Pai has become my favorite place in Thailand. It was a good thing I had all that relaxation training in Laos because it was put to good use in Pai.
Pai is a beautiful small town surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and rivers. You can walk across town in 11 minutes, the perfect size for city phobics like myself.
My hostel was the perfect breeding ground for friends and doing absolutely nothing. I think the most said phrase was "I can't be bothered with getting up" and food was delivered right to the hammock every night. Most people were solo-travelers who inevitably extended their stay.
My first day, my friend generously chauffeuring me around the area on his scooter. A few days later I conquered my fear and rented one myself. Yes, the girl who is terrified to ride push bikes decided to be in control of not just a bike, but a bike with a motor. I thought I was home free from accidents until my second day. I was riding on a rocky dirt trail, came around a corner to find a steep rocky hill and it got the best of me. I count myself lucky because I drove away with only a few scratches and relief that I got my first crash out of the way. I then ate mango and sticky rice to celebrate my survival and to let the shaking calm down.
By day, I went to waterfalls (including a serene 2 1/2 hr hike I went to on my own and one that you can slide down), town and a canyon. I usually ended up strolling the night market at night. After dinner, we usually had a more relaxed version of the college life that I never had at my hostel (including an epic homemade fruit punch night officially named "super awesome punchtacular").
On my last day, I discovered an Indian cafe run by a gypsyesque Swedish woman with the best chai tea I think I've ever had. Sorry Alley Cat, my chai loyalty to you only remains while I'm in Fort Collins. That evening I went to a meditation and Buddhism outing at a temple on the hill led by the owner of my hostel. He told us about his experience being a monk (for 6 years) and taught us how to do basic walking meditation.
He said that every year the elder monks would take the teenage novice monks to the graveyard. To combat their sexual urges they would open up the ground and show them a dead girl. They would then bring them back a week later to see her decompose. This was to teach them that beauty is fading and to not invest their thoughts in obsessing about someone who is just going to rot. Interesting approach.
We did walking meditation starting at the basic level and then progressing to more complicated levels. The purpose was to clear your mind and to be in the moment, living through your sensations as opposed to your thoughts. We started with "left foot up, move, right foot up, move" and finished with "left foot up, move, down, touch, toe, heal, etc..." It was much harder than I thought. I like to think of myself as an experienced walker and top notch pedestrian but I had trouble pushing away my thoughts of things like tomorrow's plans, the sound in the background and what I'm going to eat for dinner. Without realizing it I would create elaborate stories of who the tourists making noise were and their typical dinner time conversation (without even seeing them). I did improve with time and was able to pay attention to the coolness of the stone and the slight breeze across my cheeks. One thing I noticed about myself is my tendency to think in metaphors. I couldn't help but to think about the pebbles I collected with each step and how some of them fell in just the right spot to relieve my itches and some fell in sensitive areas, making contact with the stone hurt. Some would fall off and some would stick around for the entirety of the ride. I likened the pebbles to people and experiences in my life, coming and going, relieving and irritating me. They are all part of the journey and each of them plays an important role, better preparing me for each coming step (the irritating ones toughening my feet). Each step was conscious and calculated and the surface of every mossy stone was slightly different. It is easy to think in past and future (especially when traveling) and forget about the basics like how the coolness stone feels on your heels. Good reminder.
For my last meal I had ........(drumroll).......pie.