My heart was thumping hard. It wasn’t from exertion but from fear; the fear of plunging down Pai Canyon’s thirty to fifty-meter vertical drop. Somewhere in between uttering a non-stop prayer and balancing using two cameras on each hand, I made the mistake of looking down as I traversed the steep, foot-wide path. A very big mistake. My head quickly spun in vertigo as blood rushed through my fear-addled brain. The narrow path was only about four to five meters long, but it definitely seemed much, much, much longer.
|THE SHORT HIKE UP TO PAI CANYON|
It was our first afternoon in Pai. And after settling down and resting our nauseated heads at the House of Love—blame the endless curves going to Pai from Chiang Mai—we decided to see the sunset at the best place to view it in town, Pai Canyon.
On board a scooter we rented from our resort, we roared through the deserted highways of Pai, climbed through a winding 300-meter pathway and looked for our sunset.
|PAI CANYON, BATHED IN WARM AFTERNOON LIGHT|
If the initial climb didn’t take your breath away, which was fairly easy by the way, the view at the top definitely would. From our initial vantage, I could quickly see why Pai Canyon is a top tourist draw in the area. My eyes traced the reddish narrow ridges circling and dipping below the lush treeline. And beyond, on both sides, nothing but grand sweeping vistas.
|HOW THE HECK DID HE GET THERE?!|
We can see a few tourists braving the farther reaches of the trail, but most visitors it seemed, were contented to set their footings on much wider grounds. The trails after all, if you can actually call them that, are quite narrow, some just enough for a single foot, and there are no rails to hold on to. One wrong step would definitely send you hurtling down to a very painful fall, and I can imagine, even death.
|STANDING ON A KNIFE’S EDGE|
Surprisingly, I haven’t heard of anyone actually plunging to their death at Pai Canyon, even with the lack of safety nets or personnel to ensure safety. Tread at your own risk, as I heard one of the visitors calling out a warning to her brave friend who simply could not be contented not to walk these knife edges.
|LISTENING TO A TRAVELER PLAY A HANG PERCUSSION WHILE WAITING FOR THE SUNSET|
For balance-challenged people like me, it is still possible to enjoy the trails of Pai Canyon. There are pathways that can easily be explored with minimum risk of falling off the edge. Caution must still be practiced though, as the dirt paths are made of loose clay and stone, the risk of slipping and careening to the edge is still a possibility.
|PERFECT SPOT TO END THE DAY|
I can only marvel at some of the travelers I saw who tread through these narrow ledges like it was nothing, a few even running through them with abandon! I was even more amazed when a mountain-biker zipped pass us, using his bike all through the treacherous trail!
|BIG CLOUDS COMING IN|
We were so enamored with Pai Canyon that we visited it on the two afternoons that we were in Pai. Sunset on the first day were so-so, but still, it was such a beautiful place that we decided to see if we’re gonna get a better one the next day.
|AND THE CLOUDS GET WEIRD|
Raindrops started to pelt us on our way back up the following day, but that didn’t stop us from continuing our climb. Dark ominous clouds, the weirdest I’ve seen in my entire life, soon enveloped the heavens. It was slowly swirling and behaving as I’ve never seen clouds do before—think Ghostbusters The Movie. It was both fascinating and terrifying to watch.
Soon, the heavens gave and everyone rushed to a pavilion located in the area. The rain lasted for some minutes and most people decided to give up on watching the sun depart. With really nothing to do, we decided to wait it out, us being the only people then on the canyon.
|NOT QUITE THE SUNSET WE CAME HERE FOR|
Patience is indeed as virtue. After the rain abated, the sun took a peek from the blanket of dark angry clouds and side-lighted the heavens from below. It was such a dramatic sight, we couldn’t stop tripping our shutter buttons. It wasn’t the afternoon colors we were looking for, but it was even better.
|A DOUBLE RAINBOW AT PAI CANYON! SECOND ONE’S KINDA FAINT THOUGH|
I was so fascinated at how the waning sun was coloring the sky that I was completely unaware of what was happening at the other side of Pai Canyon. My mate quickly called out, a rainbow she said. I turned around and saw not one, but two full rainbows bordering the canyon. It was quite a majestic sight!
|ONE BRAVE SOUL|
With all the excitement, I found myself again at the other side of the narrow vertigo-inducing path I crossed the day before. But as adrenaline dwindled to zero, I quickly berated myself for being at the wrong side of the canyon once more. Now, with the path more slippery than ever, how oh how do I just get back.
Address: Highway 1095, Ban Rong Yang, Pai District,
Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Entrance Fee: Free
Directions: Drive south for about 8 kilometers from Pai town center, it’s a couple of kilometers before the World War II Memorial Bridge, right side of the road.
GPS Coordinates Map: 19.306313, 98.452527