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A piece of Pai

Written on: Saturday February 9th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

Pai is the sort of place I feel deserves many stories and adventures to write about. Unfortunately there aren?t that many at all. What Pai did do for me was to solidify a great many friendships, and to keep me in a bed with an American girl that I only met on the bus coming up that first morning from Chiang Mai, for 4 of the 5 days I was there. Regretfully this wasn?t through any shared animalistic sexual fervour, but the fact that Kara and I, like so many of the people who happened to be staying in Pai over this particular period, got horribly ill.


Kara and I immediately got chatting whilst we were still in Chiang Mai awaiting to board the minivan up to Pai. It just so happened she was from Belgrade, in Maine in the States, only a few miles down the road from where I lived and worked in Waterville back in 2001. With this common bond we chatted almost continuously on the torrid, but scenic drive up to Pai. As the Reggae Festival was on this weekend there were reports that all accommodation was sold out already and if you didn?t have a reservation you stood next to no chance of obtaining a room in this small, sleepy town. I hadn?t the foresight to reserve anywhere since Beijing, so Pai wasn?t going to be any different. Luckily, Kara, the forward-thinking girl that she is, had already booked a room at a central guesthouse and seen as we?d bonded so well was trusting enough of me to offer me to share the room with her as long as there were a couple of beds in the room, or at the least a big double bed. Now for you non-traveller types out there this might seem somewhat bizarre, some might go as far as describing it as downright promiscuous. Not so. This is just the done thing on the backpacker trail. Backpackers as opposed to holiday makers are more than happy to help out another fellow traveler, be it lending them money, buying them a meal, or as in this case sharing a bed with, regardless of gender, sexuality, creed or colour. Holiday makers on the other hand tend to keep themselves to themselves a little bit more.


Despite Kara?s kindness we immediately ran in to problems as the guesthouse that Kara had reserved a room at had very thoughtfully given away her room to somebody else. Now what? Well fortunately I had been in contact with Carolyn that I first met back in Vang Viang, and she had been in Pai for the past week or so with Annie also of Vang Viang notoriety. And being the kind and thoughtful girls that they were, once I?d logged on to Facebook I found out that they?d organised a bungalow by the river in an idyllic setting for me. Hurrah. Of course I could only but offer the same hospitality to Kara as she had originally offered to me, and so that was how we ended up sweating it out in a double bed for 5 days together. If you only read parts of this chapter you could get a whole different feel for what went on here.


The following evening after the four of us, along with a great Dutch guy named Koen, a Venezuelan named Marcello, an Israeli girl with the biggest of smiles called Gilli and good old South African Darren from my Mekong adventures went out partying at the Rock and Roll Disco where we left the whole club astounded by our dancing moves and trying to break in to our most exclusive of a ridiculous dance circle. Things were all going swimmingly, until that was leaving the club on the back of Marcello?s motorbike Kara pleaded that the bike be stopped for her to be sick. Carolyn and I also hopped off the bike (yes there were four of us on the bike, and no I probably will never learn) and I took vast pleasure in seeing what I thought was my new American friend throwing up from one too many double-vodka redbulls, so much so that I began running either side of her snapping my camera complete with blinding flash at her. When we reached the next bar it was clear to see that Kara wasn?t suffering this much just from the alcohol, something else was up. In a bad state,  Marcello biked her home while the rest of us continued slurping on Samsong rum until the early hours.


Returning to the bungalows at 6:30am I walked in to Kara hugging the toilet none too compassionately. She?d been doing this I later found out at regular 30 minute intervals since she left us at 1am. Gladly this was the last trip she suffered until we both woke up again at about 10:30am. There was already action out on the lush green lawn in front of the bungalows and I investigated to leave Kara to some private time with the toilet again, to find Koen persuading Carolyn and Annie to come for breakfast. I wasn?t feeling too good after joining Darren, Carolyn and Koen in drinking two bottles of Samsong late the previous night. At least that?s what I thought was causing my body?s reaction to moving in the slightest. I very politely and calmly asked if Carolyn and Annie minded if I quickly used their toilet, then proceeded to release the entire contents of my stomach to the very bottom of it. Despite this violent outburst I was very impressed with how quiet I?d manage to keep my heaving as nobody suspected a thing after I eventually exited. Sadly though, this was far from a hangover sickness, and was far from being out of my system. For the remainder of the day I continued to be sick just about everywhere I went, included Madam Falaffel?s restaurant. I decided a day spent sweating it out alongside my sick buddy was in order. The sickness came and went for the following 3 days, as it had done with Carolyn, Annie, Koen, another guy John, an Australian couple on their honeymoon I?d met on the bus also on the way up to Pai who spent a day in the hospital on drips they became so ill, and Darren who succumbed to it on his last day there.


It was a shame that Pai inflicted this virus on us all as it was a beautiful and relaxing place with a lot of reasons to stay there for quite some time. In and amongst the feelings of nausea and rushes to the toilet there were some good times. The Reggae Festival on my first night there was certainly one of them. Thousands of Thais jumping up and down, nodding their stoned heads in unison as some of the biggest Thai Reggae bands did their thing on a huge stage was a great way to begin things in Pai. Clinging to the good times I?ll recollect on my time ending well in Pai also, as Kara, Koen, Carolyn, Annie and myself all did a Thai massage course where we got to inflict a serious amount of pain on our Thai volunteers and hopefully learnt a thing or two also.


So despite the illness Pai actually taught me many a thing; that Thais can do Reggae music and dreadlocks; that I do have the capability of healing hands; that plastic bags tied around my still unhealed foot at public swimming pools will definitely not take off as the next fashion accessory to be had; and that I can lie in the same bed with an attractive member of the opposite sex for 5 days and 5 nights and not submit to any sexual deviances in the slightest! On top of this I got engaged.


As a little aside some of you may know that a while back I started a little discussion-cum-debate about whether in a one-on-one contest on neutral ground, i.e. Wembley Stadium, a grizzly bear would triumph over a silver-back gorilla or whether the gorilla would stamp down it?s authority and mash up the grizzly. Well you?ll be pleased to know I?ve brought this subject up on many an occasion since that first chat back at the M.K. School House and on the world agenda there is more split decision and disagreement than there is on euthanasia. Currently the score stands at:

Grizzly Bear 25 Silver Back Gorilla 26

The competition continues and I will push to actually stage this when I get back to England. Prebook ringside tickets through my bank account. Just send ?400 via a bank transfer to Acc No: 298530332 , Sort Code: 40-23-12. Thank you for sustaining my time in Asia.



From Kara on Mar 31st, 2008

very well put Simon! I laughed the whole way through :)