Pai is a wonderful laid back backpackers town located in the mountains of Northwest Thailand.
It’s reputation may have changed from a hippy haven to that of a general traveller town but it still retains that relaxed atmosphere that makes it so special. And being nestled in the mountains certainly helps with the views! You can reach Pai by road from Chiang Mai, there are many minivans that make the 4 hour journey. The road is famous for it’s 762 curves, suffice to say the trip there is an experience in itself! Pai is a small town easily covered by foot. Many people choose to get around the surrounding area by motorbike, and although I can’t drive one I did take up people’s kind offers of a lift when available. Otherwise you can take all kinds of different tours, I did a couple whilst there, that are reasonably priced and cover a good variety of activities.
Here’s a few of the highlights of things to do in Pai and the surrounding area
Packed with people coming and going in the day, the main street in Pai transforms into a street food haven in the evenings. Take a stroll up and down and snack on what appeals to you, chat to fellow travellers and feel relaxed.
Beautiful views and a surprisingly challenge walk around (you’ll need to scramble up, down and over rocks if you decide to go for it – flip-flops ain’t gonna cut it here). Pai Canyon is found 8km outside of town and well worth the trip.
There isn’t much shade so either head here early morning or late evening when you can watch the sunset!
The White Buddha
A popular spot to watch the sun go down beneath the mountains, this Buddha statue is located on a hill near Pai town and can be reached easily by foot. Wat Phra That Mae Yen is it’s official name.
There are a few around Pai that can be reached by motorbike or on tours. Both shown below are good for relaxing for an afternoon.
Mor Paeng Waterfall
Pam Bok Waterfall
There are a couple of Hot Springs near Pai worth visiting, and as with the waterfalls both can be done by motorbike or on a tour.
Tha Pai Hot Springs are the more expensive option, featuring levels of pools where you can bathe (not in the top ones though!). It’s over a large area and there are changing facilities and toilets.
And yes I have seen someone boiling an egg there.
The ‘secret’ natural hot springs are much cheaper entry and have a more natural feeling to them. This is essentially just one giant pool. There aren’t any facilities here, having a much more ‘wild’ approach.
This pool is a nice place just to chill, out for the afternoon. It’s fairly central and entrance is pretty cheap. You can swim in the decent sized pool or relax on mats on the grass, and there are beverages (both alcoholic and non) for sale should you fancy a drink. Find it on the east side of town, across the bridge and about 5-10 minutes walk further along.
There are many bars in Pai that are great just for relaxing in for a few hours. In town Almost Famous and Yellow Sun are two of my favourites. The former for it’s more intimate feel and the latter for its decorations and live music. They are found on the ‘bar street’. It runs off the river facing end of the walking street. Don’t Cry (Reggae Bar) and Sunset are ‘out of town’ slightly and where many people head when the bars in town shut. Both are great for their design. The former for its open air approach with a fire pit in the centre, the latter for it’s spread out but still cozy and relaxed feel.
This huge cave has 3 sections that you will be guided through by a local guide with a lantern. This includes a bamboo boat ride through one section. As well as the caves natural features and it’s bat inhabitants, you can see evidence of prehistoric inhabitants including (very faded) cave art and burial coffins. Go for sunset so you can see the spectacular sight of thousands of sparrows crowding one of the caves exits.
Pang Mapha Viewpoint
Usually visited as part of any tour to Lod Cave. Not only is there a great viewpoint but also a giant swing to play on!
Be careful if you rent a motorbike. Pai is notorious for backpackers with crash injuries.
There are a lot of tour agents on walking street it’s easy to book something there.
In terms of where to stay in Pai there is a multitude of accommodation options. Providing it’s not rainy season you should be fine just turning up and renting one of the many bungalows ‘across the river’ from the walking street area. Hostel wise I would recommend Darling View Point. As it’s name suggests the views are pretty amazing, they have a good chill out area with hammocks where you relax. For a party atmosphere then Pai Circus is a fun place to be.