Readers' Submissions

Delightful Northern Thailand – Our Morning Peace Of Pai



Morning Steam 1

I wake up in our wooden shack right on River Pai. It's really really chilly; It may be around sunrise. Someone moves next to me… Ning jumps out of the bed – because she finds cold times SO exciting!

Sadly, this leaves me alone under the sack-like bedsheets. At least, I get a show: Ning, my SE Asian de-facto girlfriend, she opens the shack-door, a construction like a garage. Wow – there is river Pai gurgling by under steam clouds; the fields in the back are steaming too; and the fresh early morning sun bursts through a line of trees, cascading into silvery rays… all this delight I enjoy from under the bedcover ´-

– but the foreground is the real attraction: On the verandah, just outside the door, there stands Ning, my fearless lover, in slip and T-shirt, and a pair of bronze legs that forbid any further cover. Ning trembles in the cold morning air, so she beams her infectious smile to warm us up; she breathes, and her eyes follow with wonder and surprise the clouds that rise from her mouth into the crystal-clear Pai morning air…

"Ning! I feel cold…!" Okay, Ning, puff one more cloud… – Finally, after frolicking on the verandah for ten long minutes, Ning joins her lonesome lazy western admirer back under the sheets. Door remains open. Ning snuggles close, her hands wander, my dear Ning, ah, CHILLY hands, heck, did she bathe in the river?, cold like a fish is she!!!! "UIIII!!!! You're COLD!!!, so coooold…!!!!" – "Oh: my hands too cold, dear", Ning enquires with an innocent smile? – "YES YES!!! Oh, I mean no, really, no problem, Niiiing…"

As we softly make love, still with our delightful verandah river rice field view, the couple in the next bungalow wakes up and discusses their recent Nam Khong kayak tour; a bungalow on the adjoining compound puts on a Joan Baez cassette. As we quietly enjoy our morning rise, a cute white puppy dog roams our terrace and removes a few cookie crumbs; then Snoopy looks straight into our hotbed – without much interest, and why. Puppy waddles off, and Ning has one more idea to say "Good Morning".

Morning Steam 2

For a steaming morning shower, we don't use the bungalow, Pai has better options. We board the Vitara and head for Tha Pai hot springs, eight kilometres out of town. En route we pass three "elephant camps": Here the pachyderms hang out in open bamboo hangars near the road, dangling their trunks in infinite boredom. One colossus actually stands right on the road, no mahout around, and Meat Loaf shakes its trunk interestedly towards us. Do they grab customers like that? May we pass, sir? I slow down and give the beast a berth as wide as possible, but cannot get out of the giant's trunk's radius. The jeep has always been too big for me, but suddenly it feels too small. Fortunately, the car is still covered in red dust from Wat Chan – not even a retarded slave elephant can mistake us for a banana. And really, elephant doesn't even look as we continue our way, unsmashed.

When we went to the hot springs first, I had asked the rangers for permission, for a ticket, for a bathtub number; they looked very surprised, because this is one place where you just go – and take any steaming puddle you like. In northern Thailand, I got used to paying 200 baht entry fee to see any dried-up mud pond, so free entry here comes as a surprise. All in all, the place seems more pleasant than other hot springs we saw on this trip, like Pong Duet towards Chiang Mai or Tepphanom north of Ob Luang.

The actual springs bubble further up at around 90°C; down below, in the various steps of a small creek, the hot spring water mixes with cold mountain water to just the right temperature. We walk up-creek to the first semi-natural pool, exclusively formed by boulders and no concrete. Trail and creek are shaded by a leafy, yet breezy forest; a few slim sunrays sneak through. Trousers go down, and in swimwear plus T-shirts we glide into the warm welcoming water. Aaah….

Two puddles further up six western seniors float dreamily in the water. The step next up from us has a young Thai father and his baby boy happily splashing. Further up between trees and steam clouds I spot Thai teens standing there like rock stars on a stage with dry ice mist.

I don't sense any sulphuric smells here, but anyway I soon glide into a cosy trance… so good… And then: Caring Ning! On the rock that serves us as a backrest in the shallow pond, she displays yoghurts, biscuits, orange juice and drinking water!

We finish a few Dutchie strawberry yoghurts (Ning has brought spoons, cups and tissues, too), when the western seniors start to change dress. Shy they are not! As they walk down, they try to play with the cute Thai baby boy who likes the sweets they offer.

The creek has dropped a few tiny chips of wood on my legs. Suddenly, the chips start to move! These are small, red-brown worms! I ask Ning, but she isn't worried – until she scratches her tummy: She discovers more wood like worms, meandering under her shirt! – "We go?" – "Yes, can go." The place even has toilets and change rooms. We inspect the facilities, then use the jeep to change dress.

Morning Steam 3

For a steaming morning coffee, we don't use the bungalow place, Pai has better options. From Tha Pai you drive only two kilometres to Café Del Doi, the perfect stage for a sumptuous after-hot-springs breakfast. You sit on a hill in a large, airy sala with a relaxing panorama of rice fields and a low mountain range.

A friendly western guy in red trousers runs the place, and he does all sorts of great coffees. No problem for him to serve up extra hot milk with his gourmet brews – wow! Loose tea comes in a pot that makes it easy to remove the leaves at any time – not at all usual. Muesli is a delight, while Ning can't enthuse over the rice soup. Fortunately, I have turned her on to bruschetta earlier. Ning watches the manager interestedly: "Look, now he is cleaning the floor HIMSELF. Now he removes the plates HIMSELF." A rich westerner, doing low work!

Obviously named after Ibiza's party hot spot Café Del Mar, Pai's Café Del Doi plays chill-out music that may well come from the CD series issued by the original Café Del Mar. The music remains very low, though, and unlike downtown Pai, you don't get all the noise from rental motosais. Customers don't spoil the ethereal atmosphere either: All the mornings we stopped by, Café Del Doi only had a few hippies from the bungalows there, and a few Thai tourists around their own whiskey bottles, wondering why TV was black.

Around 1 o'clock noon we finish our lavish breakfast. Pai country is warm now, but not crazily hot. I guess, Ning now wants to wander through the neighbourhood, looking what flowers and fruits grow there. Or maybe she will flick through my Thailand books. Or maybe she will just daydream.

That, I cannot. But peaceful Café Del Doi is the perfect ambiance to plant the ThinkPad and hack in a submission – fuelled by steady streams of good coffees and orange juices…

Good Morning Thailand! Man, I feel relaxed. Can a day on holiday start any more peaceful and delightful than this one? I lean back and watch the straw-hat folks down in the valley ploughing the muds. I hit Ctrl-N. Let's rebuild this wonderful morning right from the start: "I wake up in our wooden shack right on River Pai…" But how should I call this submission? What's your suggestion? For now, my working title will be:

Delightful Northern Thailand – Our Morning Peace Of Pai


PotholeResearch at aol dot com

Stickman's thoughts:

Very nice indeed, nice pics too.