It happens maybe once a backpack, maybe. If you're really lucky, one out of....I don't know...10, 20 vacations. It starts as a whisper, a word. "Pai". Passed on like a game of telephone. "Pai". Until the idea of it, plants itself inside you like a seed. "PAI".
There are 762 curves and switchbacks on the road from Chaing Mai to Pai. A sign in the rest stop washroom reads, "Please don't vomit in the sink." It's a gauntlet eager travelers must pass to reach this Shangri-La of Northern Thailand. Some attempt the pass on motorbikes and scooters. Every couple hand full of riders take home scars as souvenirs.
The magic of Pai is something similar to the light in the eyes of a two year old child. It exists, ephemerally. It cannot be created, only born into this world. I can describe it to you, go on about the canyons, waterfalls, sunsets, crisp air, and expansive night skies, but like that child's eyes, you must it experience it. For yourself.
The sad truth about life, is that most children lose their light. And one day too, the confluence of synchronistic elements that have birthed Pai's magic will erode. Erode under the feet of tourists that wash over the town like a persistent tide to coastline. Under the crush of capitalism, development, and the prospect of “more”.
I was lucky enough to spend three nights there, I could've spent a month. And even luckier to have shared it with a very special group of new friends, and one amazing woman. The experience only solidified a belief born some 13 years ago when I first began traveling. It's that the human experience is best when shared. I will forget what I "did' in Pai, the vistas and views will fade from my mind. But in my heart, there will rest a place, of what I felt. The magic. The love. The wonder. "Pai"