What Is Pai?!
Pai (pronounced more like ‘Bai’) is a tiny, chilled out town situated in the mountains near Chiang mai in Thailand, popular among backpackers and the more bohemian crowd. What to do in Pai… there is not actually much activity-wise in Pai in the way of attractions or typical Thai sights. Though, Pai is a great place to travel in Thailand for a peaceful, creative or meditative Thai getaway… or simply a hangout for younger groups of friends in the many bars and cafes. Pai is not really a place to stay in Thailand for a family holiday though and it also does not usually require more than a day or two to explore when on holiday in Thailand.
Pai is relatively overpopulated by travellers these days and I think has possibly lost some of it’s past Thai charm for some. The town of Pai itself is pretty small and cute – probably about a 10 minute walk from one side to the other, with it’s own daily walking street where you can pick up some very creative and quirky Pai postcards, paintings and souvenirs. However clothing is kind of limited to tie-dyed clothing styles.
How to get to Pai
You can travel by bus from Chiang mai to Pai from Arcade bus station for around 100 baht. This would involve catching an overpriced tuktuk or songtaew out of the centre of Chiang mai though, so in my opinion it may well be just as cheap but more convenient to travel via the hourly minibus to Pai for around 190 baht. This involves hotel pickup and most Chiang mai guesthouses or the many travel agents can arrange this for you.The journey to Pai takes 3 hours and be warned, it is quite unpleasantly stomache churning on the windy Thai mountain roads, even when broken up by the 20 minute break in the middle.
It is best to rent a scooter in Pai to travel and explore the surrounding scenery. AYA is not hard to miss in the centre of town and charge as little as 100 baht for a scooter with a voluntary charge of 80 baht for insurance. If you can’t think what to do in Pai, a scooter gives you the flexibility to travel outside of town.
If you wish to drive yourself to Chiangmai from Pai, you can pay AYA 500 baht so you can drop it there instead and have your luggage transported back to Chiangmai separately. AYA also provide travel services outside of Pai and charge 150 baht for a minibus trip to Chiangmai.
Where To Stay in Pai
As a guide, you can stay in Pai in a hostel for as little as 200 baht per night, in particular Mae Yen is a great choice for travellers on a budget. Otherwise you can find some very good value luxury accommodation to stay in the most idealic Thai settings. Baan Tawaan Guesthouse is a good choice of mid range accommodation within easy walking distance to shops and bars of Pai town. Alternatively, you can camp in the peaceful setting outside of town at Pai Tree House from 300 baht per night or stay in a quirky Thai treehouse from 500 baht per night… or rent a luxurious family sized villa within the beautiful grounds there. Be sure to visit their unusual cafe, Love Pai Strawberry too.
What To Do In Pai
- Pai is most renowned for it’s white water rafting during the season of June to February, so this would probably be at the top of the guide of what to do in pai. Rafting packages take from 1 to 3 days and costs start from 1600 baht with Thairafting.com.
- Train at a Muay Thai camp – there is a particularly good, farang-friendly Muay Thai training camp called Charn Chai. Be prepared though, Muay Thai is tough; it is not for the feint hearted but this team in Pai have a reputation for being particularly welcoming and kind.
- Go trekking in the untouched Mae Hong Son forests or take a hill tribe guided tour.
- Try the many yoga and meditation lessons in Pai.
- If you can’t decide what to do in town, explore the mountainous surroundings of Pai – Hire a scooter and travel to the attractions like Pai Canyon, Memorial Bridge, Hot spings and waterfalls while admiring the tropical Pai scenery along the way.