Writing about travelling is like performing sign language for music; it almost seems futile to try and translate an entire assault on the senses into words. Yet, here I try.
January 2019 — I left London with my backpack and a one way ticket to Bangkok. I was in search of everything — equal parts peace, equal parts adrenaline-soaked adventure. I had no plan but to start in Thailand and see how far the little money in my pocket and the old vans on my feet could take me.
After being prised away from the sunset-hued slice of paradise and best bunch of ruffians I’d found thus far on the Andaman Island of Koh Lanta, I spent a week recovering from the bout of Dengue I contracted there with a friend in Chiang Mai. Once I’d eaten my way through all the local Khao Soi I could find and sweated out the fever, I was fit enough to tackle the rickety mountainside bus trip from Chiang Mai to Pai. All 762 turns of it — through hills, and forest, and rolling farmland. Never previously have I felt car sick before experiencing the manic madness of Thai bus drivers, zipping through narrow twists as if it were a 5-lane superhighway.
Pai is a conundrum. Set against a dramatic backdrop of billowy forests, glassy lakes and verdant mountaintops, the quaint streets are heaving with a palette of visitors yet hardly a local Thai in sight. From bright bikini-clad flashpackers to hippie-pant wearing and barefooted hippies — this is a European vision of the Thai backpacker mountain retreat.
However, Pai is blessed with stunning natural beauty: a canyon to rival the American Grand in terms of sunset vistas, a jungle-hidden hot springs and perhaps the best cave I have ever explored. Add to that the perfectly shaped, smooth roads to race scooters or motorbikes on — with stops perched high along the lush treetops of Northern Thailand — in a day you can go from weed-induced haze to pulse-racing peril in a matter of heartbeats. Judging from the droves of tourists bandaged head-to-broken foot like mummys after scooter accidents: maybe this land of endless dreams needs some laws.
Careless days were spent roaming the street food market, with the ability to travel around the Globe through my stomach — being inundated with rare offerings such as Burmese Tea Leaf Salads or Birds Nest Soup.
To say I’ve enjoyed the food in Thailand this trip is a complete understatement. I was regularly visiting the old ‘mama’ at her house restaurant in Koh Lanta twice a day, trusting her to give me whatever was good that day, leading me to try dishes I couldn’t dream up. Spiced lamb laab salad, curried Massaman noodles, Penang Goat Curry. I’d ballooned from the coconut cream alone. My body thanked me for having a week off the meat and curries as I indulged in the trendy Vegan lifestyle permeating through Pai.
Me and my travel buddy Elias set up camp one lunch in the Earth Cafe, making plans excitedly over our Buddha Bowls. Enter Sara. We ended up talking spirituality and giving each other the abridged history of our lives almost instantly, both of us touched by her warmth and her lyrical American accent.
2 hours later, including a moment where I became slightly scared to death about her suggestion that our souls choose which body to be born into — and that I might be a time traveller, we leave with her business card and an invitation to see her Pai home. After living in the US then travelling through India — Sara has set up shop, and her jewellery business, out of the only place that now feels like home — Pai.
2 days and two big adventures with Elias later, we hit up Sara. There’s rough talk of a potential chakra reading — and having never experienced one before — I’m game to explore! A 15 minute motorbike ride north of Pai, crossing a babbling stream, we find a detached and spacious old bungalow nestled in between bamboo bridges and lush rice paddy fields. Sara makes jewelry here and collects the finest and rarest gems and stones to handmake her wares. She brings out cotton bags stuffed with goodies.
Pendants, crystals and chains splash across her wooden patio. I’m asked to single out one that I’m attracted to. A small, finger length, pink-hued prism-shaped crystal catches my eye.
I lie face-up on the short wall bordering the patio, letting my focus get lost in the azure sky. It’s the perfect temperature this evening — the warm breeze carrying the faintest scent of sweet grass. She asks me to breathe deep into my diaphragm as her hands hover along a path from the tip of my head down to my hips.
Sara wraps a chain hanging from the crystal around her hands a couple of times and lets the pink stone do it’s mystical thing at my first chakra above my third eye. I try not to analyse the movement of the crystal too much, as I see it dangle at different points along the plane of my body and seemingly at random swing from side to side, circle around clockwise and anti-clockwise, or just barely seem to nudge.
I find it hard to breathe deeply, carrying tension from rough days spent trekking and evenings dancing at the Sunset Bar on the eastside of town. Sara lets the pendent read the energy from each of my 7 chakras, and i’m mildly surprised when the crystal finds a different movement at certain points — but I’m sat wondering whether that’s my energy interfering with the crystal field or the Thai wind.
My crown chakra is opening slowly, that’s my connection to spirituality. The third eye chakra is blocked — my overthinking, obsessions and overanalysing getting in the way of my intuition. As a regular sufferer of anxiety, I can vouch that’s definitely true. My throat chakra wants to open but i’m not always speaking my truth. At least my heart chakra is wide open: a huge relief. I spend a lot of energy worrying if I am kind and compassionate enough. My solar plexus has some movement but could be opened up: this is my gut feeling and wisdom. At my sacral chakra down by my nether regions there is hardly any movement — Sara comments that I have no idea what i’m doing with my dick! If that means sexual healing then i’m more than up for working on that! Finally my root chakra is starting to open but I have issues trusting myself. I’m left trying not to feel disappointed in myself but also not to take any of this too seriously and grateful to have some pointers on where I can do some self improvement.
My travel amigo Elias gets a full reading too. I watch in awe as he gets a completely different reading to me and I try not to let my ego get in the way with the revelation that he is much more sexually confident than I am!
When I go to thank Sara for her reading, she says that she should be thanking us, stating that she hasn’t performed a reading in years. In her eyes we have given her the gift of believing in herself again. Isn’t that the simple beauty of travel: this sudden change in perspectives? Irrespective of any of the results of the chakra reading — i’m once again humbled and astonished by the intuition and powerful forces we can affect each other with.
After a round of local ‘Buddha Blood’ tea and some fun card games, Elias and I drive off on his motorbike and across the rickety bamboo bridge into the sunset, eager to soak in the last of the night’s activities in the city. Take or leave the reading — it was another timeless encounter from this angel-faced American in this exquisite town.
You can buy Sara’s handmade jewellry here — I bought the TigerEye Bracelet:
There’s plenty of cheap and good accomodation in Pai, but I recommend Pairadise: