13 Things You Must Do in Pai Thailand

Friday, April 11, 2014

Have you ever been in a place where you've left part of your heart in? And you have no choice but to keep coming back every now and then?

The first time I set my eyes on Pai in 2011, I was smitten. I was welcomed by ferris wheels, vintage bikes, colorful street art and cozy cafes. It's as though an entire town just came together to create a place just to make you smile.

I almost never wanted to leave.

3 years later, I came back and was pleasantly surprised to see that very little has changed. It was still the same adorable town that I first fell in love with. And if you're ever lucky enough to come here, these are a few things that should be on your itinerary:

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1 Explore on motorbike

I have to be honest, I just learned how to ride a motorbike last year. But I won't recommend going around Pai as a biker newbie. It's best to be safe and leave all the driving to your more experienced friends.

After getting the biker friend and bike rental all sorted out, grab a map from the Aya service shop (where you can also rent bikes and scooters) and start exploring! Go through some rice fields, rolling hills and if you're feeling brave, drive to the next town of Mae Hong Son and have the ride of your life through over a hundred hairpin curves!

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Dandan

2 Spice up your stay at Spicy Pai

Sole Sister Stephanie stayed at this hostel that consists of bamboo huts sitting in the middle of a rice field. You may or may not be welcomed by a group of happily intoxicated wanderers chilling on mats and hammocks, welcoming you and handing you drinks in the middle of the day.

It's the most hippie hostel there is, a beautifully simple place you can call your home. 

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Dandan

You may hate it, you may love it, depending on your perception. But it's very very easy to love. The people who work there sometimes host BBQs or lead motorbike trips through the valleys. They might take you to the land crack where kind-hearted people will feed you delicious potatoes, plantains, tamarind, banana chips and sorrel wine in exchange for a donation or maybe a jungle bar party in the middle of a cornfield somewhere.

Stephanie warns us: "Be careful but be daring. You'll leave a piece of your heart there. Right there with other pieces of everyone else."

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3 Climb a Treehouse

Release your inner kid and stay at the Pai Treehouse. But this place is not just for kids, it has a restaurant, garden and even a spa. This is certainly one of the most luxurious places I've been to in Pai, but if you want to treat yourself, go splurge here.

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4 Ride a Manual Ferris Wheel

Still in the mood to channel your inner child? Hop on to a manual ferris wheel! What's that, you say? Well, it's a ferris wheel that you have to uhmmm turn manually. You can either do that yourself or have a mate push you. There's a few around town, but I've tried the one at the Chinese Village and had a blast "trying" to go around.

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Dandan

5 Dip in the hot springs

If you look at a map of Pai, it boasts of a number of waterfalls and hot springs best explored on motorbike. If you're there around October until February, the weather can get very cold. So melting yourself into the scenic hot springs that flows through the park gives you a delightful bathing experience. Admission is 200 THB for adults 100 THB for children.

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6 Bathe in the Waterfalls

If you go during the height of summer starting from March until June, you would find the waterfalls refreshing especially after a day of exploring Pai. Climb up some jagged rocks at the Mor Paeng waterfalls and find a few places to soak, sit work on your tan. You could easily spend an hour here and there's no admission fee.

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7 Have a cuppa at Coffee in Love

If you want a break from all the action, drop by Coffee in Love by the road and enjoy a scenic view of the mountainside and nearby rice paddies. Order a coffee and a creamy slice of cake.

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You may not be able to sit still because you would want to take photos of the cute little corners in this cafe.

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8 Watch the sun set from the Pai Canyon

Rush to nearby Pai Canyon as the lights slowly turns from orange to red. This is the perfect spot to watch the sun set as you explore the jagged edges and cliffs of the canyon.

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Check out this drone video of Pai Canyon by Ben4uav.com:

Wear comfy shoes and make sure you share this moment with people you love or some new found friends.

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9 Stroll down the river

Another highlight of your stay here is a walk by the Pai river. There are several huts, resorts and even a reggae bar in this area. You can cross a few hanging bridges and also go on a rafting tour if the water level is high enough.

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10 Send postcards back home

After an adventure-filled day, you wouldn't resist sharing the experiences with the folks back home. Step into one of the souvenir shops at the Pai Walking Street and get some postcards. They even have colored markers you could use. And as soon as you're done writing, buy some stamps and drop them off at the mailbox right outside. 

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11 Chill out by a bonfire at the Living Room

You deserve to relax after a long day of exploring. There's no better place to do that than the aptly named bar: The Living Room. Take off your shoes and lie on some mats and pillows while enjoying a beer or bucket of rum. This place is also perfect for meeting friendly strangers and share your travel stories.

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12 Sample street food at Pai Walking Street

Talk a walk and grab a bite at the same time. There's nearly a hundred of stalls selling food and souvenirs on this street. You can take your pick from traditional Thai food, a mix of western fusion, some roti (Thai pancakes), grilled corn, baked potatoes and so much more! Our favorites were the Indian and Mexican food stalls. Sellers start setting up shop from 6pm to around 10pm.

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13 Have a taste of Edible Jazz

I've saved the best for last. Your time in Pai will not be complete without listening to some talented musicians at this jazz bar/cafe. This place is usually packed on Sundays and they don't just play jazz, there's a great mix of of reggae, acoustic and pop depending on the visiting artists. Order a beer, sit on the floor and sway with the sound of soulful music til the wee hours of the morning. 

How to Make This Trip Happen:

-The fastest and easiest way to get to Pai is to fly in to Chiang Mai (CNX airport code) then either take a bus, van or motorbike ride to Pai which takes 3-5 hours.

- There are several accommodations options around town depending on your budget. You can get a cheap river bungalow at Golden Hut for around 15 USD. A dorm stay at Spicy Pai Hostel will cost you about the same. If you have a higher budget, book your stay at Pai Treehouse or Baan Pai Riverside.

-You can easily rent scooters or motorbikes around town starting for about 6 USD/day. You're not required to have an international driver's license to ride bikes but it's best to have it available. And don't forget to wear your helmet!

-This itinerary can be easily done in 2-3 days but you may want to spend at least 5 days to fully enjoy this romantic little town!

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Have you been to Pai yet? Care to add to this list by commenting below?

Pining for Pai,
Sole Sister Lois

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4 sole trails

  1. Im looking forward to visiting Pai sometime soon. The hippie vibe of the hostels makes me wanna book the next available flight to Chiang Mai.! Id love to tour the area on motorbike too! <3 <3 Lovely adventures, Lois!

  2. I love Pai so much! I was there a couple of months ago and I stayed in a bungalow at a place called Yawning Field, it was amazing! Also, I would not miss having a curry at Mama's and one at Charlie and Lek! :D

  3. Glad you found this inspiring Shugah! I think you will fit right in to the hippie, laid back vibe of Pai. Happy travels!

  4. I wish I was able to check out Yawning Field too Amelie. Sounds wonderful! Thanks for the curry tip. Save that for the next trip! I'm sure I'll be back!


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