Pai is a small town in the heart of northern Thailand’s mountains, halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. Because of the beauty of its landscapes, its pleasant climate and the many traditional villages around it, Pai is worth more than just a short look. Here are five reasons to stay there longer.
- Testing the craziest road in Thailand
With its 762 turns on 130 kilometers long stretch of road, the route that connects Pai and Chiang Mai is considered the wildest in the Kingdom, but also one of the most beautiful. If like most people you travel by bus, allow for three hours minimum travel time and take some motion sickness pills to stay comfortable.
For the more adventurous, it is possible to rent a scooter or a motorcycle in Chiang Mai and leave it in Pai, agencies even take care of your luggage, so no need to lug your bag on the back. By motorcycle it takes four hours to get there, to which you will certainly add a few stops to appreciate the sights.
- Enjoy a movie set
Two movies – “Pai in Love” and “Lost in Thailand” have, for the most part, been shot in Pai, and further popularized the small town, showing how magnificent the nearby landscape is. Be sure to check out the views of Pai – early in the morning go to the “Pai in Love” cafe, 5 km from town, the best spot to observe the mountains emerging from the mist. For sunset, the temple of Mae Yen is more adequate.
- Hot days and cool nights
Want to sleep rolled up in a big blanket, without a ventilator or air conditioning? With its contrasting temperatures between day and night, Pai is a perfect destination for those who would like to enjoy a little coolness. The temperatures can drop below 10 degrees at night in December and January while staying on average at 25 degrees during the day. The air is also much drier than in the damp heat of Bangkok. And if the mornings are a bit too fresh for you, go for a ride to Tapai hot springs. And as the climate is cooler, you can enjoy local fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, avocados or apples.
- Return to nature
Treks in the jungle, afternoons by waterfalls, hot springs, canyons, river rafting, yoga, meditation … In Pai there are no shopping malls, cinemas or discotheques (which won’t stop you from partying in one of many bars), what predominates here is nature, unpolluted air and clear skies, which at nightfall invite you to gaze at the stars. The possibilities of walks in the area are unlimited, on foot, by bicycle or by scooter. Lose yourself on the small paths or take the more secure option of a trek organized by a professional a guide.
- Budget friendly
While tourism in Pai continues to grow, the prices remain reasonable. Even in high season, it is possible to find a bungalow near the river for 200 baht per night without booking in advance. The clothes and other souvenirs offered on the Walking Street’s stalls are affordable (more than at Bangkok’s Khao San Road for example), same as food, especially Western food. Of course there are ways to splurge in Pai but if you want to keep to the basics, you’re in the right place.
Text by Catherine Vanesse /Vincent Sung