Pai is a tiny mountain town near Chiang Mai, which is also a hippy gathering center. Tour companies and guesthouses all over Chiang Mai arrange minivan services between Chiang Mai and Pai and the trip takes 3 nauseating but pretty scenic hours, given the 762 sharp curves along the road.
We booked our tickets with Aya bus company and the driver was very nice in terms of understanding the needs of the sick passengers (or he didn’t want us to ruin his van) 😉 He stopped a couple of times to check on us and offered peppermint spray to ease the road sickness symptoms. We also stopped for 20 mins for toilet and snacks but you may want to hold off on eating anything until you get to Pai. The ticket costs 150-200 thb per person (depending on where you book it).
Cool things to do in Pai
It’s impossible not to fall in love with the beautiful mountain jewel Pai. But keep in mind that you need to rent a scooter to go around otherwise you will be stuck among the guesthouses and restaurants. There is so much to see around Pai that would be a pity to miss. I rode my first bike in Pai when I first arrived in Thailand and you can ask the rental place to teach you in an open area.
Here are some of my recommendations for things to do to spend beautiful time while you are visiting.
Yoga, Meditation, Workshops and Volunteering in Pai
If you are looking for activities for self improvement or helping others, you can join a Kombucha making/fermentation workshop, volunteer at a local organization, or take a dance, yoga or free guided meditation class offered around town.
- Sawasdee Yoga (offers up to 3 classes daily, Dynamic & Iyengar. 200B, proper yoga room, mats provided)
- Re-Wild House (yoga and natural soap making workshop)
- Xhale Yoga Retreat
- The Womb Meditation Center
- Good Life cafe (daily guided meditation classes at 11 am and fermentation workshops)
- Open Mind Center (soul dance and yoga)
- Sabai Garden (yoga and volunteering)
- Suan Sati yoga offers retreats in Chiang Mai and Pai
- Pai Circus Hostel (acro yoga and various circus tricks)
- Bamboo Workshops and cultural exchange with Huay Pu Keng Village
- Macrame workshop
- Sunday community lunch at Shekina Garden to meet the community and learn more about how you can contribute.
- Pai walking street starts on the main street with the sunset..try mini sushi rolls, healthy wraps, salads, pad thai, veggie kebabs, sticky rice with mango and orgasmic coconut puffs. It was also nice to see the Thai artisans selling hand made jewelry, clothing, leather accessories, hair wraps, etc. The stalls take their places around 6 pm onwards. The later the better!
Note: most of the bars/restaurants along the market offer live music at nights, which makes the lively area even livelier 😉
- The Land Split: The story goes like this…the owner of this place could no longer grow plants on his land that was ruined by the 2008 earthquake and instead he turned his place to a nice tourist attraction. He hands out snacks and drinks (including roselle juice and wine) made and grown by himself for a nominal donation. You can walk around his garden to see the place where an earthquake had made huge splits as well as his veggie plants. Probably the place is not going to blow your mind but the kindness of the owner will.
- Temple on the Hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) to see the giant white Buddha Statue overlooking Pai
- Rent a scooter (150-200 thb per day) and and visit the Pai Canyon, amazing waterfalls, and hot springs that are not in shortage. Grab a map, a bike, and your camera! You’re good to go and check out what beautiful Pai offers!
Please note that you need to ride a scooter in order to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Pai. Otherwise you will be stuck in the middle of the guesthouses and restaurants. I rode my first bike in Pai in 2015 with the help of the guy who taught me in an open area close to his store. You can ask any of the local rental shops to teach you, which won’t take too long. As long as you use caution while driving, you will appreciate the freedom it will give you all around Asia!
- Nature walks: If you like to do things solo like I do, I’d also recommend to take walks around Pai in the stunning nature. If you head out past Wiang Nua Village to Isara Garden, it’s a gorgeous area of Pai. You can stop at Isara for a drink and admire the view. If to go a little further past Isara it takes you out to the fold in the mountains and it’s really beautiful to walk around there.
- Thai cooking classes: This is a great opportunity to learn how they make delicious Thai curries and other basic dishes. Various places offer these classes, which you may find on the main street. Isara Garden (2000 thb) is one of them but I heard there are more budget versions.
- There are so many vegetarian restaurants to choose from that made me so happy! Most of Thai restaurants also have tofu versions of almost all the Thai dishes. Some of my favorites are:
- Om Garden
- Good Life
- Earth Tone
- Casita – hip Mexican spot
- Na’s kitchen – popular mama’s kitchen style local Thai Food restaurant
- Pen’s kitchen for inexpensive good Thai food
- Rabbit Cafe on the main road: just because it’s amazing to interact with little munchkin rabbits! This place is an extension of Village Farm, a restaurant and farm a bit outside the main area, which we visited on another day. Since it was the low season, we didn’t get a chance to talk with anyone but we saw that the rabbits were caged unlike our vision of seeing them roaming freely in nature. So I am not sure whether I should advertise this place or not
- Massage with Mr Baan and his wife Joy. Regular 400 thb and healing for 600 thb (2 hrs). The place is called Comfort International and has a facebook page. They are a super sweet couple who are experienced in therapeutic Thai massage. They also have a massage school for those interested who are interested in diving deeper.
- Fluid Pool is a great to spot where you can socialize by the pool and make new friends while refreshing in the water under the sizzling sun.
- I was pretty surprised to discover the hip(ster) street with cool coffeeshops and restaurants while cruising around on our bikes that’s located off the main street. Think like the Soho of Pai.
Where to stay in Pai?
Pai is full of resorts and budget hostels. The cost of a dorm bed is around 200 thb per night, a basic room 300 thb and a bungalow 300 bht+ depending on the season. On my second visit, my boyfriend and I chose an Airbnb house a bit outside the town located perfectly in nature, which was the best decision ever! It came to 500 thb/night and these pictures will speak for themselves!
I reeeeally love Pai hence have visited it twice in 2 years! The nature is spectacular, locals are so kind and friendly, it’s very affordable (to stay and eat good food) and the weather is tropical (sometimes it’s rainy yet warm). This is another amazing Thai city where hundreds of expats made their home. I can see myself joining them someday!
Thailand has been so amazing to me and I ended up staying happily over 8 months. Please check out my related Thailand articles here.
Thanks for reading! If you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.
Kop khun kha!