Day 178: Pai, Thailand. Today we set off to pay a visit to China – or at least to a Chinese Yunnan village called Santichon, about 5km outside Pai.
The road to Santichon winds through some glorious farming countryside, with great views across rice paddies and the surrounding mountains.
We passed through a tiny village along the way called Baan Nam Hu Hai Jai, where an information board in the village states there are currently 12 households living there, with a population of 49 villagers – 20 males and 29 females. Which seems pretty precise, but then with a population that small, it’s probably easy enough to count everyone.
The information board also goes on to explain that the name of the village comes from a local cave from which water flows, which is similar to a person breathing, so they named the community Nam Hu Hai Jai which means breathing. So there we go.
We arrived in Santichon around lunchtime, just as it was starting to get pretty busy with visitors. The village grew around a settlement of Yunnanese people who fled China during the revolution of Mao Tse Tung. Today, descendants of those early settlers still live in the village, along with Thai hill tribes and former Chinese soldiers.
The lower part of the village is now horribly touristy, with replicas of Chinese buildings including the Great Wall of China. Food and souvenirs are for sale, along with the opportunity to rent traditional Chinese costumes for dress up. We had a quick look around, then walked up a steep road through the main village and even higher up to a viewpoint.
The viewpoint was also quite touristy and had an ‘entrance fee’ – but with 360 degree views across the mountains, who’s complaining? (Actually one English couple did complain, and refused to pay the fee, saying they’re sick of being charged everywhere they go).
We had a coffee at a cafe just below the viewpoint, then retraced our steps back home, enjoying more glorious views of the countryside, and stepping over a bunch of dead snakes on the road.
We passed a supermarket selling all kinds of everything, and popped in to buy some toiletries. As we were queuing to pay, we spotted two kittens that had price stickers on their heads. We assumed someone was having a laugh, but no – the kittens were also for sale, at the bargain price of 100 Baht each (less than 5 AUD). Spotting us photographing them, one of the sales staff asked if we’d like to buy one. We said thanks, but no thanks.
This evening we had dinner in the town, then headed to the Jazz Garden for some live music – the first time we’ve had to take our shoes off for a gig. The music venue is tucked into a young hippie hostel, with most seating on the ground on cushions (thankfully we managed to grab one of the few regular tables and chairs). And the music was really good.
Tomorrow we pack up again, and catch a bus to Soppong (also known as Pang Mapha). Which will be our final destination before we return to Chiang Mai, and leave Thailand once again.