Uncovering the Secret of Pai

Pai?" that's the quizzical response many Thais give when foreigners ask for information about this quaint, little burg set in a pastoral mountain valley 135 kilometers northwest of Chiang Mai. "You mean Phrae?" they ask. No. The savvy foreigners mean Pai, which, until recently, was one of northern Thailand's better-kept secrets.

Pai was a cloistered region until the Japanese carved out a dirt transportation trail from Chiang Mai to Burma during World War II. Back then, the journey Pai-ward from Chiang Mai took three to seven days by elephant or on horseback. That was the route taken by...

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