He ushers us to sit down and relax. It’s a hot November day in Pai, northern Thailand, and he has just the thing we need – sweet, pink hibiscus juice with ice cubes floating in it, perfect for cooling off.
Next comes a spread of small and sweet bananas, potatoes with salt rocks, fresh papaya, dried banana chips with hibiscus jam, tart tamarinds and hibiscus wine. When in season, on a particularly lucky day, he also serves my personal favorite: passion fruit.
He’s always laughing and smiling. Five times I have returned to see him, bringing along new friends each time, and his mood never seems to shift.
It’s a peaceful setting and one could easily lounge there for hours, swaying in the hammocks and fantasizing about moving to Pai.
The land is narrow and steep. After relaxing and enjoying the fruit spread, a short walk up to the Split shows why and how this place got its name. The massive crack in the land isn’t the attraction for me, though.
The picturesque vista, covered in hibiscus flowers, is something I always look forward to seeing time and time again. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and serene.
Before the Split became the Split, it was a freshly-planted soy bean farm.
One day in 2008, without any warning, earthquake, rain or flooding, the land simply cracked. The farmer happened upon it with his cow in tow, shocked at what lay before him. The land had cracked 2 meters wide and 11 meters deep, making it unsuitable for farming and destroying his crop and income.
At this point, it’s hard to say what I’d do, were I making my living off a plot of land that had just cracked. Surely nobody else would want to buy this seemingly useless land.
But one thing that does grow plentifully throughout the Split, giant crack in the land or not, is a plethora of hibiscus plants. Something clicked, and he figured out how he’d make his living: providing fruit and hibiscus juice spreads to tourists who passed by on their way to one of Pai’s three famous waterfalls.
He’d draw something positive out of this, he’d turn it into a tourist attraction.
What’s beautiful about the Split is he asks everyone to simply pay what they feel it is worth, just like a favorite restaurant of mine in Melbourne.
I love this concept, and the trust that comes along with it is what draws me back each time.
To this day the split continues to widen a little more every few years, but he doesn’t seem too bothered.
After all, it’s Pai, and there’s very little to be sad about in this paradise.
Do It Yourself:
- Get to Pai via Chiang Mai. Busses leave hourly. Rent a motorbike in town or from your guesthouse
- Grab a map from your guesthouse and access the land split via motorbike. The split is located outside of the main city and requires about a 15-20 minute drive (depending on how fast you drive)
- There are a couple of different ways to get there, but it is most easily found on the way to or from the Pembok Waterfall