Move farther up the seat, move farther up! We’re gonna fall! We are gonna fall!
And, ladies and gentlemen, we indeed fell from the scooter we rented for the day.
It was our second day in the sleepy town of Pai and unlike the past week we spent in Chiang Mai, when we were simply winging it from day to day, we actually have a particular plan today. Waking up very early, a sign that we’re actually gonna do something, we packed our gear and roared away on a motorbike we rented at the House of Love where we were currently staying. Our targets, two waterfalls, a Chinese village, a World War II memorial bridge, a land crack—whatever that means—and Pai Canyon, again.
|GOING TO THE CHINESE VILLAGE IN PAI BY MOTORBIKE|
Our motorbiking skills were quite amateurish to say the least. We were more comfortable pedaling bicycles, but biking through kilometer after kilometer of undulating roads didn’t appeal to us. So motorbike it was. Anyways, it was a steal at only a hundred baht a day.
|THE GATE TO THE SANTICHON YUNNAN VILLAGE|
It took about an hour before a graceful red Chinese arch greeted us on a fork on the road. We parked our bike outside the village and proceeded on foot. It was actually quite a relief to be on two legs rather on two wheels.
ADDRESS: WIANG TAI, PAI, MAE HONG SON | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS COORDINATES MAP: 19.371581, 98.402170
|A HUGE ROCK PROCLAIMING THIS TO BE THE CHINESE VILLAGE|
Santichon, as the village is called is a real Chinese settlement turned into tourist park. It houses about 2,000 residents from the Yunnan province, immigrants from the mainland during Mao’s Communist reign in China.
|MUD HUTS AT THE YUNNAN VILLAGE|
I wasn’t really expecting much from the village, which was probably a good thing. We visited during Pai’s off-peak season and there were hardly any tourist in Santichon. Walking around, we passed by houses with walls built from mud and straw, the roofing made from a cogon-like material.
|A CLOSER LOOK AT THE MUD STRUCTURES|
Even with the lack of visitors, most of the shops were open. We took a peek inside and saw mostly touristy stuff being hawked by locals. They offered tea, which we can taste free of charge, but we knew we would somehow be enticed to buy a packet or two, so we politely declined.
|LUCID MORNING BY THE VILLAGE POND|
Passing a bridged pond, we came upon a fortress-like structure. Now, you just know when things are made more for tourists than locals. The whole thing looked like a knock-off Chinese Disneyland. We took a cursory jaunt and exited through a side-street at the back.
|OUR 10 BAHT BRUNCH AT THE VILLAGE|
The Yunnan Cultural Village was hardly the cultural village I thought it would be. Its saving grace were the clay houses, but those are also beset by the creeping commercialism in the area. The next best thing I guess, is the food. I heard authentic Yunnan dishes can be sampled in the village like steamed black chicken and pork hocks. Unfortunately we didn’t see any interesting restaurants selling those, we instead picked a shack selling piping hot noodles that we passed on the way out of the village.
|RUBBER TREES ALONG THE ROAD TO MO PAENG WATERFALLS|
On our motorbike once more, the road got narrower and hillier as we wound forward. We’ve heard one horror story after another of tourists having accidents in Pai. And indeed, we almost became part of that after tackling one unbelievable steep uphill road on the way to the Mo Paeng Waterfalls. It was a minor fall, our motorbike, failing to reach to apex of the climb and spilling us—quite gently, luckily—on to the pavement.
It took about twenty more minutes of snaking roadways before we arrived at Mo Paeng.
ADDRESS: MAE NA TOENG, PAI DISTRICT, MAE HONG SON, THAILAND | ENTRACE FEE: FREE | GPS COORDINATES MAP: 19.378897, 98.375920
|SHORT HIKE DOWN TO THE FALLS|
You’d know you’re at Mo Paeng Waterfalls when the road literally ends—as in the concrete path literally stops to a thicket of shrubs and trees. A few empty huts and a paved descending stairway announces you’re already within the vicinity of the waterfall.
|MO PAENG’S SECOND LEVEL|
|LOOKING DOWN THE FALLS’ FIRST LEVEL|
Mo Paeng is a three-tiered waterfall. The stairway ends at the basin of second level. There is a moderately steep unmarked pathway towards the third level, where we saw some local kids playing, but I don’t think it’s safe to go down the first level basin.
|BARELY A WATERFALL DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS|
To be perfectly honest, Mo Paeng looks better on photographs than when we visited. It might be since it was summer and the water gushing down the angled rock wall was but barely a trickle and the catch basin didn’t look that inviting for a swim at all; it looked shallow and mucky.
|DEFINITELY LOST IN TRANSLATION|
Things might’ve been very different if we visited during the rainy months. I’ve seen several videos of backpackers and kids sliding and careening off the rock wall en route to the basin below. It actually looked like a lot of fun, although not entirely safe, I reckon.
|WINDING ROAD OUT BACK TO TOWN|
The weather was quite erratic during our visit, and when the heavens started to patter us with raindrops, we decided we’ve had enough of Mo Paeng. Back on the rode, the sun thankfully started to shine again. It wasn’t ten minutes out in the middle of nowhere when we heard our tire pop. Flat tire.