After Thom’s Elephant Camp, we switched to an accommodation that’s an academic institute of sorts, a private academy called “Pai Circus School.” Word of mouth brought us here, since uptight trolls have caused the Circus to be one of HostelWorld’s lowest-rated Pai properties. Word to the wise: never trust the haters.
Pai Circus School is like a modern magical mystery tour; a peaceful haven cultivating art, peace, and love. The Circus is a hidden gem for backpackers, since it offers hostel prices for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the circus. Everyday from 4-6 PM there’s circus lessons where you can sharpen up your hula-hooping, juggling, slack lining, or even fire-throwing skills. If you’re not a gifted juggler, don’t sweat it: there’s an infinity pool, trampoline, gin and tonics, and hammocks to occupy your time. From anywhere on the Circus’s compound, you have a panorama view of Pai and its surrounding mountains and valleys.
When the sun’s glare diminished, we’d walk 10 minutes down the hill, over the river, to downtown Pai. Pai is a Rastafarian, Thai version of Portland, Oregon. Walking the narrow streets of downtown Pai, you will notice a different variety of local Thai people. With beautiful long hair and dreads down to their hips, they look as if they stepped straight out of Woodstock. We were greeted with peace signs, good vibes, and the grooviest bellbottoms we’ve ever seen, getting welcomed into an artist’s collaborative space or spoken-word session at every corner.
It was easy to get caught up in all the street art and street food (mmmmm guacamole bruschetta), but we always tried to get home to the Circus by nightfall for its shows and parties. Talented guests and locals put on fire shows nearly every night, but when we stayed at Circus we got a real treat: Clap Clap Circo. Clap Clap Circo is comprised of Joaquin from Argentina and Irene from Uruguay, a charismatic duo who travel the world spreading joy through their circus act. Their act strikes a perfect balance between crowd-pleasing jokes and impressive tricks. They’ve modernized the circus and brought it to 30 countries and counting.
I’d assume the Circus is directly responsible for hundreds of travellers’ visa overstay fines. You become enchanted in Circus’s paradise, and never want to leave. Fair enough. We booked two nights initially. We stayed 12. But we never were bored- we switched dorms and private rooms five times. From the Angel Suite the first night to Hippie Camp somewhere in between with our grand finale in “Small Four Dorm w/ Heat” we saw it all.
The best part of the Circus is its people; the talented guests it draws from around the world. Around the clock you can find guests painting murals, learning the ukulele, practicing acroyoga, twirling batons, writing, hula-hooping and getting to know one another. In the midst of all this terrorist turmoil, it’s comforting to know that there’s a place in the world where the psychedelic 1970s spirit is blossoming in a new vintage fashion. We found peace in Pai.