Where I’ve Been: Chiang Mai and Pai, Thailand
Where I’ve Stayed: Amy Guesthouse in Chiang Mai, Purple Monkey Guesthose and Pai Chan Cottages in Pai
The sleeper trainer from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was just as beautiful as I remember. Lots of rolling green fields as the train wound its way north in Thailand.
We eventually arrived in Chiang Mai about 4am in the morning. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there is a McDonalds here that is open 24/7 so Hannah, Leanne and I sat down and worked out our plan of attack.
This basically involved us wandering around Chiang Mai looking for a hostel and it proved harder going than we first though! Eventually we found one that was pretty basic but suited our needs just fine.
But first Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is pretty city that sits astride the Ping River and is encircled by a wall that essentially takes you into the old town. It is a popular tourist city and it is easy to see why – it is in a fantastic location and there is LOTS to do.
One must do in Chiang Mai is to visit its large and famous night bazaar. A veritable feast of arts, crafts, food, drink and more. We spent an evening wandering the huge market and in contrast to Bangkok you don’t feel overly pressured to buy or look at stuff.
Worth the climb
We also went to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – which is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Chiang Mai.
It is actually just outside the city and we got a tuk-tuk there. Not only is it a beautiful temple, it is also located on top of a mountain – the tuk-tuk takes you to the base of the mountain and then you have to climb 309 steps to reach the temple.
It is totally worth it as you get both an incredible temple and fantastic views across the city. The climb to the summit is pretty special too with lots to see on the way. Of course when you get to the top there is a sense of achievement too!
Where not to stay in Pai
After two nights in Chiang Mai we moved on to Pai. I’d not been to Pai before and was intrigued to see what it was like – however we made a BIG mistake!
Not that I am trying to pass the buck but Leanne and Hannah said they had done some research on hostels in Pai and chosen one they thought sounded good.
It wasn’t good. It was bad. Very bad.
My one piece of advice above all others if you come to Pai would be, don’t stay in Purple Monkey Guesthouse.
It got off to a bad start when we crossed the bridge over the Pai River and rounded the corner to walk across to our hostel. One – it was pitch black and we couldn’t see where we were going, Two – then a pack of rabid dogs approached us and started barking.
We edged around them very slowly, keeping our distance and finally made it to the Hostel. The communal area seemed ok, if a bit rough and ready, and we were then shown to our dorm.
I’ve stayed in plenty of hostels in my time and am not particularly fussy, but this was probably the worst of the lot! It was a big corrugated iron shack, inside of which were six bunk beds. Every single inch of the floor was covered with clothes, food, shoes, rucksacks, etc and the mattress on my bunk was about an inch thick and made of rubber.
If I thought things couldn’t get worse we were then shown to the toilets and shower areas. Purple Monkey is billed as a ‘eco-guesthouse’ which would be accurate if by eco they mean they never clean it. The toilets and showers were digusting.
Anyway we put our stuff down and headed out into Pai to explore and forget about it. We found a funky little jazz cafe and had a nice evening listening to some acoustic music and relaxing with other travelers.
Where to stay in Pai
Then came the bad part – we had to head back to our hostel.
I reckon I got about two hours sleep. People were walking in and out of the dorm and turning lights on and off and talking loudly all night. They were also smoking ‘exotic’ cigarettes right on the doorstep. Added to that my bed was really uncomfortable. At one point I got up to the night to use the toilet and the whole toilet was swarming with ants.
This morning I got up, packed my bag and decided to find somewhere else to stay (regardless of the fact I’d paid for 5 nights at my current hostel). I walked out of Purple Monkey Backpackers, turned left and immediately saw a sign for Pai Chan Cottages.