I’ve just spent the last few days in Pai, Northern Thailand. A place I’ve never been to before despite living 100km away in Chiang Mai for over a year, criminal I know. Anyway, I had clearly been missing out – this place should be right near the top of the list for places people need to visit in Thailand, it’s really that good.
Pai is 3 hours from Chiang Mai, so the best way is to take a mini-van from Chiang Mai’s arcade bus station ($5). You can take the local bus if you’re feel like slumming it too (5 hours+, $3) OR better yet, you can rent a bike in Chiang Mai and drive – it’s an awesome sweeping, windy road for the whole 130km. Beautiful. Also, with so many guesthouse (over 350!) you can find some awesome last minute deals, so you don’t have to break the bank either.
Things to see and do in Pai:
Pai is a great place to lie in a hammock and chill, enjoy the cooler mountain temperatures, go for a dip in a pool somewhere. It’s really cheap too, around half the price of Bangkok. All that being said, there are still a few cool things to fill 2 or 3 days here so have a look at the following:
The Memorial Bridge: Not quite as impressive as Kancanaburi’s River Kwai Bridge but worth a look none-the-less. Built by the Japanese during WWII, it offers some great photo ops and the river it crosses is gorgeous.
Tha Pai Hot Springs: My personal favourite. The hot springs can be quite tricky to find, so listen up and how to get to the Pai hot springs. Take a motorbike or bicycle and drive 8km south east out of Pai, towards the sunset-view restaurant. Cross the bridge when you leave the town, and keep going straight straight straight until you see the signs, 7km away. Then basque in the roasting hot water (40 degrees Celsius+) with the pools at the top reaching 80 degrees!! Hot enough to boil an egg, needless to say, you’re not allowed in those ones!
Pai Canyon: AWESOME place for sunset. It’s not quite the Grand Canyon but it’s beautiful all the same, Thai health in safety is in full force here too, I’ve there is none so be careful of the 50m drops on each side of the narrow path around :S
Chinese Village: Feature heavily in guidebooks etc but not all that interesting, a fake chinese settlement built where Chinese (Yunnanese) settled here a 100 years ago or so. If you want kitsch chines epics but figure China is too far to venture to, here’s your place
Waterfalls: Thailand is jam packed full of the things, so if you haven’t od’ed on watefalls already, check out the two best in the area – Pam Bok waterfall and Mae Ya waterfall.
How to get around Pai:
There are 3 options really, rent a bicycle ($3 per day), rent a scooter (starting at a ridiculously cheap $3 per day) or go on a tour to see everything (day tours start around $15-$20). Personally, I jump on a scooter all the time, everywhere I go. In fact it’s normally the first thing I do after getting off the bus or train, straight to a scooter rental place. It saves you a fortune, it’s fun, you’re free and you can see everything at your own pace.
I’m delighted to have finally made it to Pai, years of avoiding it because I had heard of it being full of wannabe hippies turned out to be wasted, better late than never though. Get your asses there asap. Happy travels!