Look, seriously, I have one thing to tell you. You need to go to Pai in Thailand.
Firstly, it’s just amazingly beautiful. Green mountainous valleys and picturesque rice patties.
And secondly, this tourist haven is the perfect example of tourism done right in an ideal natural setting.
It’s about a 4 hour drive away from Chaing Mai (another must see) in Thailand’s Northern province.
You should visit in the cool season between November and February. If you’re an experienced motorbike rider, maybe even consider riding a scooter from Chaing Mai to Pai and have your luggage dropped there.
As soon as you arrive in this stunning little town, you’ll understand why it’s regarded by most as one of Thailand’s best places to visit.
Though not as rich in Thai culture as other parts of Northern Thailand, types from all over, including a influx of western hippys and Thai Rasta’s, have changed this into something akin to a bohemian backpacker’s town.
Sometimes the sheer amount of tourists can be a little overwhelming. Although with plenty of opportunities to get out of the town and into the lush countryside, Pai is a very relaxing destination.
Family Lunch at the wonderful Om Garden
Where to Eat.
I fell in love with a little shop called Om Garden. It’s got some super cheap prices for a selection of the best sandwiches, salads and milkshakes with a very relaxed and quiet vibe. Free wi-fi for guests.
Another gem is Art in Chai, a romantic and quiet little café serving coffee and cakes. They play live music at night and even have spoken word performances. Also free wi-fi.
Other places like Burger Queen, a western burger joint, and Fat Cat, one of Northern Thailand’s best organic kitchens, where you can pick the ingredients for your salad right out of the ground.
- Most of the delicious meals mentioned above cost somewhere between 50 and 150 baht ($1.50-$5.00 USD).
- A hostel can cost you something in the range of 100-300 baht for a dorm room, and 300-600 baht for a private.
- Drinks and such are roughly in the range of 30-70baht (under $2.00 USD) and you can get a Pad Thai from the side of the road for 30 Baht (Under $1.00)
I stayed at the Darling View Hostel both times I visited Pai, and Darling is a great host. She’s a lovely Thai woman with a very interesting story, and she’s also not afraid of hugs. Darling’s hostel is cheap and has a great view of Pai. Bed’s aren’t the best, but for around 150baht a night, it’s a great place to be. It also has a giant fire pit which ended up being the best place to make new friends.
Me and my scooter gang. Somewhere in near Pai
Hiring scooters is the best way to get around Pai. There is something amazing about riding through beautiful regions around the village.
Getting a group of backpackers together and renting scooters is a great adventure in itself, and Pai’s roads and countrysides are excellent for it!
There is a place to rent motorbikes on the main street and you pay daily. You hand over your passport as a deposit. Just make sure you check the lights, brakes and everything before you take a bike, and take some pictures so you don’t get stung with a repair bill for damage you didn’t cause.
Also be careful, Thailand’s roads injure thousands of tourists every year.
What to do in Pai?
After grabbing a scooter and making some friends to join your bikie gang, group up and get out of Pai to go on an adventure.
There’s all sorts of things to do including white water rafting, canyons, waterfalls, caves, Muay Thai camps, elephant rides, cooking schools, hot springs, zip lines and treks. Just pick up one of the pamphlets in your hostel with a map and get out there.
The times where my friends and I got lost on the beautiful country roads around Pai were the best parts of our stay here.
While you’re in the city, make sure you walk around and just explore yourself. It’s small enough to get through the centre on foot and you’ll find a hidden gem on every little side street. You’ll inevitably find yourself walking through Pai’s night street markets which are some of the best in Thailand.
Pai would usually take someone over a week to truly appreciate what is more than just a stop on the path. For many, the relaxed but vibrant hippy culture make Pai a place to stay for a while, sometimes even years. I had to go back to because I waned to do it all over again.