Pai is a short place name for a little town settled in a mountain valley in northern Thailand. Crossed by the river with the same name, this former Thai hippy village located only 150 km from Chiang Mai is now a backpackers dream. Beautiful scenery, low living costs and a laid-back atmosphere is what attracts the young – and not so young – crowds to pay at least a one day visit to this three-letter paradise.
Most visitors take Pai as a weekend trip, especially when based in Chiang Mai, as it’s only three hours away. A windy road of 762 curves is a small price to pay to reach our destination, with plenty of vans going back and forth every day (you might want to take motion sickness pills!).
Once in Pai, you’ll notice a slower pace, a chilled vibe that will probably captivate you instantly. If you arrive in the morning, go have a breakfast of champions at Om, a garden café situated about five minutes away from the main street – small as the town center is, you can’t really get lost; in any case, the friendly locals are always there to help you. Om is a little gem: healthy meals and beverages good for your body, mind and pocket. They make sure to satisfy every health nut out there from green juice to kombucha to avocado toast. Take it easy and savor your first hours in Pai over a nutritious meal in this little oasis.
The Chinese Yunan Cultural Village
It’s now time to hit the road. Renting a scooter to go around is a popular option, thus the dozens of rental shops you’ll see around town. The same shops often offer private tours, which are pretty good value for money, to explore Pai’s surroundings by minivan or car. Either way, the Chinese Yunan Cultural Village (or Santichon Village) makes a nice first stop. It’s an open-air picturesque enclave, almost bucolic, to take some postcard-like pictures and enjoy nice vistas while you learn about the Yunan People and their culture.
Mhor Phaeng Waterfall & Hot Springs
Next, make your way to Mhor Phaeng Waterfall. Although part of the tourist trail, the spot is not to miss. Also known as the slide waterfall, the daring ones don’t hesitate to have some fun sliding down the rock while someone captures the Instaworthy moment. From the top, an incredible view of the green countryside! Don’t change your swimming costume just yet, you’ll need it for the next stop: Sai Ngam Hot Spring. For a very small fee, you can take a dip in the warm water of this romantic setting, nestled in the middle of the lush.
Afterwards, head to Pai’s Canyon, if possible a couple of hours before the sunset, to experience the golden hour in this magical place. Caution: walking around can be challenging if you’re afraid of heights. Finding a quiet spot to lay a blanket on and picnic with your loved one (or with friends) is an excellent thing to do in the canyon while watching the sunset.
Ending the Day
To end your day of adventures, head back to Pai and discover the night market. On the walking or main street, you’ll find one part with clothing stalls (hello, wide legged elephant pants!) and food stalls on the other part. Go up and down, shopping and trying different tasty skewers until you’re stuffed and satisfied, or opt for a street food classic: pad thai. You’ll bump into lots of familiar faces you’ve seen out and about during the day, so why not take the chance to meet new travel buddies?