This post was last updated on February 17th, 2020 at 02:50 pm
The north of Thailand is one of the most popular regions of the country, evident from the many sights here. If you are in the north long enough, you will automatically hear the stories about Pai. This beautiful village is the “place to be” for backpackers. Located on the Pai River in a fairy-tale mountain valley, it captivates thousands of tourists every year.
Our Experience in Pai
Every country seems to have such a town as Pai. In Indonesia we have found Ubud, in Vietnam Hoi An, and in the Philippines there’s Bohol. As soon as you arrive you notice the pleasant atmosphere; similarly in Pai. When we arrived here we immediately noticed the friendly atmosphere and the relaxed people.
Not only are the locals relaxed here, but also the tourists. In the evening you can have fun at one of the bars; the next day you explore the beautiful surroundings. And although it is a mecca for backpackers, known for its surroundings, we really noticed the relaxed atmosphere, live music, and fun parties.
TIP – Rent a scooter and explore the area. Expect to pay around 150 to 250 baht (US$4.85 to $8) per day.
Pai is Easy to Reach
Pai is situated in a mountainous area about 130 kilometers (81 miles) from Chiang Mai near the border of Myanmar, making it easy to reach. If you come from Chiang Mai you will also come across the “Road of 762 Curves” where the view is phenomenal. Pai is a village that should definitely be on your list if you are in the north of the country.
11 Fun Things to Do in and Around Pai
The area itself is undoubtedly the biggest highlight. This is reason enough to spend at least three days here. The town itself also has some places of interest that you must see. Check out our list below!
1. Go Rafting and / or Kayaking
Pai is located in a beautiful setting. You can go rafting or kayaking here on the Mae Nam Pai River during the rainy season. The rainy season runs from June to September. You can sail from Pai to Mae Hong Son.
It is a fairly popular activity so it won’t hurt to book in advance if you want to do this. Note: it is not always possible in the dry season.
TIP – Count on around 1,500 to 1,800 baht p.p. (US $48.55 to $58.25) for one day of rafting. For three days/two nights you have to pay around 6,000 baht (US $195) per person. Check out Active Thailand for more information.
2. Explore Pai Canyon
Pai Canyon is not as big as the Grand Canyon on the other side of the world but it’s no less impressive. Especially in the rainy season it is very beautiful here because the area is particularly green during this time.
The rainy season has the disadvantage that the unpaved roads are not easily accessible.
Please note that there aren’t actually any safety regulations here. There are no gates or ribbons, and if you make a mistake here and fall down, a trauma helicopter will not be enough to save you.
TIP – Entrance is free.
3. Visit Wat Phra That Mae Yen (White Buddha)
This is one of the highlights in Pai that you cannot miss. This large Buddha statue stands high on a mountain and can be seen from Pai in good weather. The view from the mountain on which the Wat Phra That Mae Yen stands is phenomenal.
From the viewpoint, which is on the other side of Pai, you can see this large Buddha statue. It is, therefore, a crowded place of interest in Pai. To get there you have to climb 353 steps.
4. Drive to the Yun Lai Viewpoint
A highlight that more than lives up to its name. Perched high on the mountain, you look out over the mountains around Pai and see once more why people come here. The green hills, rice fields, and mountain villages are in the distance and the view is phenomenal!
It is an absolute must to ride a scooter and thus explore the area around the viewpoint.
The viewpoint is located 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) outside of Pai near the landscaped Chinese Village. The road from Pai to the viewpoint is well marked and easy to do with the scooter. At the viewpoint there is a teahouse where you can drink a cup of tea and have a beautiful view of the surroundings.
TIP – Entrance to the viewpoint is 20 baht (US$0.65) p.p.
5. Relax in One of the Hot Springs
If you have had a long day there is nothing better than relaxing in a hot spring. Fortunately, Pai has a number of beautiful natural hot springs. There are a few that you can visit including the Pai Hot Springs (300 baht, US$9.70, entrance fee) and the Sai Ngam Hot Spring (20 baht, US$0.65).
You also have the Hot Springs Spa Resort. These are still hot springs, but slightly more luxurious. For only 100 baht p.p., you can relax in three different thermal baths and cool off by the pool; all while being surrounded by the beautiful landscape.
6. Chase Waterfalls
It is known that Thailand has a number of beautiful waterfalls, also in Pai. A visit to one of the many waterfalls in the area is a must-do! There are many waterfalls to visit. Rent a scooter and explore the area and you will come across many.
These are the three most important waterfalls that must be seen!
Mo Paeng waterfall
This waterfall is easiest to reach from Pai. It is the most popular and busiest of all waterfalls. If you have not been in Pai for that long, this is a nice place to visit. You also have a natural slide and a pool at the bottom of the waterfall.
Pam Bok waterfall
This is the best place to go with the scooter. The Pam Bok Waterfall is much less crowded than Mo Paeng Waterfall. It is a nice place for a refreshing swim or just to enjoy the surroundings. You can also go to the viewpoint; Su Thong Pae, a 500-meter long bamboo bridge that extends over rice fields.
Mae Yen waterfall
This waterfall is for the adventurers. To reach this hidden waterfall, you have to cross a river about 40 times and walk through the jungle for 3 hours. But it is worth it, not only because the waterfall is so beautiful, but also because the walk to it is also very beautiful.
7. Visit Tham Lot Cave (a.k.a. Lod Cave)
The Tham Lot is not located in Pai, but about 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside the city. Yet many travelers make the journey from Pai to this cave, and it’s definitely worth it. The drive to the cave is already spectacular and halfway you also have a beautiful view over the mountain tops.
Once at the cave you must hire a local guide (150 baht, US$4.85, for a group of 3) to explore the dark and impressive limestone cave.
TIP – In the cave you can rent a bamboo raft to sail through the cave. This costs 300 baht (US$9.70).
8. Trekking Through the Region
Pai is a great region for beautiful treks. You can do treks from one day to a few days here. A trek costs around 800 to 1,000 baht (US $26 to $32.40) per person per day. You will then receive food, drinks, and a guide. You can book through your accommodation or a tour operator.
9. Have Fun on Pai’s Walking Street
Every known destination in Thailand has a street where everything happens. Whether that is night markets, nice bars, or a street with restaurants; it’s no different here. In Pai you have the Walking Street. Here they sell everything from street food to jewelry and clothing. The food is definitely recommended! Even if you eat here every night for a month, it still won’t get boring.
TIP – The Pai Walking Street is the main street so it’s easy to find. It starts around 4 p.m. and lasts until around 10:30 p.m.
10. Rent a Scooter
The beauty of Pai lies in the area with the mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, and beautiful landscapes. The best way to explore Pai’s natural attractions is to rent a scooter.
With your own scooter you can easily visit all the aforementioned sights. It is wonderful to drive through the breathtaking landscapes and do whatever you feel like.
You can also book tours, but here you are always dependent on a group and the guide who determines what you will do that day. With a scooter you can plan the entire day yourself. Awesome!
TIP – Scooters can be rented in the city. Prices vary, but count on 100 baht (US $3.25) per day.
11. Visit the Memorial Bridge
The Memorial Bridge is on the route to many other highlights in the region. The Memorial Bridge dates from the Second World War and was built to make it easier for troops to cross the river as they had to go back and forth with a canoe each time.
It is nice to see such a piece of history in a region like Pai but it is a bit out of place with its surroundings.
Drive the Mae Hong Son Loop
One of the most popular scooter rides in Thailand is the Mae Hong Son Loop. It starts in Chiang Mai, goes through the Mae Hong Son region in the north and finally back to Chiang Mai. It’s a ride of around 600 kilometers (373 miles).
The route starts 35 kilometers (22 miles) outside of Chiang Mai. It takes about 2 to 3 days to drive the entire route, depending on how fast you drive and how often you stop for photos.
You can spend the night anywhere along this route. You can also buy food and drinks in many places. The route is much larger than from Chiang Mai to Pai. Most travelers start in Chiang Mai and drive the route from here, stopping in Pai, and then continuing again.
The roads are in good condition and there are many signs which means you can drive it yourself. If you need help, you can buy the Mae Hong Son Loop Guide Map in Chiang Mai.
TIP – Rent a scooter for a few days in Chiang Mai. Count on around US$110 for 7 days’ rent.
Despite the immense popularity of the village, this fortunately has no influence on its beautiful surroundings. Outside the busier ‘center’ you will find quiet accommodations and a large number of activities everywhere.
Just like Ubud in Indonesia, you have a lively art and music scene here.
You can make trips to see the mountain tribes such as the Karen, Hmong and Lahu, beautiful waterfalls, beautiful temples, and hot springs. This is such a village where people plan to stay for two days but end up staying two weeks!
It has an enchanting effect. Since Pai lies at the foot of a mountain area, it is also the perfect base for hiking in the area.
TIP – On Wednesday you have the Wednesday Market that attracts many locals, mountain tribes, and travelers.
Changes in the Village
The village only has 2,500 inhabitants. In the cooler season, between December and January, it is quite busy. In recent years, the infrastructure to the town has improved and it even has an airport. In addition to low-budget hostels, resorts have also been added for people who prefer a bit more luxury.
The environment of the village is changing rapidly and investors already have their eyes on this popular spot. Fortunately, it is still a peaceful place today.
How to Get to Pai
Pai is a famous place in Thailand so it takes little effort to get there. The easiest way is by bus/minivan or by plane.
To Pai by Plane
Pai has a small airport about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the city. There are flights to Chiang Mai but nothing more.
To Pai by Bus
There are enough buses to and from Pai. An example is the bus to Chiang Mai; it leaves at 12 noon, costs you 80 baht (US $2.60) and takes four hours. The bus to Mae Hong Son also costs 80 baht, takes four hours, and leaves at 11 a.m.
To Pai by Minivan
The minivan is a lot faster but a little more expensive. This way you pay 150 baht (US $4.85) for a ride to Chiang Mai. They do run every hour between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. To Mae Hong Son it also costs 150 baht.
Book Transportation Seats Online
Best Time to Visit Pai
The best time to visit Pai is a bit dependent on your own wishes. Keep in mind that Pai is located in the mountains and it’s a lot cooler here than on the coast. In the “cold” season, which runs from October to February, there is a big difference between daytime and evening temperatures.
During the day it is around 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) but at night it cools down to around 6 degrees Celsius (43°F). December and January are the coldest.
The hottest months are from March to May with temperatures of around 35 degrees Celsius (95°F). April in particular can be very hot. However, this is NOT the best time to visit Pai. The best time to visit Pai (according to us) is just AFTER the rainy season in the months of October to December.
The temperatures are not at their highest but nature, including waterfalls and rice fields will be at their peak.