Pai, fairytale come to life or overrated? It’s so out of the way, should I even bother going?
In my honest opinion Pai is a little slice of heaven and YES you should bother going!
So many times whilst I was in this enchanting little town and its surroundings I almost had to pinch myself. Is this place even real!? Where else do you see waterfalls, natural hot springs, an earthquake in the middle of a farm, elephants, lush rice fields, an upside down house, cute coffee shops with an epic view and more, all in one day!?
I’ll elaborate… but first, you gotta get there!
How do I do that?
Pai is a little gem tucked away in the mountains, about 4 hours from Chiang Mai and is a bit of a mission to get to but you have a couple of options.
I took the bus, it was easy, stress-free and relatively cheap (I think I paid around 300 baht). If you’re prone to motion sickness make sure to pop some travel sickness pills as the road is incredibly windy. I booked my bus through AYA service in Chiang Mai and then immediately rented a scooter from their office we got dropped at in Pai. Super easy and no hassles and would highly recommend them.
Scooter or Motorbike.
I didn’t have the balls to do this. As much as I love riding around on a scooter, long-distance missions and city traffic aren’t my thing. I also heard that police and army checks are mandatory and illogically, police scare the sh*t out of me. I’ve got braver friends who have done this and they loved it. If you have some experience riding a scooter or motorbike, don’t mind windy roads and have your international drivers/bike license, go for it! Again I would recommend going through AYA as they take your big bags with one of their buses so you can ride with just your daypack making life so much easier.
Where should I stay?
There’s a plethora of guest houses, hostels, and hotels in Pai to suit any style and budget. I spent my first week in Pai with one my best friends Emily, we stayed in a hostel called Common Grounds and had a great time. Awesome central location, good vibes, nice staff and the cutest dogs ever. They also have a pool table and a bar which makes it the perfect place to have a few drinks and meet people. After Emily left the remainder of my time in Pai was spent winding down in a cute little place called up2u guesthouse. For around 100 baht a night they offer gorgeous views from hammocks over the river and mountains. You also get to enjoy this view as you shower! Up2u is just a short fifteen-minute walk from town. Not that I ever walked which brings me to…
Hiring a scooter.
If you’ve never ridden a scooter before but always wanted to try, Pai is the perfect spot to learn. I’d driven scooters a few times before but Pai really built my confidence up. The town itself is so relaxed, everyone drives nice and slow so don’t stress and take your time getting used to the feel of your bike. Always watch check your mirrors, be super aware of your surroundings and go slow. Once you get outside of town you can speed up a bit and explore! Take your newfound confidence and wheels to one of the many waterfalls and other attractions. Hiring a scooter costs around 150 baht per day.
I was only stopped once by the police but nothing came of it, just remember to drive sensibly and don’t carry any herbs with you as they will check your bags!
There are so many things to do and see around this area. I was there for just under two weeks and need to go back ASAP because I missed out on a lot! Heres what I adored about Pai.
I only made it to two of the many waterfalls in town because I have a terrible sense of direction and couldn’t find the other more elusive ones… but these two are really nice albeit the most popular so it can get a little crowded.
Just a short ride out of town past the airport follow the signs to this pretty little waterfall and natural rock slide. Mo paeng has few different pools to chill in and if you climb up the top you can slide down to the bottom which is pretty fun.
The opposite side of town to mo paeng this pretty little waterfall is the perfect place to cool off on a hot day. It’s also on the way to one of Pai’s coolest tourist attractions, the Land split!
In 2008 an earthquake split open a farm, destroying it. Instead of leaving the farmer has turned it into this awesome tourist attraction. One day when my friend Emily and I were cruising around with no destination in mind when we came across this natural phenomenon. Curious about the ‘land split’ sign and seeking shelter from the rain, we parked up our scooters and sat at the table and chairs under a small gazebo. We didn’t expect to be greeted by beautiful warm smiles and a myriad of delicious snacks, picked fresh from the garden. Banana chips, peanuts, tamarind, hibiscus juice, rice wine and more! We ate as much as we could and waited for the rain to pass. Then we followed the signs up the hill to view the land split. You can walk all the way to the top and then inside the split which is pretty impressive but what I love most about this attraction is the wonderful hospitality from the owner. It doesn’t cost anything to go but they do have a donation box so leave at least a couple hundred baht and keep this beautiful family in business!
Pai has a few different hot springs around town, I have no idea which one we stumbled upon but it was awesome! As you can probably gather by now myself and Em’s favorite activity was to jump on our bad-ass barbie bikes and get lost. Pai is the perfect spot to do this as the scenery is breathtaking wherever you go. We ended up at deserted boiling hot spring in the middle of nowhere.
All that exploring can leave you pretty hungry. If you’re after a delicious, cheap and easy feed, look no further than walking street. I guess walking street is like the main street of Pai as it’s located right in the center. There’s not much going on during the day but it really comes to life after dark. My nightly ritual was to walk right down the end and get a beautiful Thai vegan salad… don’t stop reading just yet, yes the salad is delicious but don’t let your night end there. Right next-door to the salad lady is amazing pad thai, next to that is delicious fried chicken, walk a little further down and get some cheesy bruschetta and lasagne. Every night I’d walk up and down feasting on all the different kinds of foods including the aforementioned, sushi, dumplings, anything you want on a stick and finish it off with coconut and blueberry gelato in a homemade cone. Man, I love food and miss that street.
Some people have mixed feelings about Pai, did you love it as much as me?