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Pai: A dream destination

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This is chapter 12 of the Graduate & Live 2016 Summer Tour of Asia, where three traveling freelancers take advantage of their freedom. In this installment, Ryan, Aom and Ashley have made their way to Thailand. After spending time in Bangkok and Aom's home city of Chiang may, the crew travel to one of country's most beautiful and natural backpacking destinations. And they brought a new friend named Emiliano along the way with them.

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Ashley Lombardo


When you’re freelancing, you have the ability to live anywhere. I jumped on the opportunity to spend time in a little paradise called Pai, surrounded by passion and positivity.

Each city in Thailand possesses a unique essence, but there’s something truly special about Pai. A small town tucked away in the mountains, Pai has an incomparable atmosphere that makes it a favorite of farangs (the Thai equivalent of "gringo") and locals alike.

The Mae Hong Son Province offers fresh and vitalizing food, a lush and thriving ecosphere and a free-flowing energy. With that being said, Pai is a relaxing spot to reconnect with yourself, meet some really kind people, and tap into the deepest tunnels of inspiration.

The road to paradise


We left Aom’s cozy home in Chiang Mai and buckled up for a scenic 2 ½ hour drive to Pai. After a few weeks in Thailand’s biggest cities, we finally got a taste of real nature. The quick and constant curves made me dizzy, but I neutralized the nausea with my trusty Poy-Sian inhaler. The herbal combination of camphor, eucalyptus, menthol and borneol is a lifesaver and a Thai addiction, easily found at any gas station or 7-11.

We drove north for about an hour before stopping at Green Food Coffee for, you guessed it, green food and coffee. I was happy to follow up a breakfast of pineapple and peanuts with some fresh fruit and veggies.

After lunch we stopped by one of the many waterfalls on the way to Pai.

A week of endless summer showers hydrated the plant life, revitalizing the hills that exploded with vibrant vegetation. All the creatures were awake, covering the habitat and expressing themselves in different colors, shapes and forms.

The brown-red water, magnified by the recent rain, filled the river and flowed over from the waterfall’s peak. On the drive to Pai, we felt blessed to enjoy many of mother nature’s gifts.

Tip: Don’t take a bus to Pai. Make sure you have the freedom to stop and venture out along the way.

Finding the perfect fit


Following a friend’s recommendation, Emiliano and I checked into Common Grounds (the upper row of pictures above), a backpacker’s hostel with nightly live music and a large common area peppered with hammocks and floor pillows. There we stayed one night.

The rest of our trip was spent in a hotel named Sawasdee Pai. After we checked in, the host offered us a silver bowl filled with freshly fallen mangos and avocados. We walked to a nearby market and bought a loaf of bread and some green lemons. From the first moment, they shared their bounty, and we felt so welcomed.

The room wasn’t fancy, but it felt like home. It’s clear that our hosts crafted Sawasdee Pai with love. Each detail expressed the purest intention. We felt the warmth and comfort amplified every day.

Tip: Money isn’t the key to finding magic. It’s everywhere.

Fresh food, friendly people


Everything about Pai is warm and inviting, and that makes it a great spot to meet other travelers. There’s plenty of places to relax, have a drink and start some conversation. And if you’re a night owl, there’s also a handful of clubs with DJ's and live music.

Almost Famous offers drink specials, and it was hard not to pass up a taste of Aom’s passion fruit mojito. There are so many musicians in Pai, and the Edible Jazz open jam was a great way to get a taste of the local talent. For people who prefer to bounce, Yellow Sun and Boom Bar bumped electronic beats and karaoke oldies each night.

If you’re not into drinking, you’ll still be able to make new friends. Conversations will happen naturally. I found myself speaking with a group of British people at Common Grounds, a pair of Germans at the Secret Hot Springs, and a Danish girl and her Canadian friend at Earth Tone.

Tip: Say hello to everyone, everywhere.

Sunset, serendipity and breathtaking views


The rainbow was entirely unexpected.

The rainy season in Thailand has big advantages. Having pop-out green colors everywhere are one of the biggest sources of producing the expression wow! While expecting a probably clouded sunset we got a unique-magic combination of gold sun, “powerful-fat-beautiful” clouds, and a huge double rainbow!

Tip: Drive slowly. And don’t forget to stay left.


I feel so blessed to be able to work from such a beautiful place. If there’s one word to describe my time in Pai, it’s abundance. Pai has an abundance of natural wonders, fresh food, comfortable places to stay and most importantly, positive energies.

Living on the other side of the world, without my usual comforts and confidants, yet somehow I feel really at home. Living in Pai has made me realize that there are so many places and people that I can connect to, if only I have the courage and means to break from the routine and discover all that’s waiting for me.

Ashley Lombardo
Ashley Lombardo
Ashley Lombardo is a freelance writer.

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