Once a haven for dope smoking hippies seeking the ‘real’ Thailand, the quaint little town of Pai in northern Thailand, near the border of Myanmar, has evolved into a happening spot that’s on the bucket list of most backpackers adventuring around the Land of Smiles.
With picturesque scenery, a chilled out vibe, an epic party scene, and plenty of entertainment and activities on offer, Pai makes for a great destination for people from all walks of like, just a few hours drive from Chiang Mai.
Although it’s often posited as a side-trip from Chiang Mai, Pai is actually found in the beautiful mountains of Mae Hong Son province.
Time to find out more…
- 1 Thailand Pai Weather
- 2 How to Get to Pai
- 3 Things to Do in Pai
- 4 Pai Thailand Hotels
Thailand Pai Weather
Being in the beautiful northern mountains, the weather in Pai is generally a little cooler than further south in Thailand, but still benefits from great weather most of the year.
There are three distinct seasons that affect the climate. The hot season runs from April to June and sees temperatures reaching up to a sweltering 40 °C, and during this time things can get very humid.
The rainy season is from May to October, and a drop in temperatures and heavy storms are frequent — but they don’t last long and don’t ruin the experience.
The best time to visit Pai is during the cool, dry season from November to the end of April when average highs are around 30°C and there is very little rainfall.
December and January are typically very popular with tourists and bring bigger crowds.
How to Get to Pai
Chiang Mai to Pai
Only taking just over 3 hours, the most straightforward way to get from Chiang Mai to Pai is by road.
There are some great air conditioned minivan services running hourly from morning until 4 pm departing from Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station, with cheap tickets costing only 160 THB.
The local bus is another option, but the journey time takes longer at around 5 hours and you’re not guaranteed to get a seat. Alternatively rent your own car or scooter to make the journey.
Bangkok to Pai
There are no direct travel routes between Bangkok and Pai, so it is necessary to stop off at Chiang Mai and continue your route from there with one of the travel options previously mentioned.
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok is quickest by plane, with low cost carriers selling tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as little as 1000 THB with a journey time of only 1 hour 30 minutes.
Alternatively, an easy, affordable and comfortable way to make the journey is by bus from Bangkok’s Mochit bus terminal, with most buses departing in the evening and travelling overnight and costing from a mere 500 THB upwards.
Overnight trains are a popular way to travel too, although the trip takes around 12 hours which is longer than the bus journey.
A 2nd class ticket will set you back 600-650 THB, but to travel in luxury it’s worth investing in a 1st class single sleeper which with a cost of around 2000 THB is a little steep.
Things to Do in Pai
Aside from the bars, restaurants and cafes to entertain you in Pai, there are plenty of other ways to pass the time.
Here are our favourite things to do in and around Pai…
8 kilometres outside of Pai town, Pai Canyon is a majestically beautiful nature reserve.
This unique geographical area has been formed by continuous erosion of red sandstone cliffs over decades to create interesting cliff drops and rock formations that snake out into the densely forested valley.
There are wooden viewing platforms and plenty of trails to explore, offering some extremely pretty views of the surrounding forested mountains.
It’s a popular spot for nature lovers, and there is abundant bird life to be seen here.
Wat Phra That Mae Yen (White Buddha)
Sitting perched high atop a hill 2 km from Pai itself, the White Buddha temple offers striking views of the surrounding countryside and valleys, as well as Pai town.
To get to the top of the hill you can either drive or climb the 353 steps leading up to the temple.
Small but serene, the temple boasts a magnificent white seated Buddha statue that surveys the scenery below.
Pai Hot Springs
Pong Nam Ron Tha Pai, is a collection of hot springs and ponds set amidst a grove of natural forest near the entrance to Huay Nam Dang National Park, 7 kilometres south of Pai town.
There are several pools of different heat levels, being each one less hot than the previous one — with the hottest being capable of boiling an egg!
Lower down the hot springs mix with a scenic stream which flows through the jungle, resulting in water of a balmy temperature perfect for bathing and relaxing.
Yun Lai Viewpoint
This pleasant viewpoint 5 km to the West of Pai town offers spectacular views out across the countryside. Pay the 20 THB entrance fee and receive a pot of green tea to sip whilst admiring the view.
Pai Walking Street
Every late afternoon up until around 11 pm on the bustling Chaisongkran road, the Pai Walking Street night market comes alive with stalls selling clothes, Thai handicrafts, jewellery and accessories, souvenirs, and dishing up delicious street food such as noodles and kebabs.
There’s nearly always some live music to keep you entertained as you browse too.
Mor Paeng Falls
Just 7 km west of Pai town hidden in lush natural forest is Mor Paeng Falls, a three-tiered waterfall that tumbles down the rocks to form multiple pools ideal for a refreshing dip.
To reach these popular falls requires a pleasant 200 metre hike up an easy trail through the trees from the parking area, and if you choose to clamber to the top of the waterfall you’ll be rewarded with stunning mountain views.
Pai Chinese Village
Santichon Village (aka Pai Chinese Village), is one of three Chinese villages in northern Thailand populated by Yunnan tribes people who settled here having fled the Chairman Mao regime and the Cultural Revolution.
It offers the unique opportunity to taste authentic Chinese cuisine, sample green tea, and learn about the Yunnanese cultures, traditions, and way of life.
There are also a few entertainments including donkey rides and a giant wooden ferris wheel. Pai CHinese Village is located roughly 4 km west of Pai town.
These pretty, secluded falls on the road to Pai Canyon are surrounded by high cliff walls through which the water cascades down, and locals love to climb up these walls and leap off into the cool, shady pool below.
Pai Memorial Bridge
This historical steel bridge was originally built in 1941 from wood, by prisoners of war who were forced to construct it by the Japanese who wanted a route through from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son to attack Burma.
The local villagers came to rely on this bridge which enabled them to easily cross the Pai river, so when the Japanese forces burnt the bridge down after the war, they reconstructed it, only to have it destroyed by floods in the 1970s.
Ever determined, the bridge was reconstructed — this time in steel, and it has become a picturesque place for photo opportunities.
Pai Thailand Hotels
This charming 4 star boutique hotel is located within beautiful tropical gardens on the banks of the majestic Pai river.
Individual rustic chic cottages in true northern Thai style are constructed from natural bamboo and feature private bathrooms, and balconies with views of the gardens or out to the mountains. Deluxe villas benefit from a private garden.
The hotel spa offers traditional Thai massage using locally grown organic herbs.
Delectable all day dining is available at The Blue Ox Steak House, with fresh breakfasts served in pretty surroundings in the open air, and in the evenings the restaurant serves a wide variety of American Classics and some of the best Thai food in Pai accompanied by custom cocktails and fine wines.
Guests are also invited to spend time at the Pai Village Boutique Resort farm just 5 minutes walk away, where they can experience a unique world of fruits, flowers and animals for free.
- Riverside setting
- Transfers to and from Chiang Mai
This sweet 2 star guest house is composed of traditional style thatched bamboo huts in a harmonious environment surrounded by mountains, trees and gardens.
Each hut is basic but well presented, with authentic wooden furnishings, private or shared bathrooms, mosquito net, hot showers, fans, and private balconies.
Just a short 50 metre walk from the Pai River and only 100 metres from Pai Walking Street, and there is free Wi-Fi throughout.
- Individual bungalows
- Private balcony
- Great location
5 star Reverie Siam possesses timeless colonial style elegance combined with luxury hospitality and a commitment to ensuring that guests experience a deeply relaxing and memorable stay.
Each of the 20 unique guest rooms has a vintage feel, decorated with antiques and sumptuous furnishings, and feature king size beds, en suite rain showers, LED TV & DVD, and private balconies with either mountain or garden views, or direct access to the pool.
Situated next to the river and with views reaching across to the jungle mountains, the hotel’s infinity pool is the ideal place for revitalizing body and soul.
The Silhouette Bar & Restaurant offering a seductive blend of Contemporary Mediterranean Cuisine featuring an extensive Tapas selection with occasional Thai accents in an unparalleled setting with panoramic views of the jungle covered mountains.
Evening entertainment is provided in the library, with live nightly musical performances from a selection of the best musicians playing jazz, classical, blues, folk, gypsy, and more.
- Private balconies
- 2 swimming pools
- Nightly music performances
- Complimentary shuttle service
Have you visited Pai, Thailand yet?
Featured image is by Patty Ho, CC BY 2.0 licence