One of the stunning places to which I have been during my stay in Chiang Mai is this hipster little city. Pai is a small town located in Mae Hong Son, Northern Thailand. It is relatively close from Chiang Mai and you can access by minivan, motocycle or car.
What to pack?
- Bathing suit
- Hiking shoes
- Mosquito repelent
- A good book
How to get there
To get to this charming town from Chiang Mai, you can use the following means of transport:
- Minivan. This is how Marc and I got there, by minivan. Despite the awful talk about the road to Pai, we didn’t have a tough ride up there from Chiang Mai. We booked our tickets on BusOnlineTicket and rode with Prempracha Transport. It took a bit more than 3 hours to arrive to the center of Pai – right at Pai Walking Street. Price was around 800 Baht round trip (which is about 20-22 €) and the ride was comfortable- ¡there was air-con! It can get uncomfortable when they pack up the minivans to it’s limits and when a driver decides to speed – believe or not, on our way back to Chiang Mai our driver made it in 2 hours sharp…
- Motorbike. Another popular option is to rent a bike in Chiang Mai and drive the curves up to Pai. The ride over there is beautiful and you can stop on the way if you are tired. You can go to Mango Bike rents or find more shops in this link.
- Bus. You can take the bus from the Arcade Bus Station, Chiang Mai, to Pai for only 90 Baht, but expect to travel at a low speed. It can take up 4 or 5 hours, depending on traffic. They come and go hourly up to 16:00 p.m.
- Tours. You can also check out a tour and they will take care of the pick ups and drops off for you.
What to do in Pai
- Rent a bike
If you came by minivan it is most likely that you will need a means of trasport to get you moving around the breathtaking landscapes around Pai. It is pretty easy to find a shop where you will be able to rent a motorbike for less than 5€ a day. Go to the walking street and find the best match for you. I do recommend some experience before hand because the roads sometimes can be slippery and muddy depending on the weather. I am happy Marc is one of the best drivers I know :).
2. Strolling around the Walking street
You can find the Night Market every evening along the Walking street in Pai. It is not a big street but you can find a great variety of foods and fruits surounded by a slow-life and relaxed vibe. From western to local food, you are well-served. Pai is usually critisized due to the fact of the westernalization of its food stalls – you can find tacos, pizza, veggie rolls-, but the truth is, you can find basically whatever food you are looking for, especially local delicacies – pad thai, khao soi, fried rice…
3. Climb the White Buddha
Wat Phra That Mae Yen, or commonly known as White Buddha, is a temple on the top of a hill that offers a paroramic view of Pai. Watching the sun set from the top of it’s steps. It is a short walk from the city but you will need to climb up some steps to get to the very top – nothing too difficult though. Your reward will be this stunning view.
4. Get into the slow life and stop at a café
There are plenty of hipster cafés with tons of healthy options on their menus. Choose the one that suits you best and get into the slow-pace lifestyle that Pai is all about. Grab a book while sipping your kombucha or organic coffee, nibbling on some home-made oat cookie and enjoy the moment. Try to not obsess on having a hectic schedule, disconnect and make the most of the moment.
5. Pai Canyon
After walking up some steps you will arrive to Pai Canyon. A narrow dirt path surounded by the canyon and the beautiful view of the mountains. Erosion has shaped this strange and charming trails where many hikers come to admire the sunset’s beauty. It is a popular attraction in Pai but it can also be a bit dangerous at times since the paths may be slippery, narrow and steep. You can come and venture yourself into the trials or just stay at the top and witness the breathtaking views.
If you are planning on staying to see the sunset, remember to bring mosquito spray and a flashlight!
6. Santichon Village and Yun Lai Viewpoint
This was actually really fun. I’ve read many posts saying that it is nice going to this Chinese village and it’s totally right!
Santichon village is not the typical Chinatown and it’s a very touristy place. To get there it is recommendable to rent a bike or take a grab there. The best part of this village isn’t the tourist attraction itself – although it is interesting to visit as well- but the mountain and nature views as well as the food and tea you can taste there.
However, this wasn’t the best part of the village for me… I fell absolutely in love with Yun Lai viewpoint! A perfect view of mountains, fields, villages and green green nature. A 360º degree sight of Pai which makes you feel small.
People like to go there for the sunrise or sunset but we didn’t really know we were going to find this kind of beauty so we went in the middle of the day… Our bad!
To go there by bike be careful, the weather was quite unstable for us and rained often, so the very steep hill to get there was SO SO wet and slippery. Again, I am grateful that I have a good driver as my travels buddy!
7. The longest Bamboo Bridge
Another of my favorite things to do in Pai. To be surrounded by nature is one of the things that I love the most about my voyages, and this was definetly one of my highlights of this trip.
This bridge is also called Boon Koh Ku So and it spreads 800 meters long around rice fields. It isn’t very well known or as popular as the Canyon, but if you visit it during rainy season, you will be astonished by how green it is- radioactive green I’m talking about!
8. Landsplit and Waterfalls
On your way to the Bamboo Bridge you can either stop by the Landsplit or Pam Bok Waterfall. We were a bit short of time and had seen many waterfalls already around Chiang Mai we decided to go to the Landsplit and directly to the bridge.
Landsplit is not very impressive in my opinion. It is a 5 minute hike around it and you can stop have a drink at a stall there in exchange for a donation. It is perfectly doable on your way to the bridge and you can check it out without any detour.
9. Have a nice bath in the Hot springs
It would be an awesome idea to bring swimsuits and towel to your trip to Pai so you can enjoy a bath in the hot springs during your holidays.
Remeber, Pai is about slow life, enjoyment, taking things easy and relaxing… What better way but enjoy a hot bath in the middle of nature?
There are a couple of places to go for a little splash in boiling water, we chose to go to Sai Ngam hot spring. Again, the road to go there is curvy and steep at times, but it is stunning to see all the nature around you! It cost around 200 Baht per person plus a fee for leaving the motorbike there – about 20 baht I believe.
Depending on the time you get there it can be more crowded. Early in the morning or late afternoon would be the best option, it is open until 8:00 p.m.
10. Go to a Yoga class
Yes, I know, it sounds so cliché but really. I am no Yoga expert… in fact my boyfriend has gone to more yoga classes than me, this was my first onsite yoga class and I loved it!
We went to Yoga Shala and the class was awesome and so fun, but it wasn’t the only reason why I loved it so much. It was an open air studio so you could feel the breeze and, since it was from 18:30 to 19:45, it was getting dark and you could hear all types of nature sounds… so peaceful. Teachers were superthoughtful and friendly, they made me feel so comfortable – I am a very awkward person when it comes to corporal activities haha. We met the lady that rented us our bike that day and it was so fun to practise yoga with her!
The drop in class was about 250 Baht, which is about 7 € and it is totally worth it! Exercise is always a good idea 🙂
If yoga is not something you are a fan of, you can practice Muay Thai too at Charn Chai Muay Thai! I would have love to but i couldn’t make it to the class in time.
11. Eat well and often!
Pai is know for great food of all types. We had been in Chiang Mai for 6 months before we went to Pai, so we were craving a bit of Western food and that is totally OK! People tend to condemn the food that this town offers because it has a great variety of food from different places, but I say, try whatever you are craving and enjoy!
There are restaurants and cafés that serve very good quality food and it can be a bit difficult to choose where to dine, but I totally recommend this Mexican food restaurant which is bit apart from the center of Pai. The name is Cafecito and I swear the food there is mouth-watering!
I ate my weight in smoothie bowls, had tacos and pizza, and also enjoy a great Pad Thai and spicy papaya salad. Just do what you feel like doing!
12. Choose a beautiful place to stay and relax
One of the best things about Thailand is what you pay for accommodation. If you are able to “splurge” yourself, you can fin a beautiful place to stay where you can chill and enjoy yourself without paying too much!
We paid about 25€ per night to stay in a beautiful hut near a small pond… so peacefull and yummy breakfast was included! We had coffee, orange juice, eggs, avocado, toast and fruit salad every morning!
There are soooo many other things to do here! If you like going for cocktails there are some bars with live music in the walking street, you can visit the memorial bridge and even visit the caves!
We had limited time so we couldn’t get to see everything here, but we look back to our trip fondly and really made the most of the time we had, always in a relax and vacational way, living the present moment.
Hope you enjoyed this post and got some ideas for your trip!