Recognized worldwide as one of the most relaxed places you are likely to visit in Thailand, Pai little town meets many kinds of travellers’needs. The youngest will love the city’s cool atmosphere; the working people will finally find a place to lay-back and the lonesome travellers will enjoy just seating by the river with a great book. One thing’s for sure, this postcard-perfect little town is a dream destination for everyone, and a real puff of oxygen as it is surrounded by valleys and green mountains. But before arriving to this quiet paradise, you will have to face 762 turns on highway 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai - you better be ready for that!
Pai seems to exist in its own time zone, and one of the most famous activities to do there is to learn not to do anything. Apart from this great activity, there’s a lot of places and things to do in Pai, plan to stay at least 3 nights to really get the essence of the town. Must Do Visits in Pai:
1/ Explore Pai Canyon: it covers a large area with some brilliant views and fun hikes. Some of the paths can be skinny and sketchy, so make sure you wear good shoes. It is also a nice place to watch the sunset.
2/ Tub Down the River: it’s probably the only place in Northern Thailand where you can go tubing. Just rent a tube from one of the tour companies and they will take you there. From up river you push yourself into the water, then you kick back and let the current take you back to town. It takes about one hour and can be very fun and refreshing.
3/ Visit the Santichon Chinese Village: you can rent a motorbike in town and drive there by yourself. The Santichon Village is an ethnic-minority Chinese Yunnan village founded by Chinese people who migrated to Thailand a long time ago. It might seem slightly touristy but it is also very interesting: houses are made of mud, there are many picturesque spots plus you can rent traditional Chinese outfits and have your very special photoshoot. Five hundred meters on top of the Santichon village, there is a typical Yunnan cuisine restaurant. Don’t miss this delicious stop and taste their famous braised pork leg with fried Chinese buns and the Yunnan salad.
4/ Check out the Tham Lod Caves (buy a tour - don’t go during rainy season): the cave is not exactly located in Pai, but some 35km towards Mae hong Son. A river flows through the caves and you can hire a guide to float through them on a bamboo raft. This place is definitely worth the drive as you will see huge stalactites and stalagmites as well as numerous ancient ceramics and wall paintings.
5/ Walk the endless Bamboo Bridge: meaning “merit bridge” in Thai, the Kho Gu Bamboo So Bridge was built to connect Pam Bok village with the nearby Huay Khai Khiri House of Priests and spans 815 meters across rice paddy fields. Head there around 7am on full and new moons to see villagers gathering on the bridge to make merit with local monks.
6/ Watch the sunset from the White Buddha temple: set on a hill two kilometre from town, Wat Phra That Mae Yen offers panoramic views of Pai, its luscious green countryside and is where to catch a magnificent sunset.
7/ Wander Pai’s Walking Street: each evening Pai’s main street fills up with food vendors and market stalls selling everything from quintessential hippie clothing, leather wallets, jewellery, post card plus delicious food. The selection of culinary delights is quite varied, from sushi to Indian food, fruit smoothies to Pad Thai and Thai desserts, you can be sure to find something that you like, and at very attractive price.
8/ Make the most of Pai’s Nightlife: For a small town, there’s a lot of awesome bars and clubs to party the night away! Check out Boom Bar, situated in the heart of the city center (night walking street), enjoy affordable cocktails with techno beats by DJ and make a lot of new friends. Also, don’t miss Bamboo Bar, located right beside the Pai river. This rustic bamboo structure is usually crowded at around 1 am until the sun rises.
Pai, where to stay? We stayed at Baantawan Boutique Guest House and enjoyed a very pleasant stay along Pai river. Baantawan offers nice rooms and cosy wooden houses in a beautiful garden. In the evening, you can relax in the sala and watch the water pass by. Delicious breakfasts and very pleasant staff. 1,000 to 2,000 THB/night www.baantawanpai.com
PAI CITY : From Chiang Mai head north toward 107. Pass Mae Rim and keep straight. After one hour turn left and follow road 1095 (many signs all the way).