Countries / Hostels / Thailand / Travel

Hostel Review: Pai Circus School Hostel, Thailand

Looking through my holiday photographs from this summer passed reminded me that I hadn’t told you about my wonderful stay at Pai Circus School Hostel in Thailand. I meant be sensible and keep posting chronologically about Marrakech and come back to Thailand, but I couldn’t wait anymore to share it with you!

Where to stay in Pai?

After travelling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and spending a few days there exploring the city, it was time for myself and my travel buddy Terri to move on to somewhere new. We had just planned some sort of itinerary, and wanted to head to Pai next. Completely unprepared, we booked a minibus to leave Chiang Mai the next day… with nowhere to stay. So, we sat down in our hostel’s computer lounge and went straight to Hostelworld. Pai is quite small and really popular with backpackers, so we didn’t want to leave getting a hostel to chance. There wasn’t a lot available, but eventually we settled on Pai Circus School Hostel. It was really cheap, had a private room, and was close to the town centre. We booked it almost without thinking, and started to pack our bags.

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762 turns in the road later…

We arrived in Pai at 8 at night. We were exhausted, and feeling a bit queasy after the winding drive. We were greeted at the minibus and taken straight to the hostel by motorbike sidecar. The owner, James, greeted us and showed us to our room – a little private bungalow near the communal area. Even in the dark, we were amazed by how beautiful the setting was and the architecture of the bamboo structures. Our bungalow was pretty luxury too, but more on that later.

James told us it was one of the resident’s birthdays, and did we want to come into town for a drink? We were tired, but took him up on the offer. So, we hopped on the back of a couple of bikes and headed into town. Over birthday drinks we met the other people staying at our hostel, and from there we became part of the community there…

IMG_2124Why Pai Circus School?

Before I talk about the hostel itself, I’m going to take a minute and sound like a typical ‘backpacker’ stereotype here, but sorry, I can’t help it when it comes to this place! We were incredibly lucky in our stay, and met some really great people. The staff working at the hostel, fwho managed to teach me fire poi despite my uncoordination, cooked us some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten, and made our time at the hostel welcoming and memorable. They may also have saved us from scorpion-gate, but that’s another story! The guests at our hostel were lovely, and quickly became travel buddies exploring Pai together. The people, as much as the place, made Pai Circus School really special. Many evening were spent in town, only to return to the little bamboo hut overlooking the valley, chatting away the night and sharing stories.

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The accommodation

So, enough with the gushing traveller talk, and down to the practicalities of the hostel itself. The hostel is made up of lots of different buildings with 180 degree views across the town and valley. The accommodation ranges from large to small dorm rooms, to a variety of private bungalows. We opted for a private bungalow as the price difference between that and a dorm wasn’t much at all (£1!) for the luxury of a private bathroom!

The bed was really, really comfy. James told us it was a luxury mattress, and after spending the night on a sleeper train a few days before we definitely appreciated this little piece of decadence.

The wonderful thing about Pai Circus School is that you’re pretty close to the jungle. A word of warning for those unexpecting few, our bathroom had gaps in the wall instead of windows which meant we had a few friendly bathroom critters, including some lazy snails and a spider we kept our eye on! I’m not particularly squeamish about insects, although I did get taken by surprise by a couple of beasties until I got used to it, plus there are mosquito nets in the rooms. It was amazing falling asleep listening to the jungle chirrup around you.

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Communal area

The communal area was great. There were lots of covered places to sit where you could enjoy the fantastic view, which I’ll admit we spent a lot of time doing! This large grassy space, surrounded by little huts, is also the place were circus lessons take place. Yes, you heard me right, circus lessons!

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Spinning fire

Pai Circus School, as the name suggests, offers circus lessons. For 600 baht (£12), you spend the afternoon learning circus skills, like fire poi or staff, tightrope walking, juggling… then spend the evening eating an amazing meal with your fellow ‘students’ and performing with some actual fire!

I’m the least coordinated person in the world, but my wonderfully patient teacher managed to get me spinning some poi (and not hitting myself in the face… most of the time!) by the end of the afternoon. By the evening, I was swinging balls of fire past the side of my head, trying not to wince with every ‘woosh’. We had so much fun, and I promise it’s something for all abilities! The food we ate as our ‘group meal’ was incredible too…

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The best bonuses

…In fact, all of the food I had at Pai Circus School was probably the best Thai food I’ve eaten! A member of staff who I’d also like to call a friend by the end of our time there, was an incredible cook. One lunch, she cooked a few of us a meal because she felt like it. It was one of the kindest things, and it was delicious too. I’m delighted to see that the hostel now offers free cooking classes to guests. Give them a go! I’d love to learn some of her skills.

If the community, the facilities and opportunities to try crazy fire spinning aren’t enough for you, then let me show you this…

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The real, biggest bonus of Pai Circus School is the incredible view. Every morning I woke up and stood outside for a few minutes, just looking at where in the world I was.

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The hostel overlooks a lush green valley and the town, with mountains in the distance seemingly always half obscured by clouds. The sky could range from the most vibrant blue I’d ever seen to a moody grey which ate the skyline.

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But really, my words can’t do it justice. Pai Circus School is a place that has to be seen to be believed. If you’re still not convinced, we intended to stay just two nights. We ended up there for five. I’m sure you won’t wan’t to leave either.

Contact Pai Circus School:

* Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Pai Circus School Hostel or Hostelworld, I’m just a very happy customer. As always, all views are honest and my own.

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