I was initially only going to stay in Pai for a few days and ended up staying for more than a week. As soon as you arrive you are welcomed by a very calm and peaceful feeling, everything goes one step slower, and there is just this special vibe the place has to offer. It was my favorite place in the north of Thailand and I can definitely see how people end up staying there for a few weeks. It's the kind of place to relax for a few days, read a book in the hammocks, rent a scooter for a few days and explore the mountains and hot springs. It is a very hip and cool young place with a lot of backpackers and people to meet. Keep reading to find out more about my favorite spots, best restaurants and places to eat, the cheapest way of getting there and back and what not to miss while there!
Let's start by how to get there: there are a few different options, Minivan or Local Bus. The best and cheapest option is taking the local Red bus from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (Arcade Bus Terminal) for 80 Baht.
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Pai in its full beauty
Renting a scooter for two days and exploring the area - so much fun!!
The bus leaves three times a day, at 9am, 11am and 15pm (double check times again since they sometimes vary, this is from May 2017) and takes about 3,5 hours to get to Pai. The Minivans leave more frequently, about every hour, but also cost double the price, 150 Baht, and it takes the same time 3,5 hours.
Once you arrive you are dropped off at the bus station which is very central on the main road, which at night also turns into their great night market. From there you can walk everywhere. I found a nice little Guesthouse about a 10-15 minute walk from the station called Pichai House for 200 Baht per night including free water, tea/coffee and bananas all day. The room was a double bed with fan, bathroom and TV, and even a small little balcony out front. Since I stayed longer than the initial two/three days, I was able to get the price down a bit for the other nights. If you would rather stay in a Hostel, there are many choices. The one I found to be nicest with a fair price was called Common Grounds Pai. It has a very nice chilled vibe, nice hang out area, hammocks, pool table, bar and the rooms were clean and not too bad either. Funnily enough you pay more for a hostel bed in a 6 bed dorm in Pai than for your own place, but hey that's how it is. The price for the dorm was 250 Baht.
Best places to eat - for me I had two or three favourites. But saying that, there are so many nice little places and restaurants, I tried out a different one every morning and night (and sometimes even for lunch as well if I was in town). I was never disappointed and always had such delicious food! Being a vegetarian isn't always easy, but in Pai you never had to look far. There are so many vegetarian and vegan places and every single menu will have at least a full page of vegetarian options! For breakfast my favourite was Good Life, try their Muesli Banana Pancake with Honey - DELICIOUS! But even for Lunch/Dinner, plenty of great choices for good prices, I loved their vegetable cashew and rice dish!
For Lunch/Dinner I had two favourites - Ganesh and Charlie and Lek's. Ganesh is located on the bar street where in the evenings everything is happening, so quite a good place to eat dinner. The owner, a super friendly young Thai with an afro and so many tattoos was always up for a joke and a laugh even if it got busy. I ate there so many times and he even knew me by the end. Charlie and Lek's is pretty much opposite the guesthouse I stayed at, Pachai House, and is also a cooking school during the day. Their meals are all extremely delicious for good prices. It is very popular as well and you will never see it empty. My personal favourites, their curries!
Another great completely Vegetarian cafe/restaurant is Earth Tone. So many extremely delicious treats, cakes, smoothies, big healthy salads, soups or bowls, I just loved it! It is a bit outside of Pai though, so either go by scooter or it's a good 30 minute walk - but definitely worth checking out!
Things to do in and around Pai, you will not get bored to say the least. Pai is definitely the place to just relax with a good book and a nice view for a while but there are certainly many things to go do and see as well. You will need a scooter to do this, which can be rented from AYA Travel Service for 100 Baht per day. I found this place to be the safest and cheapest option. There are also many small local places that rent scooters, but they are the same price and you don't know what you're getting into with them. AYA is a renowned travel company and it's very quick and easy to rent the scooter there. For a fee which you will get back at the end, take a Helmet - safety always first (and you will need it in Thailand). There are two loops you can do and each one easily each fits into one day. First loop is the big loop to the south of Pai where you pass the Heart of Pai, an upside down house, Coffee in Love, the famous cafe with an incredible view and the I AM PAI sign, the Pai Land Split, Pam Bok Waterfall, and the Bamboo Bridge. From there you have to turn around again and go back a little ways to the Pai Canyon (LOVED this place!) and the Memorial Bridge back up the other side of the river. Depending on time, there is a great Hot Spring for 100 Baht called Pai Hotspring Spa Resortwhere you can easily spend a few hours resting in the two hot spring pools or in the big infinity pool with cold water overlooking the spectacular mountains! I did this on a separate day and spent almost the whole day there. Just before looping back into Pai check out the Big White Buddha on the top of the mountain. What a beautiful view over the surrounding area with a great sunset to end the day! The second loop is to the north of Pai, starting with the tiny Pai Airport, then making your way to Sintichon a small Chinese Village and further up to the Yun Lai Viewpoint. From there go to the Mor Paemg Waterfall and another half an hour drive out to the Sai Ngam Natural Hot Springs to rest for a while before looping back into town. Another nice place to go to for a whole day is the Fluid Swimming Pool. It's only 60 Baht entry for the whole day, you can swim your laps or just cool off. The chairs and mats are included and the owner and staff are super friendly. It's the perfect spot to chill out for a day with great relaxing music on in the background and many people to meet!
Going back, there are only two options from Pai, either back to Chiang Mai or off to Mae Hong Son close to the Myanmar boarder. The bus to Mae Hong Son leaves once a day for 75 Baht and takes about 4 hours. The local bus back to Chiang Mai is again 80 Baht and leaves at 7am, 11am and 16pm.
Hope you liked this article! If you have any more questions or want to ask something in more detail just get in touch, I am happy to give more advice. Please spread the word through liking, sharing and recommending this article and/or website! Hope to see you here again soon!
Coffee in Love - a great place to hang out and enjoy the view
Pai Canyon - loved going all the way down into the valley and back up
The amazing view from the Hotspring Infinity Pool
Relaxing at the Pai Hotspring Spa Resort
The most delicious healthy vegan 'Buddha Bowl' at Earth Tone