Pai is widely regarded as a hippie oasis and pearl of the north of Thailand. It's a small village located in a broad valley, surrounded by green mountains. Again, the tourists have life firmly in hand. There is a bookstore selling exclusively English-language titles and many scooter rentals, tour providers and massage facilities. You can leave the main street to get a glimpse of local life. In addition to the ever-present temples, there is a mosque, which breaks up the monotony of the Buddhist life. Here, the men wear Takke and the women headscarves, but otherwise, not much seems to be different.
I sleep a bit outside, on the edge of the jungle in an environment-friendly hostel. I take a shower over the toilet and fight with the mosquito net against the small animals, which try to slip between my sheets. I am moderately successful. At night, I listen to the cries of the gecko, which hunts the remaining spiders and moths. In the beginning, this noise frightens me, as I expect the gecko to fall on my mosquito net. Once it's there, I'm convinced it will devour me just like all the other crawlers in this room. (He's the size of my index finger.) But night after night, my confidence in him grows until I can hardly sleep without hearing his cry.
On the terrace of my hostel hang two hammocks, and numerous pillows invite me to linger. That's where I read one book after another. The view falls into the valley below. The sunset hangs in the mountains, like the fog. Crickets dominate the background noise. On occasion, I hear the bleating of an elephant. You see these giants living on the roadside. They are chained and live mostly in the dirt under a tin roof. Of course, their tusks have been removed. Seeing them makes me sad. The locals go about their work, selling books, food or massages and cleaning tourists' accommodation. They don't pay much attention to us. Once, it rains for three days. The hammocks and my bed are the only places I don't get soaked in. The monsoon rain is impressive. It's like the rain in Hollywood productions: loud, heavy and overdramatic.
On the back of a scooter, I explore the valley with J. (an acquaintance from the penultimate hostel). We travel from one Buddha to the next, are amazed that we see so many elephants and venture into remote corners. For a change, we speak German. It's surprisingly difficult. Invariably I start sentences in English, and the language doesn't roll off my lips like it used to.
Together, J. and I can explore twice as much. We buy books and then fall into a comfortable rhythm of eating, reading and walking to town in the evenings for the night market. I enjoy this quiet and contemplative rhythm of life because I know that I have to spend time in this country until my plane leaves Bangkok for Rome. (That's in under three weeks.) Since I've found so few aspects that delight or intrigue me, I linger in this place. At least it only makes me partially angry. Here, on the edge of the jungle, I can forget the other tourists. Although every evening I walk past a hotel with a bunch of yoga crazed, vegan Western Europeans that are convinced that they are saving the world (while smoking cigarettes and the occasional splif).
Because J. and I eventually feel guilty, that we don't rummage the well-known sights like all the others, we make our way into the jungle. There are a couple of waterfalls on our map, as well as the path that leads us to them. We think we can do it alone. After half an hour, our path merges with the river, and we wade up to the ankle in water. The images that I take are delightful, the river refreshing and our shoes forever ruined. Before we reach the final cascade, we turn around. The mosquitoes are omnipresent, and the water is not only in our shoes. It has started to rain. Soaked, we return to the hostel and crawl into our beds, where we stay for the rest of the day. We are relieved that we had the appropriate tourist adventure and can now be still.
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