I had the best time in Pai! And actually I hadn’t even planned on going there. But I went back to Chiang Mai to kill some time before flying to India and I just felt so overwhelmed by the busy city, as I had just come from the relaxed and beautiful Luang Prabang. So I stayed a couple of nights in Chiang Mai and then headed to Pai for 5 nights. I took a 3 hour minibus there for 200 Baht (~$7). They run every hour from Chiang Mai.
If you read my post on buses in Asia, you know that I don’t love minibuses and the drive to Pai was one of the reasons I initially planned not to go. It’s 762 turns on mountain roads and my experience with minibus drivers did not leave me excited about this prospect. However, I used the company Prempracha and was extremely satisfied. The driver was excellent and handled all the turns slowly. And my motion sickness medicine had me dozing off the entire time.
I stayed at Pai Cat Hut, and was very happy with my choice to stay in town. There are many beautiful places to stay across the river (Baan Kati Sod looked adorable), but I enjoyed the convenience of being able to go to dinner at night by walking. Five nights in Pai cost me $140 Including transport there and back.
So here goes, 10 things to do in Pai…in no particular order, but #1 and #10 are my favorites. 😊
1. Learn to ride a motorbike
Pai is a tiny hippie town surrounded by mountains. The town center is small, but you’ll definitely want a motorbike to explore outside the center. And luckily, this is a great place to learn! The roads are not very busy, and people drive pretty slowly in town. And once you get out of town, there is very little traffic, the roads are mostly in great condition, and you have just slight curves to begin practicing your turns on.
It was low season when I was there, so a motorbike only cost 100 Baht per day ($3). This is an excellent price! I took my motorbike out exploring every day by myself and had the best time. My favorite day of riding was heading to Bom Bowls for a “Snickers” smoothie bowl, and then just going on down the road straight from there. Stunning scenery!
Keep in mind that technically you need a license to drive one (although the odds of getting stopped in Pai seem extremely low), and your health insurance probably does not cover injury on a motorbike. And please please wear a helmet!
2. Pai Canyon
Pai Canyon is a very cool spot for hiking and for sunset. There are some really interesting and somewhat treacherous narrow ridges to walk along throughout the canyon. I recommend going an hour or so before sunset to do some hiking, and then getting back up to the sunset spot to watch the views. There will be other people, but it’s still very nice.
3. Walking Street Night Market
This is a pretty fun night market. Cars and motorbikes still drive through but it’s mostly foot traffic, and it has a nice mountainy night time vibe. I ate dinner here every night, and felt extremely safe walking around the town by myself. I really enjoyed the curry hand pies, Pad Thai, and the falafel. There’s also tons of cute bars and restaurants in this area.
4. Go on an eating extravaganza
Pai has great healthy options, and lots of vegan and vegetarian choices. It is a hippie town, after all. Honestly, they even recycle here! Which I NEVER see in Asia. Anyways, there is an overabundance of the cutest places you’ll ever even seen. My absolute favorite was Fat Cat, for the excellent atmosphere and yummy smoothies. Earth Tone also had a cool vibe, and I got this epic mango smoothie from there. Fine Rice Pai is a funky little noodle shop in town. The owner is awesome, and the wifi password is iloveyou so you can tell its a welcoming place. I had a very delicious Pad Thai there. And as mentioned above, you’ve got to try the “snickers” smoothie bowl from Bom Bowls!
Above: Mango Colada at Earth Tone, Peanut Butter smoothie jar at Fat Cat, Snickers bowl at Bom Bowls
5. Pambok Waterfall & the Bamboo Bridge
This is a great motorbike journey. The roads are a bit rough actually, but the scenery along the drive is so beautiful. Rolling hills of farm land as far as the eye can see. Pambok waterfall itself is quite unique. It’s a little cove waterfall with a small area for swimming. Definitely worth a stop. There was no entrance fee when I was there, but that may have been because of low season.
On your way to the waterfall, you’ll also see signs for the Bamboo Bridge. If you keep going past the waterfall, eventually you will find it. It’s a very long, winding, and rickety bamboo bridge in the rice fields of Pembok village. It’s definitely a bit of a tourist trap, but honestly it’s pretty cool. It’s gorgeous up there, and it’s fun to walk on the bridge and hope that you don’t fall through!
6. Santichon Village
Santichon is an adorable little Chinese Village. The village center definitely feels like a bit of a tourist trap as well, but it’s really cute. It looks like hobbit town and theres an interesting human-powered Ferris wheel I really wished I could have tried. And driving through the village is really fun because there’s adorable murals on all the walls. If you keep driving, you can go all the way up to Yun Lai View point.
7. Mo Paeng Waterfall
If you go past Santichon Village, you will find the Mo Paeng Waterfall. Again, I did not have to pay an entrance fee here. This was quite a good waterfall as well. There is an area below that is nice for swimming, and you can hike up a little nearer to the top for a smaller spot or to sit on some rocks. Definitely would be nice to spend a couple hours swimming, relaxing, and eating.
8. The White Buddhas
There are two nice white Buddhas in town. One at the top of Wat Phra That Mae Yen. I did not climb to the top of this one, because after all my time in Asia, I still forget to cover my legs when going to visit a temple. They have wraps you can rent but I didn’t feel like paying the fee. Anyways, I was very happy with the other white Buddha, called White Buddha. It was a different sort of temple with funky blue tiles on the floor and I really enjoyed it.
There are a couple of yoga places in town. I went to Sawasdee Yoga and was quite happy with it. It was 200 Baht per class. You can find all sorts of other hippie type activities as well like open mic nights, fire dancing, ecstatic dance, and meditations…often for free!
10. Go to Sundown Playground for sunset
You’ll definitely want to catch some beautiful sunsets while in Pai. While Pai Canyon is a popular spot for this, my favorite place to watch is Sundown Playground. It’s so peaceful and gorgeous. Honestly, I almost cried when I was there from the sheer beauty. Definitely check it out!