I dragged my 20L backpack off the van and onto my back. I closed my eyes under the heat of the 9.30am Thailand sun.
Normally, I wouldn’t be sweating this much, I thought to myself as I walked down the street. It was only my backpack and my sweater that was making me hot. But really, the combination of the sun and the cool, mountain air of Pai was refreshing to the heat of Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh.
I found my friend and the hostel we were going to stay in just about 10 minutes of walking. Pai isn’t really that huge to get lost in, thank goodness. Otherwise, the map he sent me would’ve probably just made me more confused.
For awhile, I thought we would rest, since I had just come from a 9 hour bus ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (which by the way was super entertaining with its “airline” like qualities, the free food and the cute steward onboard) and another 3 hour van ride from Chiang Mai to Pai.
But of course, I had arrived way too earlier to just spend the rest of the day lazying about. I really wasn’t so lazy, especially when I’m too excited to explore the place.
After a hot shower and some convincing from my lazy travel partner, we headed to the canyons. Really, it was a good thing that I came to Pai with a friend who knew how to ride a motorbike, otherwise, I have no idea how I’d survive this place. Beautiful as it was, Pai was a place for scooters and motorbikes.
I honestly love mountains. I climbed Mt. Pulag last year, I love Mt. Pinatubo and I would willingly climb any mountain if I weren’t so lazy. I’m pretty fit for climbing.
But when we parked at the canyons:
“Yey, more stairs,” I tell my friend sarcastically, groaning at the foot of what looked like a long flight of stairs.
When you’ve done the Angkor Wat circuit of temples, you’ll know what I mean.
And we trudge up the not-that-hard flight of stairs across beautiful trees. I breathed a sign of relief as we spotted a clearing at the end. I took a sip of my water. Surely, as long as I had water, the now 1pm sun wouldn’t drain me of my remaining energy.
I sighed, happily as I took in the beautiful scenery. It was gorgeous, the brown cliffs, surrounded by the trees and the breathtaking overview of the forests of Pai.
Just off the main clearing was the ledge that my friend took a picture on a few days before. The ledge was seriously dangerous, with no railings and completely nothing below.
Fortunately, just a few months before I had finally accepted that I truly was afraid of heights. Imagine that. I didn’t want to try. And with the wind, I wasn’t really excited to do danger at the moment.
While I did skip the scary ledge, we went on to do a little bit of adventure as we went down the rocks and crossed the narrow cliffs all the way to the other side. We could have gone farther.
We probably should’ve gone farther, but it didn’t look like there was anything ahead.
Alas, we made our way back to the main clearing, slippery dust and all, sweaty and heaving like pigs.
It was an awesome exercise.
Welcome to Pai, I tell myself.
We headed to the waterfalls next. It wasn’t that far, but I wasn’t too impressed because the waterfalls in the Philippines definitely had cleaner waters. It was the experience though and I was happy just to see it.
Finding Pai Viewpoint
But the real fun of this story was finding the stupid Pai Viewpoint. Okay. So maybe there has to be some kind of viewpoint somewhere out there. Maybe. Maybe once upon a time there was a Pai Viewpoint.
But not in our experience.
After heading back from the waterfalls, we saw this huge advertisement right near the entrance of the waterfalls that had some cloudy views, beautiful overlooking scenery. It said 40 minutes to Pai Viewpoint.
My friend asked if I wanted to go. Naturally, I asked him if he wanted to go.
He did, so we went. After all, he was the one riding the bike.
We went, following only one lane. 20 minutes, 30 minutes until we found the next sign.
Pai Viewpoint: 25 minutes
I frowned. I’m pretty sure we had already surpassed 30 minutes. Either we were slow or these signs were lying.
Suddenly, the roads changed. They weren’t friendly or straight anymore. They were dirt roads and broken and muddy.
We were in constant dilemma of whether we should head back or not.
What the hell, we both thought. We’re already there. Why turn back, right?
We went on and on, him working his way through the rocks and mud, me, trying to stay strong and not scream like a little girl every time we were in danger of flipping over.
There was even one time when the road was so steep we rolled back and fell over with the motorbike. My subconscious quickly lifted my right leg in safety to avoid the exhaust, because I know how those hurt.
We turned to each other, questioning if we should move on. Personally, I loved the adventure, but deep down inside I probably wouldn’t have held on long out of fear, had he not pushed through. I do thank him for bringing out the adventure in me though.
And we pushed through. We thought we should be nearer because 25 minutes isn’t that far.
Finally we reached a junction with a sign and a small hut with the flag of Thailand. There was an arrow to a steep, muddy trail.
The sign said: Pai Viewpoint 2km. No cars only motorbikes.
WTF???? Where the hell is this Pai Viewpoint? Australia???
We left our motorbike there to give it time to rest while we walked up. The trail was steeper than we thought and we kept looking at each other to see who would signal defeat first.
By 5pm, we decided we had to go back.
“Maybe we’re really in the wrong turn movie where a bunch of tribes would come to eat us,” I say, my heart a little disappointed.
At least we tried though. And we went through the rough roads again, happy and relieved because we survived, but defeated because we couldn’t find that viewpoint.
How about you? Do you have any idea where that Viewpoint is? Have you ever been there? Because we asked some locals and they had no idea what we were talking about.