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Pai and Pai Again

pai souvenir

with Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8

Although surrounded by the beautiful Northern Thailand countryside, Pai town itself also deserves a day or two of exploration.

Bohemian, arty, laid back, alternative; all those adjectives. It’s easy too to say it ain’t what it used to be, and that it was better before it got too touristy.

The problem with saying that is, it’s annoying to listen to.

On one of my visits there, I took a wander around with my Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 and got a few shots that hopefully give a little insight into the town and its atmosphere.

pai bar

pai bar

Nightlife is a huge part of Pai’s appeal to many of its visitors, although I didn’t go crazy during my time there, as my daytime pictures of bars suggest.

A fair amount of the bars in town do inevitably conform to the rules of the alternative culture, which is a touch ironic really.

Mainly scruffy, with reggae played on a loop and the prime seats being cushions on the floor, you’re unlikely to be turned away for wearing trainers, although flip flops or barefoot is always preferable.

Bars always look different in the daytime, especially when they haven’t been cleaned up yet, and photographs of this can tell a different side to things than ones taken when the party was in full swing.

I happened to walk past the collection of candles and glasses just as the light was good for shooting, and was pleased with the result I got from the Super-Takumar.


black cat

white dog in coat in pai

classic car pai

When walking around Pai town, taking shots of whatever caught my eye, using my manual focus lens felt right.

The town does have a bohemian feel to it, dare I say hipster even, and vintage objects can be seen in various shops and cafes, either for sale or as part of the decor.

The pace of life in the town also lends itself to the slow, thoughtful process of manual focus photography, and my best photography is always done when I’m by myself, with nobody making me feel hurried.

Of course, we’re not going to get sweeping landscape shots with a 55mm lens. That’s cool though, and picking your subject with a prime lens is always fun.

The riverside in Pai town

pai riverside

Across a rickety bamboo bridge, a few guest houses offer riverside accommodation and more opportunities to sit on the floor around a fire with no shoes on.

I’ve never stayed in these places, having always stayed in town (usually at Mr. Jan’s), but I did go and take a look what photography was possible there in the daytime.

pai riverside bar

pai riverside flags

pai riverside flowers

Again, the landscape shots aren’t going to be there.

The riverside itself isn’t great for them anyway, for me.

It’s peaceful, tranquil, and a great place to kick back for a few days, but that particular stretch of it is a little enclosed, with the town on one side and the bungalows on the other.

Street food in Pai town

thailand bbq fish

Back in the town and later in the evening, the main streets become the nightly market, and the street food is a major draw.

The variety is impressive, and the crowds of people milling around matches this.

Of the three pictures I’m putting up here, I tried two of the foods.

pai street food

Tom yum peanuts

The kebabs and tom yum peanuts were both pretty good.

The fish, unfortunately, just didn’t appeal.

Taking my time with my manual focus photography in Pai town was a fine way to spend the time not spent out exploring the countryside on a scooter.

The gallery here isn’t huge, but I think it shows a few things about the place. It’s a backpackers’ haven, with scruffy bars, a bohemian feeling, highly accessible countryside, and cheap street food every single night.

It all adds up to a pretty good place to do some manual focus photography.


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Surrounded by amazing countryside, Pai town itself is also a delight. These pictures were taken with the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 on a trip I took there from Chiang Mai. The slow pace of the place in the daytime makes it a great spot for some manual focus photography, with the night markets providing a plethora of local street eats to try.


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