As soon as Songkran was over, Pai began to fill up with backpackers once again. In some ways, it sprang to life, even if it lost a bit of its charm with each incoming busload of tourists.
Most activities started running again and I went on a zipline of the forest canopy with two guys from Melbourne. My first impression upon viewing the zipline was that it was too small, though once I was up there I was a little scared and glad I wasn’t any higher.
Afterwards, we went for a swim at a waterfall where a third guy, Jack, also from Melbourne, approached us. He immediately struck me as annoying but because it had been a month since I’d last met people from Melbourne, it was nice to talk about home.
Later that evening, I was sitting in a restaurant with two Canadian girls when I spotted Jack at the entrance. I waved when he looked in my direction and asked if he and his brother wanted to sit with us. I didn’t particularly want them to but the restaurant was full and there weren’t any vacant tables.
We talked while we ate dinner and I noticed that Tess, one of the Canadians, had fallen silent. Exchanging looks with her, I assumed she found Jack just as annoying as I did and felt a twinge of guilt about inviting him to have dinner with us.
Afterwards, the Canadians and I went for a stroll and browsed the night market. I discovered that contrary to what I’d assumed, Tess was very taken with Jack, which was why she hadn’t been her usual self at dinner. She told me it was obvious that Jack had a thing for me but I dismissed this, eagerly telling her I would make sure the two of them got together that night.
Given Pai’s size, it was inevitable that we ran into Jack and his brother several times on the way back to our hostel. Each time I was careful to flash him a big encouraging smile, thinking he would surely look for us that night if I appeared friendly enough. When the topic had come up at dinner, I’d mentioned to him where we were going for drinks – not that it was really necessary because there were very few bars that were open late in the town.
I was confident that I would be able to broker something between Tess and Jack but after a few drinks at the hostel, Tess decided to go to bed so she could be up early the next day.
Although I’d denied it to Tess, Jack had come across as a bit too interested in me at dinner – and it was likely that he had interpreted my strategic friendliness as reciprocal interest. The problem was that I no longer had anyone to foist upon him so I started hoping that we simply not cross paths that night.
When he did approach me a few hours later, I wasn’t fazed but I remember finding our conversation a little tedious. He offered to buy me a drink and I refused several times. I don’t like to accept drinks from guys, regardless of whether I like them or not. But he insisted so I let him.
Having just received some bad news from home, Kaitlin, the other girl from Canada, had been drinking steadily that night and was becoming progressively drunk. The whole time I was talking to Jack, I kept an eye on her, worried she might get herself into trouble. After some convincing on my part, she finally agreed to return to the hostel.
By now Jack had disappeared and I felt a little disappointed. I had to admit he was good looking, even if he was a little obnoxious. On our way out, I ran into him again and asked him if he wanted to accompany us.
We put Kaitlin to bed and walked back into town. He put his arm around me and once we were over the bridge, we stopped and kissed. Hearing the approaching voices of people who were most likely from my hostel, I told him we should keep on walking and agreed when he suggested going to his bungalow.
We sat out the front and to my disappointment, he got out his guitar. Earlier that night, I’d listened with interest as he talked about his band but I hoped I wasn’t in for a long acoustic session. Not wanting to appear rude, I hid my disappointment but fortunately, he put it away after playing a few cords and asked me if I wanted a drink. I said no and figuring we might as well get straight to it, suggested going into his room where we had very mediocre drawn-out sex.
I woke up the next morning and walked back to my hostel. With only four days of my trip left, I had to be up early so I could get a bus to Chiang Mai.
I packed up my things and said my goodbyes. I was especially sad to say goodbye to Annie; she was a lovely woman and it made me sad seeing how deeply unhappy she was in her marriage. Since returning from Mae Hong Son, I’d helped her make beds and clean rooms whenever I had a spare hour and got to know her pretty well in that time. In a way, she was like a much nicer version of my mum.
I left, hoping things would work out for her.