The journey to Pai from Chiang Mai is quite an adventure that is filled with 762 curves. If you have motion sickness, definitely pop a Dramamine. It’s an eclectic, affordable, and bohemian city geared for backpackers. Pai is definitely a must-see destination when traveling in Thailand.
Where to Stay?
My friend Miranda and I stayed at Ai Pai Hotel during our 2-day stay in Pai. It was very affordable and clean. The Ai Pai Hotel is walking distance to downtown and the bus station. We paid 3200.26 THB ($99.72) total. Miranda and I opted not to get the breakfast included, as there are many cheap and delicious restaurants nearby. The pool was very soothing and it came with plenty of floaties to relax on.
Where to Eat?
Nong Beer Restaurant was one of my favorite places to eat at in Pai. Sometimes at night, I still dream about the spring rolls I had there. Nothing has compared to how good they were. It is also located on the main shopping street in Pai. Food and a drink is around 200 THB, with big portions. It didn’t hurt that this restaurant was one block away from our hotel.
In addition to Nong Beer Restaurant, there is market every evening in Pai with plenty of delicious options for food to eat when strolling along the main street.
A good breakfast spot is called Puripai Cafe. They serve large breakfasts and also have fantastic fruit smoothies. My breakfast cost 200 THB ($6.13) and was worth every bite!
Review of Nong Beer Restaurant: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g303916-d3746231-Reviews-Nong_Beer-Pai_Mae_Hong_Son_Province.html
What to do in Pai?
There is so much to do in Pai that I wish I could have stayed longer than 2 days. Here are some of the fun places my friend and I were able to visit during our time there.
1. The Night Market: They have a market every evening in Pai. It is filled with really unique and cheap vendors. When walking on the main road, we also discovered an incredible jewelry shop called Thadmala Design Shop. Below is a link to the Etsy page for a preview: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Thadmaladesign
Address of Thadmala Design Shop: 16/2 Viengtai, Maehongson, Pai, Pai District, Mae Hong Son 58130, Thailand
2. The Bamboo Bridge (Boon Kho-Ku-So/ Sutongpe Bridge): This was one of my favorite parts about Pai and Thailand. It is such a beautiful bridge and very picturesque. We were there for the rainy season and the lush, green fields were really something to see. There is a Temple at the end of the bridge. However, Miranda and I weren’t able to enter it because we didn’t dress appropriately. This is something to consider if you want to make it in there. If you are able to, I’d bring a shawl to cover the shoulders and pants or a skirt to cover the legs.
3. The World War II Bridge (Pai Memorial Bridge): Free of cost. This is a relatively short stop, where a brief description is provider of the bridge and its history for visitors.
4. The Chinese Village (Santichon Village): A lovely spot to visit filled with many shops selling tea, teacups, and kettles. It should be noted that there are quite a few stores very similar in products here. If you plan to buy a lot of tea, you may want to pace yourself for popping in more than one shop. When we walked further down, we stumbled upon a bridge and a pony grazing outside. There were great opportunities to appreciate the Chinese inspired architecture.
5. Pai Treehouse Resort: Miranda and I were excited about checking this place out. If I could do it again, it would have been fun to spend a night here. However, for me, just to visit it during the day wasn’t worth it. We had to pay 20 THB a person to enter and one of the treehouses was under construction. Since it is a resort, we couldn’t really check out the treehouses. There was a bar and restaurant there for anyone interested in stopping for a drink or bite to eat.
Link to resort: http://paitreehouse.com/eng/index.html
6. The Yun Lai Viewpoint: 20 THB to enter. It was definitely worth a visit. The view is spectacular. We were also able to eat bananas from the tree for free. If you need a bathroom break while there, toilets are also readily available. Many people will come here to see view the sunrise or sunset.
7. The Pai Land Split: This land split occurred after an earthquake hit Pai in 2008. It is worth the visit and free. Upon arriving, there is a small stand where refreshing Roselle juice awaits. It is free but be prepared to leave a donation. There are also three hammocks waiting for visitors in need of a quick break.
8. The White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen): Clothing is available to rent there to cover the shoulders and legs for 20 THB. If you are going during rainy season, be prepared to sweat when climbing the up the stairs. It is worth the climb for the view. One is able to see the White Buddha through many parts of Pai when driving.
9. The Pam Bok Waterfall: Don’t make the same mistake I did and wear sandals (especially when it’s rainy) when climbing up to view this waterfall. It takes about 5-10 minutes to get to it. There is also a place where people can wade into a pool area while taking in the waterfall if desired. It is free to enter.
10. Pai Canyon: So worth the visit for sunrise or sunset. Be prepared for many other visitors to be there as well. There are some narrow areas, so if one is scared of heights, keep that in mind when exploring the canyon. However, there are plenty of places to sit and view the sunset if you aren’t feeling as adventurous. One of the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen. Just breathtaking.
11. Thai Massage Shops: There are so many good massage places to stop in throughout Pai. The price that my friend and I paid was 200 THB for an oil massage and 150 BHT for a Thai massage.
It should be noted that there are many other sites and activities to do that we were unable to see while in Pai due to the short duration of our stay. Some of these were the hot spring, Love Strawberry Pai, Lod Cave, Coffee in Love, Pang Aung, and many, many more. One can’t go wrong with all there is to see and do in this laidback town.
How to get around in Pai?
Most people decide to rent a scooter to explore Pai. When we did walk past a scooter rental store, we saw rentals as low as 100 THB a day. However this may change depending on whether it is off season or tourist season.
Because it was rainy and my friend and I are inexperienced and clumsy, we didn’t want to risk getting in an accident so decided against scooters. Instead we hired a driver at one of the many tour agencies that we passed on our walk downtown in Pai. Make sure to haggle with drivers as one offered us up to 600 THB. We were able to hire a driver for the day for 400 THB ($12.16) a person. He took us to see the White Buddha, the Pai Land Split, the Pam Bok Waterfall, the Pai Treehouse Resort, the Chinese Village, the World War 2 Bridge, the Yun Lai Viewpoint, the Bamboo Bridge, and Pai Canyon at sunset (9 places total).
How to get to and from Pai:
There are 3 ways to get to Pai, either by driving a car or scooter, taking a minibus, or hiring a private driver. Although there is an airport in Pai, it doesn’t seem like any airlines are using it at this time.
My friend and I were traveling from Chiang Mai. Because we wanted to stop at a Tea Estate on the way to Pai, we decided to hire a private driver on the way there. Araksa Tea Garden is located in the Mae Tang District. We read really good things about Mr. Joy’s company, so decided to hire a driver for 3,600 THB ($109.42) from Chiang Mai to Pai, which included our stop at the Araksa Tea Garden and an English driver.
Here is the e-mail we used to correspond with Mr. Joy: firstname.lastname@example.org
When leaving Pai, we bought a ticket for a minivan at the local bus station in Pai to take us to the Chiang Mai airport. Typically a minibus is normally around 200 THB and is estimated to take roughly 4 hours. We arrived at the airport faster than we expected. On the minibus, there was one stop to use the bathroom. I felt very safe with the driver. The website below can also be very helpful in planning public transportation to and from Pai.
Go.asia Website: https://12go.asia/en
So what are you waiting for? Explore all that Pai has to offer!