Oh Pai, I can't say that I loved you but it wasn't a straight up hate sitch' either. Everyone I spoke to at length about travelling in Thailand told me that I'd just love it there but I really, really didn't. It I think my new friend Sarah said it best when she described it as feeling like being at a festival and I agree although I'd never go to a festival with such terrible music or so many hippy stoner types. Basically Pai wasn't my favourite and I definitely can't say that I thought it was worth the super bumpy and sickness inducing three hour mini bus ride along the windiest roads I've ever had the displeasure to be driven around; especially as I had to add an extra three hours onto that to sleep off the anti sickness meds! If Pai still appeals (as it does to almost everyone else ever) then here's my take on it's vegan friendliness so that my time there can at least be useful!
My first stop in town was Chew Xin Jai a vegan buffet-style Chinese spot located pretty close to the main drag.
If you don't have allergies to contend with then the cheapest way to eat here is to pick from the buffet. You can get rice and one, two or three curries for 30-40 THB / 70p / $1 which is a mega bargain. We ordered from the menu which was definitely more expensive especially when you're adding in the fun fake meat products but it was still pretty damn cheap.
Nick and I decided to share a few things because we were starving and couldn't make sensible ordering decisions. We eventually settled upon the Pad See Ew, the Vegan Chicken with Rice and a Mock Meat Selection.
A mock meat platter is ALWAYS a good idea, it means that you get to try all of the faux meaty options before deciding on a favourite. The pink imitation pork (your computer isn't making it look weird, that's the real colour) turned out to be the standout closely followed by the mock duck and the fried tofu. The chicken balls and fried mushrooms were okay but I think I prefer my faux meats without the batter. Pad See Ew is always a joy and this one was particularly good due to the variety of veggies and the generous amount of tofu. The chicken dish was just okay, a little dry, and not something I'd order again.
On our next visit we did the sharing thing again but this time with a stir fried rice, veg and mock meat dish that was super peppery and enjoyable.
We also ordered more faux pork. Vegetarian Rad Pork in fact! Who could say no to rad pork?!
It's up there with my fave' mock meats ever and I'd consider going back to Pai just to eat it. I kid. I'm never going back to Pai.
Art in Chai was another Happy Cow find and we enjoyed our time sitting outside drinking tea (Nick) and eating cake (both of us). Apparently the Chai is excellent which is good to hear because otherwise they picked the wrong moniker.
The chocolate cake had a dense crumb and was super chocolatey as was the fudge icing. I'd go as far as to say that it's some of the best chocolate cake I've eaten.
It's also what every single other person in the place was ordering which is always a good way to get a recommendation when you're somewhere new.
We did a lot of walking in Pai. I know that we'd have enjoyed the region more, and been able to check out highly rated vegan spot Earth Tone, if we'd been willing to rent a scooter but seriously 90% of the westerners riding scooters here are high / drunk / don't have licenses and we witnessed more than one accident including a terrifying moment where a woman drove past us, careered off of the road and down a ravine only narrowly escaping serious injury / death thanks to a well placed tree that she rode directly into. Terrifying.
This cat was one of my favourite things about Pai!
Fluid Pool is my top Pai recommendation, get there early if you want to avoid the crowds and the loud, and awful, music...I mean who's still seriously listening to Travis?! Barf. The 25m pool is super beautiful though and your 60THB / £1.20 / $1.80 gets you in for the whole day. I spent an enjoyable morning here swimming lengths, reading in the sun, and wishing that the rest of Pai was this peaceful.
Witching Well was our chosen spot for dinner on our last evening as it's right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of walking street and they label vegan stuff on the menu which is super helpful.
The service here was suspiciously fast, I got my pasta pesto faster than you can say pasta pesto. I have no hesitation suggesting that the food here is clearly pre-cooked and re-heated but it was fine.
Nick's roasted potatoes with seasonal vegetables were heavy on the veggies and light on the potatoes. He wasn't amused but I enjoyed stealing the majority of his veggies.
Pai and it's environs are pretty, that's for sure, but I can't help wondering how much the people living here can enjoy their small town being completely taken over by stoned hippies and traveller types. I don't think I saw more than a handful of Thai people doing anything other than working in town and when we ventured off of the beaten track to a more local market we were not greeted with friendliness. I'm sure Pai was quieter, nicer, better etc etc years ago but the tourist dollar seems to have completely engulfed the town which has surely destroyed some of the things that were great about it in the first place.