Walking into the Circus hostel was like walking into a casting session for some viking movie, there was certainly enough matted hair and forearm tattoos. There was more formations of dreadlocks in that field of hula hoopers than I’ve ever seen in one place. I took in the air of intense desire to be the greatest hippie on the hill and felt a little out of place as I was led past the smoking hut to my dorm room. Despite feeling a bit uncomfortable with the number and brashness of the people I was glad to be around people after my week and a half of solitude while I recovered from being sick.
I came to Pai wanting to rest up before crossing into Myanmar. I expected Myanmar to hold many uncomfortable bus rides and a busy itinerary since I heard it can take forever to get anywhere due to the lack of good roads. When I saw the Circus hostel I immediately knew that rest was not what was going to happen. I had several friends that told me they loved it so I was willing to put aside rest for a few days while I explored the ecosystem of the Circus hostel.
At 2am two days later I was shaken awake again by someone stumbling in. The dorm was built almost entirely out of bamboo and the floor had so much flex in it that it was essentially like sleeping on a trampoline. No one could even roll over without everyone else feeling it, or at least the few people not intoxicated into numbness.
I decided to not extend my stay.
Despite getting very poor sleep for the three nights at the Circus hostel the days were spent happily riding around to the various sights around Pai. The days always started out eating a slow breakfast at noon at one of the restaurants that serves plenty of humus and pesto. Later when the Germans of the group got a plan together the rest of the group revved our bikes and would speed off to a hot spring or a canyon until dinner. After a few days of being around humans constantly my introvert needed to be alone.
I found a hut next to the river where I could start the relaxing part of my time in Pai. I wasn’t sure how I would fare after leaving the hostel. I thought I would end up alone for the next week like a hermit. Weirdly enough I wasn’t alone, I met people nearly everywhere I went. I met new people and I met people from months ago, I was rarely alone. Through this experience and a virtual buffet of hippie conversations about introspection and self improvement I began to think about the stories I tell myself. Specifically I decided that I could not continue telling myself that I was bad at making friends when every walk down the main street led to many friendly greetings and short conversations with the people I had met in the days previous. It was so obvious that I was lying to myself I wondered how I could have missed it for so long. How can I think I’m such a bad social animal when the only times I’m alone is when I want to be or when I am in a town where no one else speaks English.
Pai is a place full of people telling themselves stories. Some people tell that story with clothes or tattoos, some people tell it with social media and some people say it in the undercurrents of their own minds.
I tell myself I can’t make friends after making five new friends in a day or I worry that I’m out of shape after not getting good exercise for a week. I don’t even think lying to myself is always a bad thing but if I’m going through so much effort to keep the conspiracy that I’m weaker than I actually am from surfacing then I’m pretty sure its time to free up some of that energy. I see people that don’t seem to look at anything cool directly, its always through a screen. If they see a waterfall its through their smartphone as they take the picture. I thought that was too bad but when I’m seeing my entire life through film that tells me everything is harder than it actually is for me then its much worse than a smartphone screen.
If Pai is anything its a place where most people can find their niche. Whether you are obsessed with hula hopping, kung fu, barbecued chicken there is something for you. I honestly didn’t expect to like it in Pai, I thought I would end up eating a lot of meals alone and spending most of my time researching my trip in some isolated bungalow but I lied to myself if I thought I could spend ten days in a place without making a friend or finding a routine I enjoyed.
I even ended up with a bell bracelet that jingles when I walk. I think I better get out of here before I end up at the night market selling my own line of handcrafted, locally sourced, ethically traded and organically grown chopsticks.