JohnH in Pai and Chiang Mai

Dec 30th, 2008, 04:37 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 317
JohnH in Pai and Chiang Mai

Just a quick check-in... I just got back to Chiang Mai after 3 nights at The Quarter in Pai.

I'm with a freind from Chiang Mai who last visited Pai about 8 years ago and couldn't beleive how much it had changed - new hotels everywhere.

We were expecting a sort of quiet, funky mountain hideaway. Really, it was just the opposite - if any of you are familiar with Cape Cod in August, that's pretty much what Pai felt like. Bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to get in and around the very small town. The main streets were so jammed packed with tourists (probably 95% Thai) both day and night that it was difficult to move.

There is much more interesting shopping in Bangkok and Chiang Mai (unless you're looking for an "I Love Pai" t-shirt).

Food was mediocre, although the hot local teas sold on the street at night were delicious.

We visited a couple of temples, waterfalls and a hot spring. All were okay, but nothing special - I've seen nicer around Chiang Mai.

The Quarter was maybe the biggest disappointment. Maybe my expectations were too high, but this is absolutely not a luxury hotel. The room was cramped and nothing particularly special. The bathroom was nicer, but had open windows and an open-air shower, with no screens. In warmer weather I imagine the room would be infested with mosquitos. The breakfast was actually very good - nice selection of both western and Asian foods.

It was the staff that was most uninspired for a property that bills itself as a "luxury boutique" hotel. Not once were we greeted by any staff person passing us on the grounds, or at breakfast. In fact. most of them looked down and avoided eye contact. At checkout, both receptionists were on the phones (one on her cell phone). They saw us waiting with the key but didn't even acknowledge us, or ask us to wait a moment, or to sit down. We set the key on the counter and walked out.

It may be that part of my disappointment is due to the fact that I'm staying at the new Le Meridien in Chiang Mai, which is very very nice. Clean, contemporary, and slightly minimalist design. Each elevator seems to have a different ambient sound playing in it - very cool! The rooms are quite comfortable, and have the most amazing bed I've ever slept in! My one complaint is the charge of 650 baht daily for in-room internet.

It doesn't feel particularly Thai inside, but it is such an oasis from the hectic night bazaar out on the street.

And a quick note about food...
Went to a vegetarian restaurant, Khun Churn, off of Nimmanhemin Rd. that was excellent. I'm not a vegetarian, but have eaten here twice and would go back again tomorrow it was so good (and inexpensive).

On the way to Pai, we stopped at a roadside stand that is famous among locals for having the best "sai-ua" (Chiang Mai style spicy sausage) in the area. Sitting on the car at the side of the road on this rural highway, I had one of the most delicious meals ever. This is the kind of food that makes the 16+hour flight from the U.S. worth it! And I would have never thought of stopping there were I not with someone who knew about it.

You'll see copies of their reviews and wards hanging above the stand.

It's maybe 2-3 miles after you turn off the Chiang Mai highway onto the road to Pai, on the left hand side. You'll see a lot of cars parked there, and the smoke from the grilling sausages. Be sure you get sticky rice and chili dip ("Nam prik").

Am having the New Years Eve dinner here at the Meridien tomorrow, then home on January 1.

I know this isn't especially detailed, but if anyone has questions I'll be happy to answer.
JohnH is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 04:59 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Thanks for the update on Pai. Your take was certainly much different than other posters. The Yogi Berra quote comes to mind. Posting while travelling, no penalty.
Gpanda is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 08:07 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,702
Wow what a change. We were in Pai 5/6 years ago and loved it. Such a shame that the economic growth and growth in tourism always seems to have the unwanted side effect of destroying what most come to see in the first place.
crellston is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 08:10 AM
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My friends from Chiang Mai did say that almost everyone in Pai was from Bangkok. Apparently, many people from Bangkok like to take their holiday at the end of December, and like to head for colder parts of the country. Chiang Mai is also very crowded tonight, and mostly with Thai people. So perhaps at other times of the year, Pai is not as crazy as it is now.
JohnH is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 09:39 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Wow. Definitely different from my experience...and that was only 2 weeks ago.

Sorry you didn't enjoy it--we loved our experience there, and at the Quarter.

Different strokes, I guess...
filmwill is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 05:32 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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hmmm.... You know when I read this, I find myself thinking that it may not just be a matter of different stokes. John noted that he was there when Pai was packed with Thai tourists out of the city of the holiday. No doubt, that changes the atmosphere of the town, and may change the attitude/behavior of the hotel staff (overwhelmed? overworked?).

When any of us visit a place we observe what we see and we assume (reasonably) that we've seem something that is likely consistent over time. But sometimes we are in a place that has been negatively or positively impacted by circumstances which are not usual.

I think of this in relation to my own recent experience in Nepal. When I was there in October, Thamel was so packed that walking around was no fun - different from my experience of 14 years ago. I assumed that the population in the Kathmandu valley had increased so much that this is the way Thamel is now. But another Fodorite was there recently, and reported a different experience than I had. So it made me wonder whether my experience was an artifact of being in Thamel at the beginning of Tihar rather than my experience representing the way things are now.
Kathie is online now  
Dec 31st, 2008, 06:56 AM
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Kathie, I think (as usual) you've hit the nail on the head. Based on the reports I've read, I didn't have the experience in Pai that others here have had. And believe me, I would have liked to - and in fact was expecting to.

I would go back again - at a different time of year. But I would not stay at The Quarter again based on the experience I had there. I would choose one of the newer hotels outside the city with gorgeous mountain and valley views and quieter surroundings.
JohnH is offline  
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