The River

Location: Pai
Soundtrack: Powderfinger

I arrived in Pai, and it wasn’t what I was expecting.

I was picturing a dirty commercial Khao San Road or Vang Vieng. Instead, I want you to picture where your mum and dad used to take you on family holidays when you were a kid.

Relaxed, casual, family-oriented place that had a few restaurants, maybe a couple of cafes, access to some fun kids activities – yeah, that’s the place.

Now pick that place up, localise it, drop it in northern Thailand, and you have Pai. Video.

Pai by the river

There’s something magical about Pai. It’s relaxed in an uncommercialised way. It’s a Thai holiday destination, not a foreign one like the islands down south. The number of Thais outnumber the foreigners like I’ve never seen before, even while in Bangkok. The streets are clean, the crowds are friendly and relaxed, I’m not being bombarded every three seconds with calls of “Hello sir, where you go, tuk tuk?”, and there’s a dude dressed up like Jack Sparrow posing for photos.

It’s a perfect place for a relaxed New Years Eve, which is exactly what I was looking for. And on top of that, I get to experience what a New Years Eve (or Countdown, in this case) festival is like from an entirely different cultural perspective than my own.

It’s a very relaxed place, and I’m wholeheartedly looking forward to the experience that tomorrow night will bring.

Interlude: Postcards

Pai is the postcard capital of the universe. They’ve created an industry out of selling postcards at a stall, having people sit down and fill out the postcards with provided pens and stamps, and then posting them at the postbox right beside the work table. Genius way to reinvent the postcard – make it a snapshot of the moment, not a letter describing the past in “Wish you were here” style. Joe Moran hits the nail on the head when he describes postcards as a form of phatic communication – a message with no inherent content, sent for its own sake and simply saying “Hello, I’m here and you’re there.”

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.
~ Douglas Adams (1952-2001: Don’t Panic.)

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