About three hours north of Chiang Mai, through 762 curves and the most treacherous roads I've ever been on, you'll reach Pai. To say it lightly, it's a hippie paradise. Backpackers from all over flock here to visit the canyons, take a gander at the mountains surrounding on all sides, get a drink from the numerous bars, "feel the culture" and meet other foreigners at the market. I saw more foreigners in this weekend trip than I had seen in Thailand in ages. 

Even though there is always a wave of tourists moving through Pai, it keeps the "small Thai town" vibe, letting travelers get a glimpse of Thai life, even if it is hidden behind vendor carts and crowds of farang. There are lots of details that shout "Thailand!" at the top of their little object lungs, locals who light up when you speak in a northern Thai accent to them, and little Chinese aunties waiting on bless you with some of their hot tea just for entering their little shop.

Upon arrival, Megan and I checked into Heart of Pai Resort, still dizzy from the bumpy and rollercoaster-esque bus ride. We finished off our 7-Eleven loot, took the smallest of naps, then headed on to dinner at Silhouette, the restaurant at Reverie Siam. I'd been recommended this place both through friends in Chiang Mai and online, but the price tag per room was a bit much for my taste. The food however, was perfect for it. We sat and marveled at the restaurant's interior, ordered several tapas to split (think lemon pepper hummus and fried risotto balls), and got our mocktail on. The weather was perfect, a storm just passing over us, and the sun setting in the background. Talk about idyllic.

After dinner, a complementary motortaxi took us to the walking street in town, where we browsed the shops and the stands for a few hours. There were post cards galore, all manner of bags and pouches, plenty of foods to try (we settled on coconut khanom and rotee before caving into a carrot-cashew cake at Pai Siam Bistro).

On Saturday morning we discovered our favorite spot in Pai: Om Garden Café. The place was overflowing with greenery, an obvious win. The extensive menu (which we sampled both mornings of our trip) included a breakfast burger with bacon, egg and grilled mushroom, fried eggs over pita bread and hummus as well as more traditional Thai breakfast items like porridge and fruit. The smoothies were incredibly sweet and smooth. Megan had a slice of lime cake a couple times as well.

While living in China, Megan has had the fortune of learning to ride a motorbike. I, on the other hand, have not yet built up the courage to learn. She rented one for the two of us to ride, and it was probably one of the best decisions we made all weekend. We zoomed over to the Chinese village about 5 kilometers away from the city center, heading to the top of the "mountain" for spectacular views, not-yet-ripe bananas and all the green tea we could drink.

Heading down from the summit, we breezed through the little village, Megan getting to surprise some of the ladies there with her Chinese, and me getting by on the Thai they spoke. The sweetest women ran these tea shops, not pushing us to buy, but hoping for a chat to spend the time they normally just used sitting in the heat and watching tourists walk by without a word.

Before the day ended we hiked up and around the entrance of Pai Canyon, a quick bike ride to the other side of the city. No deep deep abysses here, but plenty of formations jetting out over the forested area, views of beautiful blue and green mountains for miles. Slipping here is easy, and we saw too many bandaged foreigners to want to spend more time climbing and balancing. The views were worth the drive, and the heat of the sun was worth the wind on the ride back.

That night we browsed the market again, but on motorbike this time, circling the town to take in the glorious cool of the night–something Chiang Mai hasn't received yet this year. We ate a little (sorta unimpressive) dinner at Duang Restaurant near the center of the market before we discovered Nong Beer Restaurant's great Thai food. Closing the night with another long visit to Silhouette for virgin Mojitos and some quality book time.

The first time I visited Pai the premise was camping, and this trip was completely different. I'm definitely prone to repeat trips: visiting the same restaurants, the same lookout spots and the same hotels. This was a refreshing second look at Pai, with its hoards of backpackers, constant smells of beer and Thai food, and rustic Thai village-town combo life. Word to the wise: if the khao soi has spaghetti instead of egg noodles, just go somewhere else.


My parents are island people. They love white beaches, blue blue water, and everything about tropical paradises. I had never been to a place like that until last month. Krabi is a dream, and while I heard from locals and expats about it's greatness, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Rest assured, Krabi is amazing. People had told us that two days wasn't really enough, and though we experienced an amazing time here, there is no denying that leaving was the last thing we wanted to do.

Alex, Mary Austin and I arrived in the evening, taking a cheap bus from the airport to our guest house in Aonang. We stayed at MiniHouse Aonang, a modern and adorable little hotel about ten minutes walk from the beach, and to my knowledge we were the only westerners there. The night we arrived we ate at a restaurant a few blocks down called Jenna's Bistro, where we ordered delicious fried things like spring rolls and aubergine bites.

In the morning we were picked up by some folks from SeaKayak Krabi, a kayak tour I had booked about a week prior to our travels. Again, not quite sure what to expect. Even though the reviews had been raving, you never know what can happen in Thailand. Talk about an overwhelming and surprising success. We had a little team of five to our group, led by an amazing Krabi local, Aey. Aey had been a fisherman in Krabi for about 15 years before starting as a kayak guide. He explained all about each island, how the string of high cliff landmasses was linked under the water, and told us about his experience with the Tsunami in 2004.

Along with our new friends Ellen and Irv, we headed out to Koh Hong, an island named for the lagoon (or, "room") that lies in the middle. Mary Austin wasn't feeling the best, so when it came time to pick our duos, she chose to go with Aey, who dubbed himself her "motor." Alex and I teamed up and traded off rowing so we could both take the whole experience in via camera. The pictures below don't do this place justice. The water was crystal clear and bright blue all at once, and each turn of the tour brought a new majestic cliff sticking straight from the water, my mind blown everywhere I looked.


In the middle of our day, we stopped to eat a homemade lunch in the shade on the shore, Thai cuisine of course. We put our cameras down and sat in the water for a while while neon green striped fish swam around us and the piles of broken coral on the sandy floor. Aey took us to a few more islands to wander and frolic before we headed back to our starting point. Each place we stopped was like something out of National Geographic, or really just Google

When we had showered and freshened up at our hotel, we headed out to Ao Nang for dinner, deciding on Indian food at Moti Mahal, where the chana masala and the chai were incredible. We splurged on banana nutella roti and called it a night, 'cause we're grandmas. Kayaking-around-islands grandmas, but still grandmas.

In the morning we lazed around at the beach soaking in some more sun and watching the boats come in and out. Our lunch was gai yang (grilled chicken) and somtam (papaya salad) with sticky rice and ice tea at the White Elephant, and we practically ran back to our hotel to make our 1pm checkout time.

We took a songthaew to Krabi Town, but we were too early for there to be much going on, the weekend market wasn't yet going on. We had plans to go up to the top of Wat Tham Sua, or Tiger Temple, named so because of the "tiger paw prints" in a rock near the base of the mountain. We proceeded to climb the 1,267 steps to the top, plagued by monkeys and lack of water (stolen by the monkeys near step 245). We finally made it to the top, thankful that the beautiful view was totally worth the effort. Those monkeys, though, I've never been so scared for my life in such a real way.

Our flight out was only about an hour or two after our descent from this lovely temple, and our songthaew driver made sure we were there exactly in time, or, we sat in our seats two minutes before take off.

Thanks, Krabi. I wish I wish with all my heart to make it back to you before I leave Thailand, but I don't know if that is possible. I do know, however, that Mary Austin, Alex and I have already planned a reunion trip of their time in Thailand that will probably put us there in the next three or four years, you can bet.


As usually happens when I return from a trip, I find myself itching to go somewhere new, fast. I'd been contemplating a little border run to Laos, so Emily told me to keep her in the loop on it. Before long, I was booking our room at a guesthouse and looking up bus timetables to the border.

We bought tickets the morning of our departure (risky) and left for Chiang Khong, the Thai-side border town, in the early afternoon. We traveled via Greenbus, and arrived at the town bus station at 8pm. We took a songtaew/tuk-tuk hybrid to Baan Fai Guesthouse, the place I'd booked a few days before. Turns out, there wasn't room, but the owner had a room for us at a neighboring hotel. Less than ideal, but we got free breakfast out of the mix up. Part of me wants to travel to Chiang Khong again just to stay at Baan Fai, the buildings and rooms look idyllic, the place doubles as a textiles shop, and the breakfast wasn't bad.

At immigration we had some fun documenting Emily's first out-of-country trip since arriving in Thailand, mounted a bus that drove us across the river-border, and planted our feet down in Laos. The entry process took a little longer than 45 minutes, and soon we were marching up to a songtaew driver to drive us into Houayxay.

We immediately noticed the spread out feel of the land. It seemed much less cramped than Thailand, and the colors seemed more muted and a little dustier. Every now and then we would find a sunshiny yellow wall or a bright blue building, but for the most part, the overcast sky complemented the colors of the town. We paid our songtaew driver in Lao kip, but he would have taken baht too.

It was a sight to be able to look back across the river and know that the other banks were the edge of another country. We loved being by the water, the breeze picked up pretty quickly, though, sending us back up the road to a gaggle of Golden Retrievers, only the best welcoming committee possible.

Lunch by the river at an adorable little unassuming place included selfies with girls who never see westerners, fried rice and mixed veggies. We also ordered the Lao version of khao soi, this time rather than a spicy curry soup we got a soup made with rice noodles, chopped pork, tomatoes and fermented soy beans. It was amazing, but a little more bland than the type we were used to.

I grabbed a cheapo cardigan on our way to Wat Chom Khao Manilat since the weather was so cold and windy. The snake-lined steps up to the temple barred homes on either side from the traffic of wat-goers, but offered easy perches for dogs to sit and watch said wat-goers.

With only a couple hours left until our bus left for Chiang Mai, we hurried back across the border. This time around we hopped on a "chicken bus," or one of the Thai buses with no AC (It was freezing, so all we needed was an open window, anyway) and a lot of rattling. We landed in Chiang Rai that night before finding out the bus home was full. Thankfully some college students had two extra tickets to sell us. Would ya look at that! Here's to traveling like the Thais do.