Everyone in Pai is on the same page of a Journey to Englightenment manual. Take a deep breath when you arrive in Pai and let the whizzing Western world’s mania roll off your shoulders. There’s more than enough to do here- consulting my Pai Event Planner (free from a dreadlocked chica) I see meditation courses, free yoga classes, free mandala-drawing workshops, fermentation courses, and prayer groups. Mash Portland with Thai and you have Pai- I’ve met more Portlanders here than anywhere else outside of Portland. Maybe it’s the nightly street food, or the proximity to nature. Maybe it’s the close-knit, like-minded community of expats and artists. Maybe it’s Pai’s healing powers. Maybe it’s the hemp.
Like every other living breathing human, we were in love with Pai. Head over heels for this town. We had friends, a routine, and knew the ins-and-outs of Pai. There’s two 40-baht bruschetta carts, and we’ll tell you which is better! We know when to catch Zelda Gray playing at Art in Chai! When I go to the hospital, I get a discount for being a return patient!
Oh, the hospital. No biggie. I walked there myself and was the last patient of the day- they locked the doors and turned off the lights after me. I was worried I had lice, as well as deadly brain tumors. I wrote some last words in my journal and headed to Pai Hospital, where I was directed through stations 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 before seeing a doctor. The system was pretty efficient actually. Two female doctors confirmed that I had lice, plus a lymphatic infection. I got antibiotics for the lymphatic thingy and a whole artillery of weapons for the lice. Anyone recall my Bueons Dias Mui Ne blog post? I raved about El Latino’s breakfast burritos but feared their sombreros gave me head lice- “TBD.” Well, it has BD. Been Determined that I have at least five generations of lice setting up shop in my mane.
It was Friday night, but the feeling was not right. I couldn’t enjoy the circus show cause I kept pulling live bugs out of my hair. So I retreated to Silken’s hotel. Oh yea- while I was at the hospital, her food poisoning took an ugly turn. She ditched the dorms and moved to a private bungalow up the road. I was a hot mess when I arrived- a lymphatic, lumpy, lice-infested Snorlax to be precise. Silken spent her Friday night in the bathroom, I spent mine combing 140 crawling lice out of my head. Yes I counted. Yes I Googled “average number of lice found”- it ranges from 10-30. I doused my head in poison and found dozens more on my pillow in the morning. This is what happens when you become a lice hotel for 5 weeks. I knew I should have listened to my mother- she never let us try on funny hats.
Update: 1.5 weeks later. I gave lice to Silken. She has approximately 50-100 eggs. Nicole wins friend-of-the-year, as she pulled lice out of Silken’s hair for 3 hours. This was done in bikinis, in public, at our hotel’s pool. #noshame #localsonly
I am still finding an average of 50 eggs per day, so I wrote a song about it. Sing it to the tune of Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life):
“Another lice on my head, another egg behind my ear!
All so itchy, and they all refuse to dieeee…
So many eggs, I just don’t know what to doooo…
All I know is that lice is the plural of louse!
All I knowwwww is that lice is the plural of louse!”
Enough about my lice, let’s talk about some Long Necks. No, not the dinosaurs- the people! I thought they only existed on the pages of National Geographic, but it turns out there’s a few Long Neck villages near Pai. We’d been in Pai for a long while and hadn’t accomplished a whole lot. We figured that a full-day tour would be productive enough to offset nearly a month of nothingness.
It was so worth the baht. We didn’t realized we’d hired a private driver to take us to Lod Cave, Black Lahu Village, Twin Temple, Temple on the hill, and the Long Neck Village. Our driver’s outfit was on fleek- reflective Ray Ban aviators with his Adidas track suit- and he navigated Mae Hong Son’s curves in his SUV like a champ. It was our second time in a real car in three months- pretty damn exciting, let me tell you.
First stop: Lod Cave. Soondai lead us into the cave with an old-school kerosene lamp. The cave’s stalactites flickered as we passed 2,000-year old coffins and crossed rickety bamboo bridges. It felt like an overeager movie set, trying way too hard to be authentic. But this was legit. Too legit to quit. Even more authentic were the bamboo canoes getting pushed by old, fit Thai men through the cave’s dark passages. They were flat rectangles with stools on top, more rafts than boats. Did we want to hire a boat to see Cave Two and Three? You betchya.
Our boat ride was a scene from Pocahontas meets BBC Special… truly: there was a BBC film crew rigging cameras from the cave’s mouth. It will air in early 2016, watch out. But why Pocahontas? How is Pocahontas relevant to caves? How is Annie still making Disney references? Like Pocahontas, we had the princess treatment and hundreds of animal friends following us, schools of catfish practically pushing our boat while bats congregated above. Definitely a ‘Top 10 Life Moment.’
The temples were beautiful; silvery white spindles contrasting the blue sky and mountains. The monks were quite a sight, wearing cowboy hats while gardening. Lunch was lovely: fried rice with a backdrop of rice paddies and mountains. The Long Neck village was on the touristy side, but that’s to be expected. The ladies were lovely and surprisingly relatable- I talked to a 23-year-old named Mannie as she helped us “fit in” with the locals.