Pai, Northern Thailand: Travel Guide for Riders (Updated 2020)
Nestled in the gorgeous mountains of Thailand, Pai is slowly making its way as one of the top tourist destinations in Thailand – a quaint little village set against one of the most draw-dropping natural backgrounds you could ever imagine. It has become a very popular spot that attracts hippies, artists, backpackers and everyone in between with its funky boutiques and cafes. Along with being one of the most laid-back crowd and staff, Pai is known for all the best things. Its location is only 135 kms from Chiang Mai! – so what’s holding you back?!
Things To Do On The Way To Pai
We’ve listed the best time to visit, how to travel to Pai, beautiful locations to visit and the best places to stay – this information has been compiled from numerous online reviews, personal experiences as well as expert travel advice.
Escape the stresses and troubles of your daily life and enjoy the beauty of Pai with all the experiences and activities it has to offer! Some travelers even say once you go Pai there’s no coming back!
MS – Must See
R – Recommend
Chiang Mai Erotic Garden (R)
Chiang Mai Erotic Garden is a very popular tourist attraction in Chiang Mai and is the only erotic garden you will find in Southeast Asia! It’s a beautiful, enchanting garden filled with scented flowers and erotic sculptures, inspired by Katai Kamminga’s love for arts and sensual nature. The tranquil garden is set in rice paddies with beautiful mountain scenery all around where visitors can take enchanting pictures. You also get a free beverage in the teahouse!
Entrance fee to the garden is only 300 baht (guide + tea include).
Mok Fa Waterfall (MS)
When you are traveling between Chiang Mai and Pai, you cannot miss visiting the mesmerizing Mok Fa Waterfall. It’s a part of the famous Doi Suthep-Pui National Park and is a beautiful one-level cascade waterfall which is over 60 meters tall. The crystal clear, pure water at the base is perfect for a rejuvenating swim on a hot summer’s day. Set in the lush tropical forest, it’s an ideal picnic spot under the large trees found in the area. A campsite is available for tourists who are interested in spending a night at the beautiful waterfall, but reservations must be made in advance.
Things To Do in Pai
Memorial Bridge (R)
The Pai Memorial Bridge is a popular tourist attraction in Pai – especially with tourists posing for selfies with the bridge in the background. The original wooden structures and the steel within the bridge have a fascinating history – during the Second World War, the Japanese army constructed a couple of transport routes between Burma and Thailand including the construction of the Memorial Bridge. In present day, the bridge carries pedestrians and stands as a historical venue of Thailand providing perfect posing positions for selfie-lovers. The wooden floorboards of the bridge are a little worn out with gaps in between – so tourists should be careful when walking over it.
Pai Canyon (R)
Scenic and serene Pai Canyon has narrow hiking trails that is considered one of the most attractive and impressive tourist attractions of Pai. The scenery of Pai Canyon is majestically beautiful especially if you want to enjoy nature that surrounds the Canyon. The area offers a 360-degree panorama that is best enjoyed at sunrise or sunset where you can sit on a bench or climb up to the wooden lookout platform. Looking out from the viewpoints you will see surrounding mountains, teak trees, ridges of strange rock walls and shrubbery that will surely enthrall you. The area was formed by continuous erosion over recent decades.
Coffee in Love (MS)
Coffee in Love is a beautiful, roadside coffee shop in Pai that offers not only great coffee but also mesmerizing views. The coffee shop is considered a popular tourist destination because of it’s famous film settings in the hit Thai film “Pai in Love” released in 2009 and the hit Chinese film “Lost in Thailand” released in 2012. There are many tourists who visit the café to re-enact scenes from these movies which has gained immense popularity over the years. The picturesque Coffee in Love with its landscape of water-filled rice paddies and mist-laden mountain forests will surely delight you.
Bamboo Bridge (MS)
The Bamboo Bridge in Pai is 800 meters in length, spread evenly along rice fields making it a beautiful, calm, and peaceful place to visit in Pai. The construction of the bridge is simple, giving you a pleasant experience walking along the bridge from the mesmerizing views of the mountain forests and rice fields. If available at the time, you can also feed the fish in the small ponds along the way, asking only for a small donation to supply the food. The best time to visit the bridge is early morning when you can enjoy the beauty of nature at its best.
Wat Nam Hu (R)
Wat Nam Hu is a beautiful Buddhist Temple in Pai that boasts a fish pond, tranquil atmosphere and picturesque views. The place attracts both tourists and devout locals because of its intricate architecture and spectacular statues of the temple. According to history, the Buddha statue at the Temple was brought by Naresuan, the king – making it a special place where devout locals from all corners of Thailand would come to worship. The head of the Buddha statue contains holy water that flows constantly – locals believe that the water is sacred and to drink it for good luck.
Santichon Chinese Village (R)
The Santichon Chinese Village is a very popular tourist attraction in Pai where you will find Chinese clay houses and witness the Chinese way of life, but in Thailand. Surrounded by the beautiful mountains of Pai, it’s not like any other chinatown you will find around the world. Tourists can savor green tea, pork hocks and can also catch a glimpse of the conservative traditions and cultures of the Yunani people – such as their language, food, and their way of dressing. The village was settled by a group of Chinese people who escaped from the Chinese revolution of Mao Tse Tung.
Yun Lai viewpoint (MS)
The Yun Lai Viewpoint is a beautiful tourist attraction in Pai that can be reached by scooter or car. It’s located atop a mountain which can be reached by driving through the Santichon Chinese Village. It takes about 15 minutes to reach from Pai town and is perfect for capturing mesmerizing panoramas of Pai with sunrise and sunset being the best time to visit. You will get a free pot of Chinese tea upon entrance and can also stay in a tent for the night so that you don’t miss the sunrise. After enjoying the breathtaking views, you can enjoy a leisurely walk down the hillside.
Entrance fee is 20 baht
Pai Hot Springs Resort & Spa (R)
The Pai Hot Springs Resort & Spa is located on the riverbank of Pai situated amid the green forests and mountains. The chaos and the hustle-bustle of the city cannot reach this place where tourists visit to relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air. The oriental resort is known for providing hot spring water and is an incredible hideaway for people who are looking for tranquillity. The resort has thatched-roof cottages that are perfect for spending a weekend with the beautiful setting of the resort attracting plenty of visitors. You can find three hot spring pools and two swimming pools in the resort.
Entrance fee to use hot springs / swimming pools 50-100 baht
Big White Buddha (MS)
The Big White Buddha in Pai is located at a walkable distance (2 km) from Pai town. After reaching the base of the temple you must climb 353 steps to reach the Buddha statue. Once you climb the steps, you will be greeted by the magnificent White Buddha statue with the area around the Buddha being wide-open (which you cannot wear shoes onto, so it is best to leave them on the step), a great place where you can look at the spectacular views. The best time to visit the White Buddha is during sunset. We advise any travelers to be aware that you must bring appropriate clothing to the White Buddha, otherwise you can hire the essentials at the base of the steps.
Walking Street (MS)
The Pai Walking Street is located on the main Rungsiyanon Road, a colorful paradise for shoppers where you can find a wide range of unique handicrafts, postcards, jewelry, souvenirs, handmade clothes, and authentic street food. It’s renowned as a craft and food market that comes alive every night, operating from around 6 pm to 10.30 pm.
November to February is the peak tourist season, during which you can find many more stalls. Apart from the authentic street food, you can also find bakery items, tasty desserts, and juices in the market with the Walking Street also being surrounded by restaurants and bars. Some bars also have live music in the evenings.
Doi Kiew Lom viewpoint (MS)
The Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint is a popular viewpoint in Pai that offers spectacular views of the entire valley and mountains surrounding Pai. The road to the viewpoint is comparably good. If you decide to visit the viewpoint for sunrise, the mist and sunshine will make you feel like you have been transported to a beautiful, fairy-tale like environment. You can find vendors who sell hot food in the cold weather.
Tham Lod Cave (R)
The Tham Lod Cave is one of the most fascinating caves in Thailand that is 1700 meters in length. When in Pai, you cannot miss visiting this mysterious place. The cave is not only impressive but also easily accessible – it has multiple beautiful limestone stalactite formations that will surely catch your eye. The main feature of the cave is the freshwater stream that runs through it for about 300 meters. Tourists can only explore the cave by taking the help of a guide – we also recommend wearing proper shoes as some surfaces can be a little slippery. You will find a few restaurants located in the area before the entrance that cater for all eaters!
Tham Lod Cave is located 49 kms from Pai but will take a little longer to arrive than you might think! The road is quite windy, but fun to ride on, especially if you go by motorbike!
Entrance into Tham Lod Cave (Open 9:00am – 6:00pm);
If group of 1-3 people – 150 baht per group
If want a bamboo raft trip through the length of the cave 400 baht OR a raft one way and walk back is 300 baht
Pang Ma Pha viewpoint (MS)
The Pang Ma Pha Viewpoint is the highest point of the scenic route from Pai to Pang Ma Pha. It is situated at around 1300 meters above sea level with a panoramic view of Pang Ma Pha Hills where plenty of tourists visit for taking wonderful pictures. The view of the blue-hued mountains wrapped in white clouds will mesmerize you. There are a few stalls here where you can get coffee. The best time to visit this place is early morning.
Thom’s Elephant Camp (R)
The Thom’s Pai Elephant Camp is the oldest and first camp that was established for travelers in Pai so that they could interact with these sensitive and beautiful animals in a responsible way. Thom, the founder of the camp, was born in a family of mahouts (also knowns as a keeper of elephants) – she used to play with elephants when she was a child and learnt how to care for these beautiful gentle giants. The elephant camp is completely dedicated to the welfare of elephants where visitors can ride, play, hike with and even bathe with the elephants. They also offer mahout training, bamboo rafting and sightseeing tours, lots of options for the avid traveler! The camp boats a spa retreat, a mineral hot tub, and some bungalows for accommodation on site.
Mae Yen Waterfall (R)
The Mae Yen Waterfall is the only waterfall in Pai that can be reached by trekking through the jungle – needing roughly 3 hours for the hike to the waterfall (one way). It is located 7kms outside of Pai and nestled amid the beautiful surrounding hills. Be careful as there is a steep section just before reaching the falls – the rest of the path is not too easy, but once you reach the destination, you will be enthralled by the magnificent view.
As no food and drinks are available for purchase in the area, you will need to carry a water bottle and snacks. The waterfall is at its full glory between the months of November and January, during the rainy period however, the rain can make the trail a little more difficult for curious hikers. During the dry season though, it is easier to trek to the waterfall.
Mo Paeng Waterfall (R)
The Pai District of Thailand is home to one of the most visited waterfalls in the area. The waterfall is best in the monsoon season as the rain is very generous during this time. The easiest way to get to the waterfall is on two wheels, but be sure that your bike has mountain gears as it gets a little tricky without them.
There are a couple of pools surrounding the waterfall that are not as clean of water as Erawan but are clean enough to have a dip or take a nice relaxing swim in. There are a lot of rock formations surrounding the waterfall that are braved by most as natural slides into the pools below. The view of the lush green setting is picturesque beyond belief – set against the background of Thailand’s mountains.
Mo Paeng Waterfall is actually located in the Mae Hong Son region and is the closest waterfall from Pai centre. It is a must visit and is a beautiful sight to behold, to say the least. There is no admission fee either.
Pam Bok Waterfall (R)
Pam Bok is located in the small village of Thung Yao and is a nicely secluded waterfall which is less touristy than the other ones in the Pai region. Pam Bok, a small seasonal fall that is best visited during the Thai monsoon months. The waterfall itself is inset to a mountainside cliff and is a perfect spot to beat the heat. Compared to the other waterfalls in the area, Pam Bok is quieter but still just as popular. As the waterfall is on a cliff, there is a little trek for the more adventurous amongst us to climb up and jump down into the pools below. However, this is only advisable when there is enough water, so essentially during the monsoon months, because the pool bed is hard rock.
The Pam Bok waterfall is actually situated on private property, but the farmer has opened it up to tourists because of the sheer beauty of the place. The drive up to the waterfall is quite peaceful with proper tar roads almost all the way.It is picturesque beyond compare and travelers are recommended to experience the full beauty of what the fall has to offer. There is a bamboo bridge within the waterfall area that is very popular amongst tourists to take in the whole view of the waterfall.
Land Split (R)
The Pai Land Split is one of the most popular and fascinating tourist attractions in Pai. It is a serene and beautiful place with the land being steep and narrow. The picturesque vista embellished with hibiscus flowers attracts plenty of tourists that was actually a soy-bean farm before it became the Land Split. The land cracked one day in 2008 due to seismic activity – as deep as 11 meters and a width of 2 meters. Plenty of hibiscus plants grow throughout the split which makes it a unique place to visit when you are in Pai because the owner of the Land Split turned an unfortunate event into a tourist destination.
When you visit the Pai Land Split, the owner will give you a hearty welcome by offering fruits, peanuts, and homemade juice. They do not charge anything, but you can donate according to your wish. This place is not unique because of the split, but for the wonderful hospitality that visitors receive from the owner of this place.
Where to Stay in Pai
Digital nomads and backpackers have been trading the Chiang Mai rush for the lush greenery of Pai for years. Popular for its artsy-hippie vibe, it’s also a well-known spot for outdoor activities like water rafting, trekking and anything in between. The accommodation available in the Pai area reflects the laidback natural vibe with its budget guesthouses and cottages that are a dream to stay in.
Our recommendations are as follows:
Located deep inside a jungle, the Valhalla Pai is a heaven for the adventurous travelers. For a modest fee of 60 thb/night, you can pitch a tent or put a hammock under the beautiful Pai sky. This place offers the sounds and beauty of the jungle with the added feature of safety. You can even just drop in for a drink without booking a room. The review of the super friendly staff by travelers is another positive of going to this place – they make you feel right at home. Price starts at 60THB.
Pai Circus School and Hostel
The most recommended place to stay in Pai is definitely here, at the Pai Circus School and Hostel. It boasts an amazing value for money for the rooms and provided services. Free breakfast / barbeques, yoga lessons, a pool table and the mind-blowing view of the mountains, just some of the things that attract backpackers to this place. It’s just a stone’s throw away from Pai town, that also provides a free drop off and pick up service from the bus station as well. Price starts at 240THB.
Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm
This resort and farm features a restaurant, a beautiful lounge and an amazing spa and is in Wiang Tai – set against the beautiful Pai village, this place offers tour services, 24-hour airport shuttle, designated smoking areas and a beautiful terrace to hang out. You can stay in gorgeous bamboo cottages or a garden cottage and even upgrade to a canopy bed. Prices start at 1400THB.
Set against the backdrop of a magnificent view of mountains and rivers, Pai Treehouse is perfect for those looking to experience the harmony of different races and cultures living together. Located near the popular Pai Hot Springs, it is the best place for nature lovers to stay with the elephant camp located within the property which allows the guests to go for elephant treks, that are truly a unique experience. Price starts at 860THB.
Puri Pai Villa
The PuriPai Villa is where luxury meets adventure with their deluxe rooms and delicious free breakfast buffets. You can also pick a standalone villa that has a pool and a mountain view. Another stand out feature is the sunbeds that are submerged in water, making it the best place to sip cocktails in. Price starts at 2500 thb per night.
Pai Island Resort
In Mae Hong Son, a poetically sound valley surrounded by spectacular ranges of mountains and calm creeks lies the Pai Island. If one wishes to escape into a serene dimension, a fair suggestion would be the Pai Island Resort. A 5-minute drive from the local airport and advantageously situated near downtown Pai, Pai Island Resort ensures a perfect vacation and an escape for you and your loved ones. Price starts at 5100 thb per night.
How much is the average hotel room in Pai?
How did we calculate the average price? We first list the hotels under various categories. After which, we cut 10% off from the most expensive option and 10% off from the cheapest, and an average of the remaining values are taken into consideration.
|Accommodation Star Rating||Min. THB||Avg. THB||Max. THB|
|1 Star||126 (Tony Guesthouse)||621||1869 (Your Resort)|
|2 Star||128 (Chilling Hill Guesthouse)||624||1580 (Pai Sweet Home)|
|3 Star||236 (Him Naam Pai Resort)||638||2379 (Pai CherKaew Boutique House)|
|4 Star||542 (Bura Lumpai Resort)||1370||6052 (Romance Another Story in Pai Hotel)|
|5 Star||4300 (Reverie Siam)||5350||6400 (Pai Island Resort)|
A few words in conclusion
Over the last decade, Pai, Thailand has been the go-to spot for bike enthusiasts and avid backpackers. Stay long enough, and you will not fail to draw resemblance to a Thai Island getaway. The place is alive at every point in time. You will find help in every corner whether it is for a Taxi or just help with directions. Pai has a plethora of guesthouses, ideal for tourists and of course, the nightlife, that is surrounded by the constant beats of music and fun.
The tip is to choose a route, stick to the correct side of the road, hop onto your motorbike or scooter and never look back again. A whiff of Pai’s good weather will leave you intoxicated for more. The picture-perfect background setting will leave you breathless as the mountain laden lands have a rich flora and fauna. In short, Pai is for those who want to satisfy their wanderlust with its rich culture and heritage.