From Chiang Mai, you can take a nausea-inducing four-hour minivan northwest to Pai, a slowed-down hippy town nearing the Burmese border. After the ride, both of us feeling pretty nauseated, we found a hostel right across from the bus station to lay down. After our stomachs calmed down, we decided to check out the walking street market just outside our hostel. There were more tourists than locals, but still, Pai immediately felt like a very cool place.
Our first order of business in the morning, after a hearty breakfast complete with homemade juices, was to organize a rafting trip for the next two-days. We quickly found that we only had one option, the French-run Thai Adventure Rafting. Pai Adventures is the only other name in town for rafting, and at the time they were not offering 2-day trips, only single days. So for 3500 baht each (about $100), we were all set for a two-day adventure on the Pai river.
We had quite a surprise when we met the rest of our group the next morning before embarking on a windy, bumpy one-hour truck ride to the launch point. First of all, I was the only guy on the whole trip, and second, apart from their two tour guides, we were BY FAR the youngest on the tour. You guessed it, it was Allie and I plus 12 long-retired women. They were all well-off Canadian women, and although they did not have much of an idea of what was ahead (especially the rustic, buggy camp we stayed at), they wound up having a blast! The group was all about empowering older women and making them feel like they could do anything. For those two days, we saw these women push their limits big time, it was very cool and a lot of fun.
Although it was nearing the dry-season, we lucked out with a big storm the night before our trips, so the rapids got up to Class IV, and our raft was composed of Allie and I plus the two younger tour guides for the ladies, plus a very inexperienced river guide. We hit just about every big rock the river had to offer, and were almost thrown out of the raft more than a couple of times, thanks to our guide that looked like he couldn’t be more than 20 years old.
Finishing up the second day, we were tired and hungry, and we got in to town pretty late due to communication issues between the guides. We had a great experience with Thai Adventures until this last drive, where halfway through, the main guide insisted that he had sobered up enough (the guides decided to drink a bunch of beers while we waited for transportation) to drive the rest of the way because he knew the roads the best. We probably should have said something, but instead we became passengers on a drunken Nascar truck for the 3-hour drive back to Pai. It was very sketchy and a pretty bad way to wrap things up. But because we got in so late, the French owner did offer us a free bed for the night, which helped to make up for that last bit.