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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 Thailand How to get to Pai:

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.

Chiang Mai pai minivan
3 hours, $5 from Chiang Mai to Pai

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.

Memorial Bridge Pai

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!  

Hot Springs in Pai
80 degree hot spring (celsius!)

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

Pai Canyon 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

Chinese Village pai

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.

Pam Bok Waterfall pai
Pam Bok Waterfall pai
Mae Ya Waterfall
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!

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21 thoughts on “Backpacking in Pai, Northern Thailand’s travelers retreat

  1. Pingback: 在派伊的背包旅行,泰国北部的旅行者度假地 | 一步之遥 4Ward-数字游民指南
  2. Pingback: What to do in Chiang Mai; 3 day Itinerary for Chiang Mai
  3. Great info on Pai!

    I’ll be going there is 2 weeks and would like to book a room at one of the resorts near Pai Canyon (Pai River Mountain Resort). Because it’s about a 15min drive/scooter ride from the night life of the Pai walking street, I’m wondering what options I have if we partake in the night life and don’t want to head back to our resort til midnight or later.

    Are there any taxis that run that late?
    Is it safe to ride a scooter back to the Pai Canyon area in the dark (provided I’m not drinking and driving)?

    If I don’t have any options, I may look to stay at a place closer to the city center. I can’t seem to find this information anywhere online and so any information would help.

    Thank you!

  4. Hey! I was wondering what month/s you visited Pai as you’re advised not to go there during the high season (november through february I think)? And is this a trip for more experienced backpackers? This will be my first trip as a backpacker and I’m traveling alone. Also I’m a 22 year old girl.

    Great website!

    Greetings from Norway 🙂

  5. Since I am still figuring out my Thai trip itinerary, I might have to add a day trip here along with a few days in Chiang Mai.

    Good info JW.

  6. Wow, those waterfalls look great. I’d sure like to visit Thailand one day, although it’s taking me a while to work my way around China.

    1. traveling around china is brilliant mate, i’ve been 4 times – but Thailand is another level 😛

  7. Pai is my Thai Shangri-la (with Koh Chang ranking a close second) … spolied for choice in music, cuisine, accommodation, views, dry heat (reminds me of Alberta in the summertime), etc

    The people are so friendly, and the prices are the best in Thailand, even in the high season.

    PRO TIP: If you like pools, goto the Baan Kratang Resort, where you can use their infinity pool for 50 Baht … it’s right on the river, and you can walk to a coffee shop close by for refreshments!

      1. no problem man, it’s the product of spending three weeks there last winter with an expat I know from home … she works here in the Rocky Mountains with me during the summer, and she spends her winters in Pai — this one’s #8.

        She showed me so much about the place … I have 6-7 full blog posts on the area on my blog … if you want to check it out, check the blog archives in December 2010 and January 2011, it’s all there!


  8. No Johnny, the best way to get there is on a scooter! Amazing roads up there, well tarmacked too! Drive safe though and make sure you wear a helmet people!

    Can’t believe you’ve not been there before, seemed like some sort of backpacking Mecca to me!

      1. Johnny: I think you can get AYA travel to transport your bags to Pai while you drive the road on your bike … not sure about that, but I think that’s how it goes from what I can remember!

        1. yeah i heard rumours about that, great service. I’d def do that next time – any idea where their office in Chiang Mai is?

          1. I forget exactly where it is, but just ask around at guesthouses in town, many offer AYA’s travel packages to Pai (that’s how I got there the second time I visited)

      2. I only stopped off in Pai for one night while I was doing the Mae Hong Son loop. I’d bought a small backpack in the night bazaar in Chiang Mai and packed my camera and what clothes I could into that. Had to do a bit of hand washing on the way round, but it was all part of the adventure! I left my big pack in my guest house in Chiang Mai. Have you done the loop mate?

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