Spend enough time on the beautiful Thai beaches? Now it’s time to think about an escape to Pai – a dream destination for many travelers. You might not expect much out of it before you go, but somehow it will capture your mind and steal your heart away. Nestled deep in valleys, endless mountains, waterfalls, natural hot springs, and incredible hiking trails, you have nothing to do but chill out and your weekend trip to Pai will quickly turn into a whole week trip. Or it will extend longer.
How to get to Pai
People usually head to Pai from Chiang Mai. You can catch a bus from the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station, it takes 3 – 4 hours and costs around 80 baht. Motorbike is another option but it isn’t recommended because the road has many twists and turns that caused quite a lot of accidents.
You can fly to Pai too. Kan Airlines at Chiang Mai provides daily flights that will get you to Pai in 25 minutes.
Kan Airlines provides daily flights that will get you to Pai in 25 minutes (Photo: nomadasaurus)
Best time to visit Pai
The best time to visit Pai is about the end of November to February. The weather is cool and doesn’t have much rain. Pai attracts a big number of visitors in December but the crowd will disperse in January.
May to November is the perfect time for whom travel with a budget. But this time is considered the “rainy” season, so you can expect a pour down suddenly for an hour or so, but it doesn’t last long. Not as bad as traveling to Pai during the high season.
Things to do in Pai
If you like cycling or trekking, don’t miss a trip to waterfalls. If you can’t visit all the waterfalls in this area, try at least the two most popular are Mo Paeng and Pam Bok Falls.
Nam Tok Mo Paeng is only about 8km from town and easy to get so it often hosts a crowd of visitors. But this waterfall has a couple of natural pools that are suitable for swimming with gorgeous scenery so don’t skip it of your trip.
Compare to Mo Paeng, Pam Bok waterfall is a little more secluded, a perfect spot to escape from the heat if you visit Thailand in summer. The fall is sandwiched between two big rocks, making it an impressive sight. There are a couple of ledges for those who want to have some fun jumping into the water and refreshing themselves.
Pam Bok waterfall is a perfect spot to escape the heat if you visit Pai in summer (Photo: thedustyroad)
2. Warm up yourself at a hot spring
Pai is a very hospitable place: it has waterfalls to cool you down in summer and hot springs to warm you up in cooler months. Only 7km southeast of town is a well-kept local park. A stream flows through it, mixes with the hot springs to make a soothing bathing area surrounded by lush scenery. For more private, you can head to Pai Hot Spring Spa Resort nearby where you can relax in 3 different thermal baths with only 100 baht.
Tha Pai Hot Spring in Pai (Photo: Michel Gingras)
3. Pamper the elephant
Elephant riding is a big business in Thailand. Sadly that most of the places treat the elephants quite poorly and consider them only as a tourist attraction. That’s the reason why many visitors stay away from animal tourism because they think that these animals are born to bring smiles to us not to suffer, be mistreated or forced to please our curiosity.
But at Thom’s Elephant Camp and Guesthouse in Pai, things are different. These big creatures are treated like in a family. Thom is a third generation elephant trainer and was raised with the elephants as her siblings. The elephant camp was opened in 1992. You can spend time with the elephants and feed them with bananas and pumpkins while they are not busy or you can learn about their moods, behavior and how to train them with an all-day tour.
These big elephants are treated like in a family in Thom’s Cam (Photo: Thomelephant)
4. See the Land Split
This is an interesting site in Pai. In 2008, a farmer found out that his land was split up, created a huge gap on the ground. Instead of complaining, he decided to turn it into a tourist attraction.
The split land is fairly impressive but not something which is over-excited. What makes the Land Split the most wonderful place in Pai is how the farmer’s family members welcome visitors with greeting smiles. You will be served with fresh fruits, vegetables, sweet Hibiscus juice and Hibiscus wine too. All are grown on their land. A nice stop in Pai.
What makes the Land Split the most wonderful place in Pai is the welcoming of the farmer’s family
5. Hike the Pai Canyon
Located 8km from the town, this Canyon is a highlight of Pai. From here, you can have a look over high rock cliffs and the green valley. Someone said that this is the best place to catch a sunrise and sunset but don’t bother the first. Pai is on the mountain, so the morning is usually misty and cloudy. Sunset is the perfect time in Pai Canyon when the sky changes to an astonishing array of colors.
Beautiful sunset in the Canyon (Photo: Matthew Bousquet)
6. Explore Lod Cave (Tham Lot)
Lod Cave is a spectacular limestone system. In fact, this cave is not in Pai, but it’s close enough to worth a trip. Located about 35km headed towards Mae Hong Son, you will go up the mountains with many twists and turns. You will be required to hire a local guide to explore the impressive stalactites and stalagmites in the cave (150 baht for a group of 3). To take a bamboo raft down the river that runs through the cave, you will have to pay another 300 baht per group. All the fee must be paid at the entrance so it’s better to join with 2 others and make a group. You will save quite a lot of money.
Located about 35km headed towards Mae Hong Son, Tham Lod Cave is a spectacular limestone system (Photo: Drewhopper)
7. Drink tea at Ban Santichon (Chinese village)
The peaceful village locates only 4 km west of Pai. Once you get here, it might be your favorite place in Pai. From Yunnanese food, the gorgeous pot of Chinese tea, pony rides to mountain views, this breathing Chinese village are worth exploring.
Stop at Chinese village to enjoy a Chinese green tea (Photo: thebutterflyeditions)
8. Relax in a hammock
The Container is a cool cafe with egg-shaped hammocks that overlooks the hills. How peaceful it is when you are lazing in a hammock, reading a book, drinking a good coffee and watching the whole world passing by quietly and slowly.
Laze in a hammock, read a book and enjoy the peaceful life of Pai (Photo: mijnrealiteit)
9. Walk at Walking Street Market
Strolling in Pai’s Walking Market is not like typical Thai Night Markets. The shops are a little smaller and more chilled out with souvenirs, locally crafted pottery, jewelry, clothes shops and a variety of food vendors. It’s more than just Thai street food like Kao Niew Ma Muang (mango sticky rice) and Pad Thai, it’s bruschetta, chai tea, Pikachu hats, samosas, coconut balls and so much more. The Walking Street opens from 4 pm to 11 pm every night – enough time for you to experience the lively life here.
Although Pai is known to be a sleepy town by day, at night it comes to life (Photo: Thailand)
What you shouldn’t do in Pai
Several tour guides highlight “Long neck” tribe as one of the most attractions in Pai where you can see Karen women with a lot of rings around their neck. Many visitors who made that tour said it felt like they were visiting a “zoo” where young and old women with long necks sitting to be photographed. It should be the time for these women stop this tradition instead adding rings to the neck of 5 or 7-year-old girl in order to draw more and more foreigners with cameras.
Do you think it’s time to stop putting rings on the children’s neck?
If you fall in love with this peaceful and dreamy town and plan a visit, consider including Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai into your trip. You can compile all the best things of northern Thailand in the 5-day itinerary as our suggestion:
– Day 1: Chiang Rai
Explore Thailand’s culture and history with famous sites such as Wat Rong Khun, The Golden Triangle, Thai Majesty’s Royal Villa, Buddhist shrine at the peak of Doi Tung, hill-tribe villages Akha and Lahu, and Chiang Rai’s Night Bazaar.
– Day 2: Chiang Mai
At Chiang Mai, you will have a chance to discover a numerous of ancient temples including Wat Umong, Wat Pha Lat, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, and Wat Chedi Luang.
– Day 3: Chiang Mai
The third day is the time to get your adventurous adrenaline rush. You can choose either hike up Doi Inthanon – Thailand’s highest mountain, fly zip line through the jungles or go water rafting at the Mae Taeng river.
– Day 4: Chiang Mai
Now it’s time to pamper yourself after the adventure on day 3. You can rejuvenate at one of many Spas in Chiang Mai then go shopping at walking streets.
– Day 5: Pai
Escaping the bustling city to quiet Pai. It’s all about relaxing here.
Still can’t make up your mind? Designed your own tour to Pai HERE with our experts’ help.