Visit Pai!

Heaven on Earth. Not quite, but Pai is extremely good value. Here are some facts about Pai, and why you should visit:

The Climate: 30 degrees with low humidity. The air is fresh and clean, and contains very few mosquitos.

The Terrain: Pai lies just south of Burma/Myanmar, in a flat valley. It’s great for cycling, with hills surrounding it. It’s very, very green, with some water scattered about.

The caves, the waterfalls, the canyons and the hot springs are all an easy drive away.

Boxing School: £2 per hour for small class instruction. You will not struggle to loose weight here.

Get a Thai Massage: It’s £5 per hour for a deep tissue massage. If you really like it, you can join the massage school.

Eat Great Food: Budget for £3 for a restaurant meal, you can choose from either rural Thai food, or western dishes. Cookery schools are plentiful.

Sleep: I have a private room across the river for £16 a night right now, but in the medium term you can hire a two bed apartment a few miles out of town for £175 per month.

Internet: The real deal here is in the prepaid SIM cards. For £4 you can get 5 gigs of 4G data straight to your phone/laptop. Mine is currently running at 28/4 down/up, more than enough to work or study.

Security: No crime to speak of. Pai has a hospital and an airport for emergencies.

I’m unsure if this was a joke

And the downsides of Pai?

I got tar on my shoes when they resurfaced the main road. There are more guys here than girls, so it’s pretty macho. Every day I see a new western dude with leg wounds from coming off his motorbike. I appear to have bought every shop in town out of my favourite ice cream, but I suppose that one is self-inflicted.

I may be here for a while.

For your amusement, try and decode this sign:

Thailand was never colonised, so this is normal

Pai Society

I appear to have recovered from my Indian PTSD, after few days locked in a hotel room my eyelid has stopped twitching. My poker face is also slipping, as not everyone here sees me as an ATM, a target or a curious zoo exhibit.

I am noticing the locals though. Thanks to some clever moves by the royal family, Thailand was never colonised and has a unique culture. Thais take great pride in their appearance, and it is perplexing to them that ‘rich westerners’ are so fat and unkempt. Orthodontic braces are fashionable here, even into adulthood.

Getting a massage in Thailand is seen as a daily workout, like jogging. I got slapped with a bagful of hot herbs today, I think I’ll stick to the regular massage. Though, I do smell good now.

I’m in a hill town called Pai, near the border with Myanmar. In a few years it’ll be dreadful and ruined, but right now it’s the new, fresh place to see and be seen. It’s not built around a a major palace, fort or beach, so no real pics yet. But I’ll get a full brochure together for next update.

Gillian, I think this used to be a kitten recently. I’m fairly sure that these are still chicks though.
Robert Downey Jnr. posed for a photograph
This is a big mountain of discarded sweetcorn cores

Thai Society

The year was 1954, and a large plaster Bhudda statue was being moved to a new temple after it’s current site was purchased by a western corporation. A small crane was called in to move the piece. As the winches and ropes strained against the weight, the crane began to topple over. The statue hadn’t budged an inch.

A gleam of light was seen in a crack in the surface. On further excavation, it was discovered that the statue was composed of five and a half tons of solid gold, covered in a quarter inch of mansonry plaster.

Historians have postulated that a group of monks, facing imminent death from an invading Burmese army, had disguised the statue to conceal its worth. Perhaps they hoped to recover it in their next reincarnation, but the statue nonetheless remained a secret for a few centuries.

A monk told me this story in the statue’s new home, a suitably grand temple in Bangkok. It was hot with no air conditioning, but he sold me some bottled holy water, which was thirst-quenchingly delicious.

Thailand was never colonised by any western power, and remains uniquely Thai. It’s 95% Bhuddist. The lowest circle in Bhuddist hell is reserved for those who harm Monks, the Monarch, or their parents. Don’t sit next to a Monk on the train, especially if you are a woman. Tourist tat, like pillows with the Buudda’s face on, are treated with disdain -the Bhudda is not viewed as entertainment.

The feet are the ‘lowest part of the body’ and showing your soles to someone is a grave insult. Insulting the royal family is a terrible crime here, as is defacing anything with the kings face on. So stepping on money is a huge deal.

But superstitions aside, Thailand is really nice. Few people cook for themselves, but most streets are full of carts preparing tasty food. I havn’t eaten a meal here yet, I just graze on snacks all day. People don’t stare or treat westerners as an ATM, which is cool. I need to relax the poker face I developed in India.

I also bought presents! But postage is £50 a kilo, so I’m carrying them with me for now. I’ll try and find a European on their way home who’s willing to play postman.

Top tip – Don’t try a Durian fruit. It’s a weird taste mix of custard, garlic and rotten eggs. They are banned on the tube in case they make other passengers ill. I tried some earlier and lost my appitite for a full day.

Funeral of a King

His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, beloved King of Thailand, passed away last year after seventy years on the throne. Thai society experiences a period of mourning between the death and the funeral. The King’s funeral also serves as a coronation of the new monarch.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn would like to finish his education before assuming the throne, so the funeral has been delayed for a few years.

I’m told that Thai people are normally smiling and happy, but there are a lot of black armbands around. Central Palace and Park have been turned into a giant memorial, so normal tourist routes are congested or closed.
Oh well, I’ll have to find some obscure places to photograph instead.

Muay Thai
Ladyboy Fashion
Snake Farm

A Gentle Introduction to Thailand

I had a rough start in India. My first week was probably the most challenging thing I have ever done while traveling, and I once floated down the Amazon in a hollowed out tree with no money.

So it was with some anxiety that I made it into Bangkok. How would it go? Would it take another four days to book a train ticket?

Test One: The immigration lady stamped my passport and waived me through, completely wasting the fake onward plane ticket I had bought for her benefit. The military police appear to be asleep.

Two: My bag arrived promptly on the conveyor, and no one had walked off with it or anything.

Three…..?: I then had an arduous trek across the lobby to hunt down a cash point. I spotted an ATM with no queue, which I guessed meant it had been empty for a month. I tried it anyway and it paid out as much cash as I asked for. This is too good to be true, am I dreaming?

FOUR: Now the big test. SIM and 3G. How long would it take me to find a legitimate shop? Would I need a passport sized photo and a reference from a Thai national? Followed by two days of call centres, and returning to the shop as they can’t scan a visa correctly? How many potatoes would power the 3G?

I found a guy with a cart and it took seven minutes. My new number is Thailand 0654918095.

Sorry about the anticlimax. The bad news is that my blog is going to be much more boring from now on. I may have to open a stall at a night market, or get a pet elephant, before I start loosing subscribers.

Mysore Massage

I’ve been adjusting the way I travel. The past month or so I have been ‘on the road’, moving on every three days or so. It’s how you backpack when time is short, and you have to back at work on a set date. You have many adventures, but it’s also expensive, exhausting and lonely.

So, I’m going to try to settle in places for longer. I’ve been in Mysore for a week now, it’s India’s cleanest city (It’s almost clean!). I went for a walk yesterday, crossing a dry lakebed, and saw a monkey fight. The guy guarding the sandlewood factory gave me some weird delicious fruit (cashew flowers?). I’m still alive, so they arn’t poisonous.

I’ve spent most of the week making friends at Thai Massage School. It was cool, and it does remove your fear of touching strangers. I’ll probably put a few techniques together, the total routine is over two hours long with fifty plus movements.

My room also comes with a pet bat. I have called him Bruce and he lives in my lampshade.

Wildlife, Walking in the Opposite Direction or Obscured by Trees (in Pictures)

I now have great respect for anyone that photographs wildlife. The animals have a habit of walking away from you or standing behind a tree. 

I did experience a wild elephant, and calf, crossing the road ahead of my jeep. It was dark, however, so you will have to take my word for it.

The Flame of the Forest
Spotted Deer
Monkey (Species Unknown)
Sambar Deer
Wild Boar
Elephant Yawning