Tree Houses and Our First Day Celebrating Sonkran in Pai

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Chiang Mai hadn’t been our thing, at least not what we had seen of it, so we were happy to hop on a tuk tuk the next morning and head north. We were also happy (and thankful) for Thor’s kindness in letting us leave behind my monstrous suitcase for our next hosts (just wait until you hear about them) to pick up for a fee of 300 bhat.

The road to Pai was the beautiful tropical forrest we had dreamed about. It also came with infamously crazy and intense twists and turns; especially toward the end. Two people‚Äč threw up but I was lucky to have bought motion sickness pills when getting probiotics for my tummy. A double win as that was the first day I hadn’t had stomach pain since food poisoning.

Not realizing the inability to keep my eyes open was from the pills, Laura teased me for falling asleep during such a beautiful drive, but was later to join in with taking them before the ride back as she had admitted to having got a little carsick herself. Something that was a telltale sign that I would have been joining in the barf brigade if I hadn’t. She had also become pretty spooked by a car we almost hit along with other aspects of the crazy small and dangerous roads. Additional parts of the journey I was more than happy to snooze through. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Being dropped off at the bus depot of a main street, we were excited about the cute little town and the treehouse we were about to stay in thanks to a friend back home, Juliette, giving a heads up about the place. Continuing on with playful comments about having some very important shopping to do (meaning water guns for Songkran) and needing to eventually figure out tickets back, we were quick to settle on the idea of first catching a tuk tuk to get settled into our place before anything else.

As promised, the Pai Treehouse Resort was nothing short of peter-pan style magic. About ten minutes away from town through beautiful forrest, we pulled into the resort with it’s enchanted wooden structures, a restaurant and lovely grounds of grass, trees, swings and other rustic adornments that were all a part of the charm.
Checking in and heading to our treehouse, the highest of three, my legs were shaking as vertigo kicked in as we began to climb the steep log steps that had been nailed together in the crooked pattern of the way they naturally fit. This was a legit treehouse. Tiny, awesome and would never pass safety codes in the in the US.
Hanging out in awe for a bit, we took a shuttle back (huge benefit they offer) to town to walk around exploring the streets and, of course, eating. I wanted to go to the cute places full of personality. L was more into the more authentic holes in the wall, usually with a dirt floor and little more than a hot plate or grill of some sort for cooking. While still wanting some of that experience, I had been in Thailand longer than her and was well over it being my focus. Especially after getting food poisoning in a similar establishment.
Always smiling and relaxed with comments about how she has great karma, Laura enjoyed the high-like sensation of lack of sleep as we wandered while I tried to heard her in. Waking the streets, I’d say left and she’d go right. Leaning in when walking beside me, she veered us into the street with me in the middle no matter how much I tried to deflect and tell her I didn’t want to be in the middle of the street. The comments went completely unregistered as she floated around on a deliriously pleasant cloud of sleeplessness that took her in no particular direction and drove me bananas. After dealing with this loopiness for a couple hours, I finally demanded that I needed a drink and warned her that she would be getting teased mercilessly later. That serendipitous moment was when we first found that restaurant that was to be our favorite Songkran watching spot and where our awesome waiter was quick to grab my water gun (with my permission) to jump in the fun while we watched some fun locals play party music so common of the event while throwing buckets of water on those passing by. Rowdy and mischievous, it was a great time and also endearing to see them make a conscious effort to be respectful of those they were chucking water at.

The next morning, after enjoying the tolerable breakfast that was included (another great perk of staying at the Treehouse), we headed into town for the official main day of Songkran. Once there and already wet from having buckets of water dousing us from sitting in the back of the truck on the way in, we both were bothered by the inauthenticity of the touristy scene and stereotypical early twenties (mostly American) type backpacker who was trying way too hard to represent the traveling hippie while really just looking to get waisted and have fun. Nothing wrong with that but also not helpful for the authentic magic this little town exudes. An irony not lost on me in that so many of us travelers are bothered by it when we too are tourists.
Finding a beautiful resort restaurant on the river, I grabbed a drink while she sat there with her patient smile as we enjoyed a tropical storm. Just like the woman who had met up with me for one night in Phuket, she’s into other festival-type experiences but not alcohol. So strange to me but to each their own and I suppose it’s better to have a traveling friend who doesn’t drink than someone who just wants to be super wasted the whole time.

After watching a storm, the streets were starting to liven up. Walking up and down loving life as I joined in to the water play, L wasn’t too into it which came as no surprise to me considering she hadn’t bought anything to join in herself. I’d imagine because she was traveling for a year on an insanely tight budget I wouldn’t even want or have the skill to try. She also commented later about not liking guns which is something I can very much relate to but was choosing my battle. Literally. Last but not least, she had her heart set on finding the back of a truck to jump into with the bins of water to throw on people with bowls as opposed to a water gun fight on foot. Something that I must admit to be the most fun way to go by far.

Songkran was my main objective when setting up my return to Thailand so I wasn’t exactly thrilled that the person I was traveling with wasn’t feeling it. Wanting to get away from the temporary mismatch and the correlating selfish emotions of my somewhat bitchy nature, I retreated out of an epic and hilarious water battle and into a massage shop full of employees who were in great spirits and were laughing first at the fight that was in clear view of the front of their establishment with it’s glass wall and second at me for being a soaking mountain of happy chaos as I ducked in with my gun. Enduring what was probably the most painful Thai massage I’ve ever experienced, with the strained neck later to prove it, I changed out of the dry clothes they had given me that had made me look like a gigantic Amazon barbie, I headed back out into the chaotic celebration to find Laura.

Heading back to our treehouse after a bit more water play and opting for a peaceful morning the next day for hanging on the grounds and getting some alone time, we then caught the 2 PM bus back to Chiang Mai for what was to be the worst Airbnb experience I have had to date. Canceling what had to me a much better Airbnb option (with fee) in town center in order to stay with a French woman and her Portuguese husband in a situation that had seemed lovely prior to arrival and like a chance to give Laura a nice opportunity to connect with someone else French after so long on the road, we hadn’t even walked through the gate before the first sign of trouble. Tonio, the Portuguese husband, made a comment about us not being there when expected. We were half an hour early.
Soon after that, we met Valerie. A nonstop fireball of aggressive chatter who was so intense that it even overwhelmed Laura. As a laid back social worker whose nature is to listen, that said a lot. As this woman rambled on, my mind wandered back and forth in questioning if she was on drugs (very skinny and messed up teeth) or just had some kind of imbalance, as she would focus her tornado rants at me from time to time regardless of the fact that I don’t speak more than three words of French.

Later reflecting about how things come in threes in regard to the three intense hosts we had encountered (Thor, the American at the hostel and this couple as a grand finale), I chuckled once in our room when L made a comment about how she was hoping for a relaxing evening. Something that was opposite enough from what we had experienced to too exhaust us out of our plans to go our after getting settled in.

The intensity of our hosts wasn’t the only thing that had knocked us off guard with this comedically awful stay. Once finally abe to break away from their rants enough to be shown our room, we were knocked out by the smell of kitty litter as soon as we stepped inside. Something we were soon to find out was coming from the kitchen and the maybe twenty cats inside. A few of which were cute little four week old kittens and a pregnant cat that I was about to witness give birth the next day. In the kitchen. Where our food was prepared.

After showing us the room that we were surprised to see didn’t come with air conditioning as listed, Tonio made an amazing dinner for us (at 300 bhat each) of personal pizzas and salad with ingredients they had grown from their own garden. Continuing on with both of them taking turns to talk our (or mostly Laura’s since I don’t speak French) ears off, we were told about a pretty cool idea for a kitty cafe they were trying to make happen as could be seen by the materials that were there to make huge bamboo walls all around the property so that the cats could run free without being able to escape. Looking back, maybe also for guests.

There also had plans for some killer lounge areas and a fully functioning restaurant. Even the beginning of a treehouse in the works. All sounded lovely but at that moment the place was still a mess. Not as bad as the place in Krabi that was literally a construction site but still far less constructed than had been suggested through the listing. Even the area showing as a plush and colorful restaurant and lounge area had been disappointingly packed up.

With comments over our stay from Tonio about how he doesn’t like the French (I’d imagine he thinks this OK, even to Laura, since he’s married to a French woman), about how they quickly kick patrons out if not in like with what they want (bragging, a warning or both) and judgment from Valerie, I briefly considered forfeiting more money just to stay somewhere else. Especially because I had talked Laura into canceling the place we were originally supposed to stay at longer and she had preferred until I talked her into this place. Something I still feel bad about and hope to make up to her. We stayed and made it through but were more than happy to get out of there when the time came. A time, by the way, when I was accused of sneaking out like a thief because I had an early flight I had previously told them about and that stuck Laura, a few hours later at normal checkout time, with a bill of stuff that we weren’t supposed to be charged for. We’re in mediation through Airbnb right now but I’ll be sure to throw up a post with the specifics once that’s taken care of. It’s just too damn too entertaining to not.

Just like the pickpocket incident, I see a stay like this being par for the course. It’s next to unavoidable and just means we’re earning more traveler badges. It’s funny and amusing as long as it doesn’t happen too often. If nothing else, it’s character building, makes for a great story and one hell of a learning experience. It’s not like we were stuck there too much, anyway. We managed to get out for an epic last day celebrating Songkran and I to an elephant sanctuary. Look forward to all that good stuff in the next post. Until then my beloved Free Robin Flyers, xoxoxo to you and your adventures.

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