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The One Thing We Don’t Like About Japan

Sitting in the small restaurant, listening to American oldies and waiting for our order we had no idea of the impending attack. Slowly, the haze permeated the room and drifted closer to us, burning our eyes and clogging our throats.

Looking around however, we saw no signs that anyone else was being affected. The laughter of a child rang out from the other end of the restaurant and conversation flowed uninterrupted.

We scanned the room again and noticed the culprit of our uneasy breathing. Every adult held a taco in one hand and in the other hand there rested a lit cigarette.

We made eye contact, both of us in obvious discomfort, and read the watery-eyed look on each other’s faces. Turning to the waitress we asked, ‘can you make our order take-out?’

The Only Thing We Don’t Like About Japan… Smoking!

cigarettes-83571_1280

Walking around, we are continually amazed by the number of smokers we see on the streets and especially prevalent in restaurants and bars. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the smoking culture in Japan is very different than in Canada and that, at least to us, there seems to be a larger visible population of smokers.

Perhaps it’s not a high prevalence of smoking, but more the relative numbers of smokers vs non smokers in Japan vs back home in Canada.

When we looked into the stats, it didn’t appear as though Japan has too significant of a difference in smoking rates than Canada (at least with respect to the numbers that were reported to the public) however when you compare relative population, it makes a whole world of difference.

Japan has almost 130 million people in an area of about 378,000 square-kilometres, whereas Canada has only 35.5 million in almost 10 million kilometres-squared.

That’s a HUGE difference! The estimated smoking rate in Japan is around 20% which translates to 26 million smokers in a small area.

Back home, we have only about 5.3 million smokers in a significantly larger amount of space. Maybe it’s just that the chances of running into a smoker are much higher in Japan where cities are crowded and smoking is accepted.

cigarette dispensing japan

Perhaps, it is also the high tolerance and, for us, uncommon level of accommodation for smokers. In fact, while we are now used to pretty much all establishments being non-smoking and very little acceptance of smokers back home, Japan seems much the opposite.

Finding hotels with no ‘non-smoking’ rooms is not unheard of, restaurants with ashtrays are the norm, and vending machines for packs of cigarettes dot the streets.

While there is absolutely no judgment on our part, either way, as nonsmokers we do find it uncomfortable and something that requires time to get used to. We both remember the days when smoking in bars and clubs was permitted in Ontario and separate smoking sections were fairly common.

We recall when we’d head home after a night out and the smell of smoke would linger on our clothes, our skin and our hair, but it’s been some time so perhaps the memory of just how prevalent smoking was, has faded.

Before we left, there was already a ban on smoking indoors in public establishments and strict guidelines for smoking near public buildings.

Since we left, Ontario has banned smoking even on restaurant and bar patios and tightened their restrictions on smoking in parks, playgrounds and sports fields.

The Smoking Culture in Japan

jt smoking sign

The discrepancy between the two cultures in smoking habits and acceptance is obvious and while smoking seems to be on the decline in Japan, this doesn’t seem to be due to any rigorous anti-smoking campaigns like those we see in North America.

Cigarette packs do not have the graphic images and warnings that around 50 other countries have adopted on their packaging, prices for cigarettes are relatively low and while more and more establishments are becoming ‘non-smoking’, tolerance inside restaurants and bars is pretty high.

Rather than ‘stop-smoking campaigns’, Japan Tobacco (JT) has issued smoking etiquette campaigns in the recent past, intended to promote the “harmonious coexistence between smokers and nonsmokers”.

Signs such as the one above and below were distributed, and in some places we even saw painted signs on the sidewalk suggesting you should not walk along the sidewalk while smoking.

While we like the promotion of smoking etiquette and the fact that polite smoking behaviour is encouraged, we were surprised that none of these ads commented on the negative health effects of smoking or attempted to deter smoking in general.

jt smoking etiquette sign

With the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, many Japanese officials believe that it is essential to bring smoking legislation and restrictions to a level that matches many Western standards. Whether this effort will actually result in changes remains to be seen.

We say it’s the one thing we don’t like in Japan but it truly isn’t something that has tainted our experience. We love the country so much, we’ve even wrote about, what we call, our passionate love-affair with Japan.

It has shocked us a little every time we’ve sat down for a meal and someone pulled out a cigarette, but for the most part the people we’ve met and spent time with have always been courteous and asked if we mind before lighting up.

Since Japan isn’t at the top of the list for smoking rates, we’re sure there’ll be other countries which will be a shock for us as well, but we’ll do the same thing there as we’ve done here: appreciate the cultural differences and expect to frequently find ourselves washing the smell of smoke out of our clothes and hair.

 

 

 

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4 Years, 38 Countries, 1 Man and His Bike

Friends and Family Across the World

Since we started our full-time travels, we’ve met so many amazing people. On our first day in Beijing, we made an instant friend – yes we’re talking about you Emily – and since then we’ve acquired a travel family, the Wagoners, a Thai family through Airbnb, a Taiwanese-Serbian family through couchsurfing and made friends and connections, across the world.  While we are still in contact with many, some people we met were just fleeting interactions that left long-term impressions on us, like the loud, friendly American from Long Island we met at a Thai restaurant in Chiang Mai who told us his life story, or some of the Airbnb and couchsurfing hosts we stayed with, who took time to talk about their life and travels. It’s crazy how many connections you meet, how many lives touch yours and how small this world really becomes when you travel. We’ve consistently run into people from a variety of walks of life, doing all manner of things, and we’ve been continually in awe of how many incredible stories there are.

Recently, we met Taro in Fukuoka, Japan. He was helping host the Airbnb rental where we were staying and when we met up at the restaurant where he works to pick up the key, we took time to chat with him and hear one absolutely inspiring travel story.

Meet Taro:

taro

Now 31 years old, Taro has only recently returned from 4 years of travel… on a bicycle. If you’re not as astonished as we were, we’d be very surprised. He said that more than 90% of his travel from Japan to England, and back again, was via his bicycle, with only a few flights in between when absolutely necessary! Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Taro was working as a store manager for several years at a popular CD, DVD and comic store. He had travelled to several countries prior, including Mexico, the US, Cuba, Vietnam and Taiwan, where his love of travel thrived and grew.

We felt a kinship with Taro. Here was someone who also loves to visit new countries and really get to know the culture and people. We could tell, just by listening to him share his stories, and his videos – which you can watch on Taro’s YouTube channel – how happy travel makes him and how much he looks forward to his next adventure.

taro cave

We wanted to share his travel story with you and decided to ask him a few questions about his decision to leave, and his journey back to Japan:

Q: Why did you decide to travel? How did you do it?

A: Just out of curiosity. I just wondered if I could do it by bike or not, so I saved money and left.

Q: What was the route you took, did you map the way you went?

A: The route I took:

Started from Hongkong-China-Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan-

Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey-Greece-Italy-France-Spain-Morocco-

Spain-Portugal-UK-Ireland-UK-Denmark-Sweden-Finland-

Poland-Czech-Slovakia-Hungary-Serbia-Bulgaria-Turkey-Georgia-

Armenia-Iran-Dubai-India(by air)-Nepal-Thailand(by air)-Myanmar-

Thailand-Laos-Thailand-Cambodia-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore-

Taiwan(by air)-Okinawa-Japan (3weeks cycling to my home)

taro sunset bicycle

Q: Why on a bicycle?

A: I wanted to travel a path, not point to point. The slower the speed, the more we can see the things we don’t notice when moving at a high speed. The same can be said about our lives in general.

Q: What did you take with you?

A: Too much… 40kg of luggage plus a 20kg bike. The luggage included a tent, sleeping bag, mat, cooking stove, bike repair tools, GPS, clothes, spare bike parts, emergency food, etc.

Taro Bicycle travel

Q: What was the hardest part of your travels?

A: The hardest part was when I was in Kyrgyzstan.  Even with everything I brought, I didn’t have enough stuff to protect me from the freezing cold when I experienced terrible strong winds and hail at the top of the pass.

taro winter camping

Q: How long did you plan to travel? How long were you gone for?

A: I was planning to travel like that for 2-3 years, but for some reason (mostly laziness), I prolonged it. Sometimes I felt like stopping for a while at one place. I didn’t want go out, not even from the bed of my guesthouse. In total, I travelled for 4 years.

Q: What was your most memorable experience? 

A: In Nepal. I tried to climb up to the highest pass (altitude of 5416m) with my bike. I took a difficult route to get to the top, and gave up near 5100m. I’ll never forget the colour of the sky above 5000m altitude.

taro climbing the pass

Q: What is your favourite place that you travelled?

A: Nepal. Everything is perfect for me – the people, food, prices and landscape.

Q: Why did you go back home to Japan?

A: Simply, I spent all my money. I also felt like doing something new. Maybe i’ll go on a different style trip or for business. Right now, I’m working out the details.

taro campsite

Q: Where do you want to go next?

A: Bhutan, Mongolia, the Kamchatka peninsula and New Zealand.

Q: What did you learn through your travels?

A: My own strengths and weaknesses as well as to value and fear nature and humans.

taro amazing view

 

Q: What advice do you have for others who want to travel as you did?

A:

  • Just endure the first couple of weeks, you’ll get used to the circumstances.
  • Don’t try to do ridiculous things.
  • Prepare yourself for the hard times.
  • Also, humans are the most frightening aspects of travel, so don’t compromise when you choose the place to pitch a tent.

Q: What’s your best travel tip?

A: Do the same as the locals do.

 

Taro’s story is a unique one. It’s not everyday you run into someone who has travelled for four years, mainly via a bicycle and sleeping in a tent. Comment below and let us know if you would do something like this.

Don’t forget to check out Taro’s YouTube videos of his amazing journey: Taro’s YouTube channel

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Leaving Us Wanting More – Scuba Diving in Koh Tao

Our First Scuba Experience with 8 Tips We Gathered For Beginners

Banner Fish Koh Tao

18m deep. Colder than the rest. The only sounds are your steady breath in and out through the regulator and a tapping sound from a nearby fish pecking at coral. Visibility is much less now but you can still see large schools of fish circling above and many others swimming calmly around you. The anemones, coral, and Christmas tree worms present a beautiful, waving display on the ocean floor below even though some of the colour is lost at this depth. Finding a clearing of sand, you finally stop and kneel at the bottom of the ocean.

You look down at your depth gauge and then up towards the surface and realize just how deep you are; the surface seemingly further in reality than any number on a gauge could ever suggest. At that moment it’s as if your mind has decided to depart from your body and head up to the surface, but you swiftly catch it and bring it back. 

Moving through the water now, concentrating on your breathing and the amazing marine life around you, you start worrying that your air pressure is lowering and you’ll have to end your dive and surface soon. You don’t want to. You never knew how awe-inspiring it was, never knew what was truly under the sea. But now you do. Now you see. Now you want more.

Scuba Diving in Koh Tao Wasn’t Part of Our Itinerary

learning to scuba dive

While scuba diving isn’t for everyone, we found it to be an absolutely incredible experience. It was a chance to explore a world unseen by most and we relished having that opportunity.  Until we made our first dive, we had no idea what we were missing.  Of course we had heard what people would say about scuba diving: “It’s amazing!” “ You have to try it!” “It’s so addictive!”. We heard what they were saying, but we never believed the hype. Now we realize that these people, crazy about scuba diving, were right. We’ve become one of those people.

Believe us when we say it is an unforgettable and truly amazing experience and one we hadn’t planned. While visiting Koh Tao, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, we ended up walking past Scuba Shack and a sign advertising their options for scuba diving and certification. We hadn’t given it much thought and weren’t sure if we wanted to dive, but we opted to get some information anyways. After all, we were told that Koh Tao is the place for diving and diving certification and since our anniversary was coming up we thought it may be a great way to celebrate even though the voters had not chosen Koh Tao as our anniversary island in our poll. So changing our plans a little, we decided on Koh Tao and diving for our second anniversary celebration

Finding The Right Dive Shop For The Job

scuba-shack-logo

Walking up to the large, wrap-around patio of the small dive shop just metres from the beach, we noticed people were milling about, sitting and chatting, most with smiles on their faces. We found the people at Scuba Shack to be very informative and helpful and discovered that a portion of those on the porch were students who were invited to stay and drink water, or tea and relax after their dives.

scuba diving equipment check

After a thorough rundown of their dive packages and courses, followed by a couple of hours to explore our options and soak it all in, we decided to take the open water diving certification course and since we felt most at ease with Scuba Shack, we headed back to book our course. We felt this was a great option to take should we want to go diving in the future as the certification would allow us to go on our own and dive as deep as 18 meters.

While this is the first and most basic course available, there are many others that we can upgrade to in the future, like wreck diving, night diving, navigation and deep dives of 30m.

Scuba Diving: An Experience Like No Other

scuba diving gear

We were incredibly lucky. Not only were we impressed with Scuba Shack itself but our instructor, James, was awesome. Friendly, funny, professional and incredibly knowledgeable, he eased any qualms we had and was just generally a great guy to be learning from and leading our team.

Our ‘in-class’ training was conducted with another soon-to-be diver from Holland and covered everything from safety to equipment to techniques while under the water. Once that was completed we moved to a contained dive where we practiced the essentials of diving but in shallow water.

learning to scuba dive koh tao

Learning to empty our goggles of water once we were submerged was probably the most difficult. It’s a weird feeling once you start breathing with a regulator underwater to then remove your mask. It’s like your mind says “since your breathing you might as well do it with your nose!” Meanwhile your instincts are screaming for you to hold your breath and your brain is reminding you that the worst thing you can do is stop breathing through that regulator.

scuba dive team

The contained dive was where we built a bit of confidence and worked on our skills in preparation for the real dives the following day  It was during the dives that we were especially thankful for James’ experience, knowledge and even humour as all of us were a little bit nervous, and a little bit unsure, of what to expect and how we would react.

Taking That First Dive

learning how to scuba dive

Our dive team was joined by an American who had completed the written portion back home and was looking to finish his certification. With two pairs of dive buddies and James leading the way, our first descent was filled with anxiety (at least for some of us) and anticipation.

scuba diving team

There really is no way to describe those first few metres. we descended that first time with the assistance of a rope. The frayed, moss-encrusted hovering piece of entwined rope strands were the only visible thing, besides our fellow divers, as we slowly dropped down through the water. During this portion of the descent was where we discovered a slight disorientation may occur.  With no visibility to what’s below, it becomes an eerie float downward, several moments of uncertainty and relative internal disquiet.

scuba diving certification

On that first dive, when James told us to let go of the rope and follow him, we’re pretty sure we all hesitated but once we gave ourselves over to the moment and the water around us, we instantly fell into a trance, a kind of meditation. The constant worry about breathing washed away, our sense of sight overwhelmed the rest, and the ocean had us so relaxed the only thing we could do was enjoy what it had to offer.

scuba diving in koh tao thailand

That first dive was without any tests or practice of techniques and allowed us to get comfortable with swimming at such depths, maneuvering among the coral, fish and other underwater creatures (such as the nudibranch) and working with our buddies. In the end, that first dive also allowed us to fall in love with scuba diving itself.

We were fortunate to have someone from Fat Fish Movies (hey Charlie!) videotape one of our dives! Watch ours below:

 

We’ve put together a photo tour of our second dive with Charlie from Fat Fish Movies who documented it all in photos this time!! You can also check out some more amazing videos from Charlie and the team at Fat Fish Movies’ YouTube page. The box jelly fish one is particularly interesting to us since we were on the dive in which that was shot!! Yup, we swam with some box jelly fish unbeknownst to us the possible danger and the fact that we were swimming with one of the world’s deadliest creatures!

Now that we’re certified we are constantly keeping our eyes and ears open for great diving spots. We’ve already made a trip to Key West, but we hope to go back and add one more – scuba diving at the reef! With so many places to visit, we’re excited to be able to expand our adventures to the incredible unseen world underwater.

8 Tips For Those Considering Scuba Diving For The First Time

Learning to scuba dive in koh tao certification

We’ve put together a list of 8 tips for those who are considering scuba diving for the first time. If you’re looking for a spot like Scuba Shack to learn to dive, or if you haven’t gone diving for a while, we think these tips will help put your mind at ease and help you get the most out of your diving experience:

 scuba shack koh tao thailand

1. Do research to choose a good diving school. Make sure the group is small and that they are PADI or SIS certified. Even though they were the first dive shop we talked to, we were so comfortable and at ease with Scuba Shack that, although we looked around and did our research, there was really no better option for us. They were professional, had good quality equipment, knowledgeable instructors who were actually pretty fun to spend time with and came with a recommendation. Ask around and do your research.

2. Do not dive past your certification. It’s dangerous to dive without the right training, so if you want to dive in that cave or through a ship wreck to try and find some treasure, get certified first. Along with this, do not dive without certification or without going through a well-researched (see tip #1) dive shop for a fun dive (A dive with an introduction to the equipment, techniques and safety but with no certification)

scuba diving buddy teams

3. Value the Buddy System. We are fortunate in that we were able to learn together and thus develop our “buddy skills” together. It became another type of partnership as the responsibility for your partner and their safety is ever-present 18 meters below the surface. Always dive with a buddy, make sure they are doing okay throughout the dive and remember to ask where their air supply is at, once every 5-10 minutes. (Carolann obsessively asked Macrae this question about 30 times in a 45 min dive). With deeper dives and as air gets lower, ask them a little more often.

4. It’s normal to feel nervous before your first dive. In fact, several of us on the boat  were nervous for all of our open water certification dives. It can be helpful to know you are not alone in those worries and fortunately with an instructor like James, our minds were put at ease fairly easily.

learning to scuba dive

5. Some things don’t come naturally or easily. Clearing your goggles of water when submerged or equalizing your ear pressure is not always easy but that’s why there are contained dives to practice and drills throughout the regular dives. It may feel repetitious but it definitely helps in making them feel more natural. It’s a good idea to practice or brush-up on things like clearing your goggles and switching from regulator to snorkel to breath at the surface if you’ve been away from diving for some time.

6. It’s okay to take your time, to equalize, calm down.  Your instructor will wait, no one will mind, and in fact chances are someone else is thankful for a bit of a break. Don’t feel compelled to keep up as you have a buddy to stick with you and an instructor who should be patient. The pace is so much slower then you would think so taking your time is generally not an issue.

Scuba shack boat

7. Hiring a photographer/videographer is worth it! If you don’t mind the extra cost, and are able, hiring someone to take video footage and photos with you on your dive leaves you with an incredible documentation of your time under the water. We were fortunate to have someone from Fat Fish Movies dive with us and take some incredible photos of one of our dives. The video found earlier in this post was also taken by them on the previous dive.

8. Remember to have fun!! This is perhaps the most important point but one that is hard not to do once you are amidst the aquatic life below. The time goes by faster than you expect so enjoy!!

Comment below and let us know what locations are your favourite for scuba diving. Or, if you’ve never been, where would you want to start?

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The Day I Paid For Torture in Thailand

My Thai Massage: A Lesson In Pain

By Carolann

It started with pain. With each cracking sound of my back I grew more concerned and within 5 minutes of the hour long torture session which, for some reason, I was paying for, I questioned exactly what I had said that brought me to this point and to the discomfort I wasn’t positive was going to end.

I’m sure I pointed to, and asked for, the neck, back and shoulder massage with coconut oil NOT the traditional Thai massage which was advertised with terrifying photos of women being held in ridiculously uncomfortable looking positions. But maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t clear.

Crack, crack-crack-crack. I hear the masseuse giggle at the constant noises coming from what I assume is the joints of my ribs and spine. “It’s a good pain, yes?” she asks after noticing the grimace on my sideways-turned face. I attempt a smile and close my eyes praying this is just the prelude to a relaxing back rub. It wasn’t.

I thought back to the naive me of 10 minutes prior, walking through the curtains separating the front area from the four massage tables clustered to one side. That ‘me of the past’ was excited to be getting a back massage after months of riding on the back of a scooter, curling up in airplane seats and stiffening up during long bus rides.

Added to the body punishing travel, each place we stayed had a different version of what a comfortable bed should feel like, with very few matching my own. So it was only natural that I would be eager to get some of the knots worked out and for $13 per hour I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.

As the masseuse climbed on the table and hovered above me I was brought back to the present. The smell of the menthol oil, the thin sheets above and below me, the silence from my friend receiving a massage on the table beside me. Wait! Surely she should be experiencing a similarly painful massage? But there were no noises that would indicate any torturous activity was occurring and certainly no giggles from her masseuse in response.

Positioned over top, leaning all her weight onto her hands as they pressed down on my back, the masseuse pushed harder forcing my rib cage walls together, leaving my breath to escape in a whoosh-like sound.

A few more cracks of my back with the whole of her weight pressing down and she steps down from the table and starts a more gentle exploration of the numerous knots around my upper back. It was in that moment that I found some hope that the massage was turning tide and would morph into the relaxing event I had in mind when I stepped into this den of pain.




Unfortunately, that was just before I felt her elbow dig its way underneath my shoulder blade.

Started From the Bottom… Cracking the Joints
ckassical thai massage

Photo credit/model: Sophie Oliver

Needless to say, the remainder of the back massage was as painful as it started and when she asked me to flip over I no longer held on to any false hope of gentleness to come. This time every crack was intentional as she endeavoured to workout each joint in my body from my little toe to my neck, the latter being the most horrifying and unexpected part of the entire procedure.

The quick snap of my head to one side had me letting out a yelp of surprise and fear. Laughing at me again, the masseuse told me to relax and not to tense – as if having one’s head rapidly snapped to one side is a commonplace occurrence not warranting the extreme fear that was now coursing through my body. Slowly twisting my head to the other side, she patted my shoulder and I tried to relax for what was to come, knowing that it could not be good to be braced tight. With one final motion she had cracked the other side of my neck leaving me wondering if paralysis was instant or if I could expect it to kick in at any moment.

I didn’t have too long to contemplate as what followed was a series of stretches even more uncomfortable and awkward than the aforementioned photos of the advertised Thai massage had portrayed. Legs, back, arms – no joint was left un-cracked, no muscle un-stretched, and all the while my tormentor was obviously enjoying the gasps of surprise and grunts of pain as she went.

An hour after it began, cracked, twisted and stretched, I was informed that the massage was over and I was allowed to dress in relative privacy as I attempted to regain my composure and keep my mind off of the unpleasant sensations now distributed, fairly equally, throughout my body.

As I left the curtained-off area, I was offered a seat, given some hot tea and told that since I had so many knots in my back, and she had to work them out so much, that I would most certainly feel pain the next day and concluded that I would benefit from one more session before I left the island. Luckily I was leaving the next day so that wasn’t even an option.

Leaving the spa with my friend, who looked far more relaxed and comfortable than I did, I debated whether it was the massage itself that was painful or my obviously knotted and apparently decrepit body that was the real source of the pain. Never in my life had a massage given me so much discomfort or so much fear and I reminded myself that I had paid for it. Sure, only $13, but perhaps that was the going rate for a session of torture?

As this was my first massage in Thailand, I’m certain it isn’t representative as the vast majority of people with whom I spoke, claim only good things. Perhaps the massage was beneficial, perhaps the pain served purpose but for the next few days I definitely felt the pain she spoke of and unfortunately was left to try and ease the discomfort on a 3 hour ferry ride, followed by a 2 hour bus ride, a 5 hour wait at a train station, the 11 hour train ride to Malaysia and the hour or so it took by ferry and foot to get to our hotel where I could finally lie down straight.

If there is a next time, I’ll make sure it’s not before a long day of travel and should I smell menthol oil wafting my way, I’ll probably decide to make a mad dash out the door.

 

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Getting From Chiang Mai to Pai – Travel Tips

Making our way from Chiang Mai to Pai on a 125cc scooter was not an easy drive, but it was one of our favourite road trips of all time. You can read about how we conquered all 762 turns up highway 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai, but if you’re looking to get to Pai yourself, there’s probably a few additional details you’ll need in order to decide on how to best make your way from Chiang Mai to the valley town of Pai.

During our decision process, we did a lot of research on our options and our own drive gave us quite a few insights into the route. The following are some tips for making your way from Chiang Mai to Pai, including the different methods possible and costs associated with each one.

3 Different Ways of Getting From Chaing Mai To Pai

 

Chiang Mai to Pai On a Bus:

Road to Pai, How to get to Pai, getting to Pai from Chiang Mai, The drive from Chiang Mai to Pai

Minibus: You can take either a minibus or a standard bus to Pai. The minibus will run only about 150-200THB each way and will only take 3+ hours but it’s the one where you’ll probably feel the most motion sickness as they drive fast even on the turns (There’s even a “vomit here” sign on the road to Pai)

Air-conditioned Bus: These buses take a little longer to navigate through the bends but you’ll save a little money compared to the minibus (100-150THB). If you’re prone to motion sickness and not up for making the drive yourself, this is a slightly better option to the minibus.

drive to pai, chiang mai to pai, how to get to pai, tips on getting to pai

While you don’t need to rent a scooter to get around, there are many things to see outside the main area. If you’ve taken a bus into Pai and aren’t going to hire a tour, you’ll probably need to rent a scooter once in Pai. The cheapest scooter we saw in Pai is roughly 100THB per day plus gas and we are pretty certain that is without insurance. The total for a week would be 1200+THB (700 for a 7-day scooter rental, 100+ in gas depending on how much you drive, and 300+ for the transportation to and from Pai)

 

Chiang Mai to Pai On Your Own:

Scooter rentals Thailand, Best scooter rentals in thailand, drive to pai, road to pai, getting from Chiang Mai to Pai

Renting a scooter, bike or car offers you the ability to take an amazing drive through the mountains. It was certainly one of our most memorable road trips.

Scooter/bike: A 125cc scooter will cost you minimum 200THB per day and that cost increases as you look at bigger bikes. We recommend Tony’s Big Bikes in Chiang Mai as insurance was included, the entire staff was friendly and helpful and we received great service the entire time we had the bike. A full tank cost around 100-110THB and we spent less than 200THB in gas to get there. If we had stayed a week, we would have paid 1400 in rental fees, and about 500 in gas total.

Car: A car rental, from a company such as AVIS Thailand, for one week will cost about 6400THB plus gas. It is also difficult to find parking, especially for cars, in the main strip of the walking street and the immediate surrounding areas. If you choose to rent a car, be sure you have a place that offers parking or have confirmed an area to use.

Drive to Pai, Road to Pai, how to get to pai from chiang mai, drive from chiang mai to pai, best ways to get to pai

If you choose to make your own way to Pai, either by car or scooter, there are a few tips that will help make your journey a little easier. While most of these directly apply to driving a scooter or bike, they are definitely good to keep in mnd if you are planning to rent a car.

  1. Gas. Depending on the size of your tank, you may need to fill up more than once. Since there are long stretches of road without any available areas to purchase gas, we suggest you make note of the meter, and start looking when your tank hits the half-way mark. This is especially useful if you are driving a rental as the gauge may not be correct. Roadside gas pumps and even bottles of fuel can be purchased at almost every small village you drive through. If you’ve forgotten to check and are desperately low on gas, don’t hesitate to stop in a local area and ask for fuel/gas/petrol. Chances are they’ll be able to help, even if it’s at a premium price.                                                        Gas on the way to Pai, from Chiang rai to pai, driving to pai, how to get to pai
  2. Vehicle. We drove a 125cc scooter and while we made it to Pai and back without any real problems, there were a few moments we weren’t too sure we had made the right decision. The tank is small, the bike is small, and there’s not much power. If you’re budget can afford it, you may want to consider a larger bike or a car that can handle the inclines and also ease the drive over the potholes.
  3. Potholes. There are many and they are unavoidable. It can be a bit tiresome and straining to be on constant lookout for the obstacles on the road: traffic coming both ways, potholes, sharp curves, steep hills, and sometimes gas slicks from the trucks. Of all of these, potholes are the most frequent and can be pretty dangerous, especially when driving a vehicle with fairly narrow tires.Drive to pai, how to get to pai, from chiang mai to pai, potholes on the road to pai
  4. Hydration. It can get pretty hot driving through the mountains in the middle of the day. Unless you end up leaving early, or it rains, chances are you’re going to get quite a bit of sun and having ample water on hand is important. We have two hydration packs (water bladders) and ended up filling one up as emergency water and bringing two bottles with us in the scooter’s cup holders. Even if you go early, we still suggest having extra water on hand as you never know what the day will bring. We also brought some snacks just to be on the safe side and they ended up being incredibly handy to have, especially when we lengthened our trip by stopping at the geyser.
  5. Take your time. Like we mentioned, we left late, stopped for a total of 3 hours and then again when it rained once we entered Pai and still made it to our accommodations for 7pm. There’s no need to rush the ride. Take it slow, gas up when you can and make sure you’re prepared and make stops when you need. Not only is a smart thing to do with the length of the drive, there are also some pretty great views to take in on the way!                                                                             Drive to pai, view on the road to pai, chiang mai to pai, how to get to pai, tips on getting to pai
  6. Gauge your experience level. Macrae had ridden a scooter before this trip to Thailand and had been driving this particular one for a little while before we headed out to Pai. Make sure you are comfortable, not only with driving a scooter, but with driving in Thailand. It’s a completely different experience and it can take time to get used to.
  7. The route. The route is fairly simple. Once you get to the 1095 there’s really no where to go until you hit Pai. The complicated part is in the road itself. As we discussed, there are tons of potholes, fast drivers, and incredibly winding, narrow roads. Weather conditions are also variable as you are heading up into the mountains and then down into the valley so they can change at any moment. While we didn’t find the route nearly as difficult as we had read, we were also expecting the absolute worst. The route is tricky and has it’s dangers but caution and preparation goes a long way.drive to pai, wildlife pai, how to get to pai, tips on getting to pai, from pai to chiang mai on a scooter

Chiang Mai to Pai On A Plane:

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Taking a plane straight to Pai is also an option. The airport is located Northwest of the central part of town and flights can be taken direct from Chiang Mai. The flight is only about a half hour and while prices vary depending on airline and time of year, we found a cheap flight through Kan Airlines for around 1900THB at the start of their high season. Other airlines to look at within Thailand are AirAsia, Thai Smile Airways, Nok Air and Tiger Air.

 

Comment below and tell us which way you’d choose to travel to Pai!