Pai, Northern Thailand: Ultimate Travel Guide

//Pai, Northern Thailand: Ultimate Travel Guide
Pai, Northern Thailand: Ultimate Travel Guide

Nestled in the gorgeous mountains of Thailand, Pai is a tourist spot that attracts hippies, artists, backpackers and everyone in between. A 135kms away from Chiang Mai, this quaint village is set against the most jaw-dropping natural background.

Things to do on the road to Pai

Pai is slowly making its way to the top tourist destinations in Thailand for so many reasons. From attracting hippie backpackers with its funky boutiques and cafes along with the most laid-back crowd and staff; Pai is known for all the best things. The Thai artists and local residents make the location extra friendly.

We’ve listed the best time to visit the place, how to travel to Pai and other beautiful locations from there 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 that it has to offer! Some travelers even say once you go ‘Pai’ there’s no coming back!

Happy traveling!

Chiang Mai Erotic Garden

Chiang Mai Erotic Garden

It is a very popular tourist attraction in Thailand. The Chiang Mai Erotic Garden is the only erotic garden that you can find in Southeast Asia. It is a beautiful, enchanting garden filled with scented flowers and erotic sculptures. The place is inspired highly by Katai Kamminga’s love for arts and sensual nature. The tranquil garden is set in beautiful rice paddies. You also get a free beverage in the teahouse. Visitors can take beautiful pictures of this enchanting place. The beautiful mountain scenery amid which the garden is located will surely mesmerize you. The entry fee to the garden is only 300 baht.

Mok Fa Waterfall

Mok Fa Waterfall

When you are traveling between Chiang Mai and Pai, you cannot miss visiting the mesmerizing Mok Fa Waterfall. It is a part of the famous Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The beautiful one-level cascade waterfall is over 60 meters tall. The crystal clear, pure water at the base is perfect for a rejuvenating swim on a hot summer day. The waterfall is in the lush tropical forest. It is an ideal picnic spot as large trees can be found in the area. Fern and green moss always stick at the cliff. A campsite is made for tourists who are interested in spending a night at the beautiful waterfall, but reservations must be made in advance.

Pong Dueat Geyser

Pong Dueat Geyser

On the road to Pai, you cannot miss visiting the Pong Dueat Geyser. It is a beautiful and quiet rest stop when you are traveling to Pai. The geyser hot spring is known for emitting hot water, sometimes as high as 4 meters into the air throughout the year. It is located amid the scenic views of the green mountain forests. Tents and bungalows are available for visitors who wish to stay overnight. It is a place that will compel you to think about the amazing and powerful forces of nature. The hot water of the geyser is channeled into a small stream. The entrance fee to the Pong Dueat Geyser is 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. In low-season – free of charge.

What to do in Pai and Surrounding Area

Memorial Bridge

Pai Memorial Bridge

The Pai Memorial Bridge is a popular tourist attraction in Pai. Tourists love posing for selfies in this bridge. The original wooden structures and the steel bridge have a fascinating history. During the Second World War, the Japanese army constructed a couple of transport routes between Burma and Thailand. It was during that time the bridge was constructed. In the present day, the bridge carries pedestrians and stands as a memorial. The wooden floorboards of the bridge have worn out and had a few gaps. Therefore, tourists need to be careful. There are a few vintage sailors that provide perfect posing positions for selfie-lovers. The antique-looking steel bridge is a historical venue of Thailand.

Pai Canyon

Scenic and serene canyon with narrow hiking trails. The Pai Canyon is considered one of the most attractive and impressive tourist attractions of Pai. The scenery of the place is majestically beautiful. If you want to enjoy nature at its best, you cannot miss visiting the Pai Canyon. The area offers a 360-degree panorama that can be best enjoyed at sunset or sunrise. You can sit on a bench or climb up to the wooden lookout platform. The views from the vantage points that include the surrounding mountains, teak trees, ridges of strange rock walls, and shrubbery will surely enthrall you. The geological and topographic features of the canyon are stunning. The area was formed by continuous erosion for decades.

Coffee in Love

Coffee in Love is a beautiful, roadside coffee shop in Pai. The place offers not only great coffee but also mesmerizing views. The coffee shop is considered a popular tourist destination because it is a famous film setting. It was the setting for 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. The café has gained immense popularity because of these two hit films. You can get lost in the captivating Southeast Asian surroundings from the coffee shop and capture it with your lens. The picturesque coffee shop with its landscape of water-filled rice paddies and mist-laden mountain forests will surely delight you.

Bamboo Bridge

Pai Bamboo Bridge, Boon Ko Ku So

The Pai Bamboo Bridge is also known as Boon Koh Ku So. The picturesque bridge is 800 meters in length. It spreads evenly along the rice fields. It is a beautiful, calm, and peaceful place to visit in Pai. Although the construction of the bridge is simple, the location of the bridge makes it so beautiful. It is used by monks and villagers daily. You will have a pleasant experience walking along the beautiful bridge because of the mesmerizing views of the mountain forests and the rice fields. The best time to visit the bridge is early morning when you can enjoy the beauty of nature at its best.

Wat Nam Hu

Wat Nam Hu

Wat Nam Hu is a beautiful Buddhist temple in Pai. It boasts of a fish pond, a tranquil atmosphere, and picturesque views. The place attracts both tourists and devout locals. The intricate architecture and the spectacular statues of the temple make it a very popular tourist attraction. According to history, the Buddha image at the temple was brought by Naresuan, the king. The statue is so special that devout locals from all corners of Thailand come to worship the statue. The head of the Buddha statue contains holy water which flows constantly. The locals consider the water to be sacred and drink it for good luck.

Santichon Chinese Village

Ban Santichon, Pai

The Santichon Chinese Village is a very popular tourist attraction in Pai. You can see Chinese clay houses and witness the Chinese way of life in this village. Tourists can savor green tea and pork hocks. The Santichon village is surrounded by the beautiful mountains of Pai. It is not like Chinatown that you can find around the world. Tourists can get a glimpse of the conservative traditions and cultures of the Yunani people such as their language, food, and dressing. The village was settled by a group of Chinese people who escaped from the Chinese revolution of Mao Tse Tung.

Yun Lai viewpoint

Yun Lai Viewpoint, Pai

The Yun Lai viewpoint is a major tourist attraction in Pai. The hilltop village complex can be reached by scooter or car. It offers panoramic valley views that will mesmerize you. It will take about 15 minutes to reach this place from Pai town. It is a beautiful tourist spot to see and capture mesmerizing panoramas of Pai. The entry fee – 20 baht. You will get a free pot of Chinese tea. Sunrise and sunset are the best time to visit the Yun Lai viewpoint. You can also stay in a tent for the night so that you don’t miss the sunrise. After enjoying the breath-taking views, you can enjoy a leisurely walk down the hillside.

Pai Hot Springs Resort & Spa

Pai Hot Spring Spa Resort

The Pai Hot Springs Resort & Spa is located on the riverbank of Pai. It is an oriental, relaxing resort situated amid the green forests and mountains. The chaos and the hustle-bustle of the city cannot reach this place. Tourists visit this place to relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air. The oriental resort is known for providing hot spring water. It is an incredible hideaway for people who are looking for tranquillity. The resort has thatched-roof cottages that are perfect for spending a weekend. The beautiful setting of the resort attracts plenty of visitors. You can find three hot spring pools and 2 swimming pools in the resort.

Big White Buddha

White Big Buddha in Pai

The Big White Buddha in Pai is one of the most famous tourist attractions that you cannot miss. It is located at a walkable distance (2 km) from the Pai town. After reaching the base of the temple, you must climb 353 steps to reach the statue. Once you climb the steps, you will be greeted by the magnificent Buddha statue. The best time to visit the place is during sunset because the Buddha faces the west. The top area is a wide-open space from where you can watch the view. The spectacular view and the challenging climb make it a fascinating tourist attraction.

Walking Street

Pai Walking Street

The Pai Walking Street is located on the Rungsiyanon Road. It is a colorful paradise for shoppers. You can find a wide range of unique handicrafts, postcards, jewelry, souvenirs, handmade clothes, and authentic street food on this street. It is a renowned craft and food market that comes alive every night. The market operates from around 6 pm to 10.30 pm every night. November to February is the peak tourist season, during which you can find many more stalls. The best thing about the market is that you can get goods for sale. You can negotiate with the shopkeepers with a smile on your face. Apart from authentic street food, you can also find bakery items, tasty desserts, and juices in the market. The Pai Walking Street is surrounded by restaurants and bars. Some bars also have live music in the evenings.

Doi Kiew Lom viewpoint

Doi Kiewlom Viewpoint

The Doi Kiew Lom viewpoint is a popular viewpoint in Pai for sunrise and sunset. As the place is windy, tourists are recommended to carry a windbreaker. It offers spectacular views as you can see the entire valley from the viewpoint. The stunning view of the Pai Mountains will surely captivate you. The road to the viewpoint is comparably good. If you visit the place for sunrise, the mist and sunshine will make you feel that you are transported to a beautiful, fairy-tale like environment. You can find vendors who sell hot food in the cold weather. You can choose to visit the Doi Kiew Lom viewpoint either during sunrise or sunset.

Tham Lod Cave

Tham Lod Cave

The Tham Lod Cave is one of the most fascinating caves in Thailand that is 1700 meters in length. It is a natural limestone cave. When you are in Pai, you cannot miss visiting this place. The cave is not only impressive but also easily accessible. The beautiful limestone stalactite formations of the cave will surely enchant you. There is also an unusual coffin cave that is hidden within the cave. The main feature of the cave is the freshwater stream that runs through it for about 300 meters. Tourists can explore the cave by taking the help of a guide. The atmosphere of the cave is mysterious.

Pang Ma Pha viewpoint

Pang Ma Pha Viewpoint

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. The panoramic view of Pang Mapha Hills from this place will enchant you. There are a few stalls in the place from where you can get coffee. The best thing about this viewpoint is that it offers amazing views towards both west and east. The best time to visit this place is early morning. The view of the blue-hued mountains wrapped by white clouds will mesmerize you. Plenty of tourists visit the Pang Ma Pha viewpoint for taking wonderful pictures.

Thom’s Elephant Camp

Thom's Elephant Camp in Pai

The Thom’s Pai Elephant Camp is a very popular tourist attraction as it is the oldest camp in Pai. It is the first camp in Pai that was established so that people can interact with these sensitive and beautiful animals in a responsible way. Thom, the founder of the camp, was born in the family of mahouts. She used to play with elephants when she was a child. She knew how to care for elephants. The elephant camp is completely dedicated to the welfare of elephants. In this camp, visitors can ride elephants and play with them. The camp also offers spa retreat, mineral hot tub, and bungalows for accommodation.

Mae Yen Waterfall

Mae Yen Waterfall

The Mae Yen Waterfall is the only waterfall in Pai that can be reached by trekking through the jungle. It is located 7kms from Pai. You need to hike for 3 hours to reach the place. The waterfall is nestled amid the beautiful hills. There is a steep section before reaching the falls. The path is not too easy, but once you reach your destination, you will be enthralled by the magnificent view. As no food and drinks are available for purchase in that area, you 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 difficult for hikers. During the dry season, it is easier to trek to the waterfall.

Mo Paeng Waterfall

The Pai District of Thailand is home to one of the most visited waterfalls in the area. The waterfall is best in the monsoon as the rainy season is very generous in the region. The easiest way to get to the waterfall is on two wheels, but be sure that your bike has mountain gears for it gets a little tricky without them

There is no admission fee as such for the fall and is probably the most populated falls in the area. The water isn’t as clear as Erawan but is clean enough to have a bath in. The waterfall has a couple of pools around its area that is used to relax in.

The waterfall has a lot of rock formations around its lush green setting that are braved by most as natural slides into the pools below. The view is picturesque beyond belief set against the background of Thailand’s mountains.

Mo Paeng waterfall in Mae Hong Son is the closest waterfall from Pai centre. It is a must visit and is a beautiful sight to behold, to say the least.

Pam Bok Waterfall

Pam Bok in the small village of Thung Yao is a nicely secluded waterfall which is less touristy than the other ones in the area. Pam Bok, is 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 for almost all the way to it.

The waterfall itself is picturesque beyond compare and to experience the full beauty of what the fall has to offer, there is a bamboo bridge that is very popular amongst tourists to take in the whole view.

Land Split

Land Split, Pai

The Pai Land Split is one of the most popular and fascinating tourist attractions in Pai. It is a serene and beautiful place. The land is steep and narrow. The picturesque vista embellished with hibiscus flowers attracts plenty of tourists. The place was a soy-bean farm before it became a split. The land cracked one day in 2008 due to seismic activity. It had cracked 11 meters deep and 2 meters wide. Plenty of hibiscus plants grow throughout the split. It is 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 escaping the Chiang Mai 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 etc. The accommodation available in this area reflects just the laidback natural vibe with its budget guesthouses and cottages that are a dream to stay in.

Our recommendations are as follows:

Valhalla Pai

Located deep inside a jungle, the Valhalla Pai is a heaven for adventure 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 at home along with the adventure of a jungle. Price starts at 60THB.

Pai Circus School and Hostel

The most recommended place to stay in Pai is definitely the Circus hostel with its amazing value for money rooms and services. Free breakfast and barbeques, yoga lessons, a pool table and the mind-blowing view of the mountains are what attracts backpackers to this place. Just a stone’s throw away from Pai town, this guesthouse provides free drop off and pick up service from the bus station as well. Price starts at 240THB.

Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm

Pai Village Boutique Resort and 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 it to a canopy bed. Price starts at 1400THB.

Pai Treehouse

Pai Treehouse

Set against the backdrop of a magnificent view of mountains and a river, this spot 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. The elephant camp located within the property 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

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 resorts. A 5-minute drive from the airport and advantageously situated near the downtown, 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)

How To Get To Pai

For those motorcycle heads who love the thrill of discovering a new route, renting a scooter or motorbike is recommended. Cat Motors is highly recommended by several tourists who have visited Thailand, as per the reviews on TripAdvisor.

Cat Motors Motorbike rental

With professional staff, quality service and affordable prices for any scooter/motorbike you can desire – Cat Motors is the best spot for motorbike rental in Chiang Mai. Ride off onto Route 1095, but not without a helmet!

A Few Words in Conclusion

Over the last decade Pai, Thailand has been the go-to spot for bike enthusiast and backpackers. Stay long enough, and you will not fail to draw resemblance to a Thai Island getaway. The place is alive at any point in time. You will find help in every corner whether it is for a Taxi or just help with directions. The Pai has a plethora of guesthouses, ideal for tourists. Of course, the nightlife 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.

Thanks Brett for sharing this video about nightlife in Pai