking from the bus, we struggled to remember where our accomodation was, but after a quick chat with some locals we were pointed in the right direction - confirming the lovely vibes we were getting from the town! We stayed at Pai Cat Hut, I found a deal on booking.com the night before, 2 nights for 1050b which equates to just under £20 - a mega bargain because the place is only a few months old, ultra clean and although it's in the centre of town, it's nice and peaceful at night. After grabbing a bite to eat at a local restaurant - I went for Khao Soi a typical Northern Thai dish which was uh-mazing and Shay for Morning Glory and rice - a dish which has become a staple in our diets here. We had a walk around town before settling back in the communal area during the hottest part of the day.

The next day we ventured out to see some of the sights in Pai, heading out of town Southwards, and on recommendation from two friends, we stopped for an iced latte at Coffee in Love whilst taking in the stunning views over the plain. I think it's possible I've seen about every single shade of green now, but it's not getting old. Everywhere is so flush with colour and life from the end of the rainy season. On finishing our coffees, we headed out to find the hot spring, but by this point in the day the thought of jumping into a boiling hot natural spring could not have been a worse idea really ha, and when we found out the entrance fee was 300b we did a quick u-turn to head over to the Pai Canyon. We took a couple of gormless selfies - we're still getting used to the selfie stick and focusing on smiling instead of whether we've got the background in the shot (evidence via instagram), and headed back to town, but not before stopping at the Pai Memorial Bridge. A real piece of history from WW2, the bridge was built by the Japanese so they could cross over the river to invade Burma, a British Colony at the time. After the war the Japanese destroyed the bridge, but it had become a vital part of life in Pai so the locals rebuilt it. Quite the unexpected history lesson and quite cool to come across a part of the history of WW2 that we're so unfamiliar with.

And so back to our accomodation we popped with plans of finding a tattoo shop for Shay - he was looking to get a traditional bamboo tattoo, so that happened! And then we had a night out with our new friends from Pai, resulting in us missing our 9am bus the next day to start our journey to Cambodia. But it's ok we pulled it back and owned our journey over the border. The reason for our failure to catch the bus can be summed up in two words, Sunset Bar. Filled with backpackers from all-over we had such a good night drinking Chang (for a change), laughing and dancing - although it was mainly me who was dancing - until it hit 3am, by which point we knew we had to head back to bed, reluctantly.

We jumped on a bus at 11am getting us back into Chiang Mai just in time for our 14 hour sleeper train back to Bangkok. Needless to say, this sleeper train wasn't *as* nice as the one we took on the way to Chiang Mai but we still managed to get comfy and catch some z's. We arrived in Bangkok at 5:30am, again just in time to catch one of two trains that would take us to the Thai/Cambodian border of Aranya Prathet/Poipet. The train ended up being 7 hours instead of 6 but by the end of our stint on public transport, we were happy to be nearing the end of the journey. After this I really felt like we were nailing this travelling thing, researching how to get somewhere and owning it, even with a slight setback. On arrival at Aranya Prathet we decided to stay the night instead of heading over the border for some well needed rest.

Eventually we found a place to stay in the border town, which doesn't seem to be a popular option amongst backpackers, it's a small sleepy town but we were smiling again once we had found somewhere to eat. Probably our cheapest meal in Thailand so far, Shay and I both opted for comfort food... a huge 40b plate of Pad Thai, complete with pork scratchings (insert heart eye emoji here). We chilled out and recharged our batteries ready for crossing over first thing in the morning.

We'd read that the later you leave crossing the border, the busier it gets so we thought we were being clever by leaving it to the next day. And at first we were pleased with our decision, we sailed through Thai departures, I think we were probably the first over that day, and the same when walking through the no-mans land to get our Cambodian Visas and subsequently through immigration. It probably took all of 30 minutes. But here's the problem, and definitely worth noting if anyone is planning on doing this; because we were the first through that morning there was no one else ready and waiting to jump on a bus or to share a taxi with to Siem Reap. We would have had to wait until 3pm for a bus, so we opted for the taxi option which took 2 and a half hours. We paid over the odds for it but we were happy to just be out of the border town and on our way to finally finishing this leg of the journey. We arrived in Siem Reap, bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for the next chapter of our journey.