What to do in Pai, Thailand
This hippie, little town is often overlooked by its bigger, more popular city, Chiang Mei. Unless you have a lot of time in Thailand, you probably won’t think about visiting Pai, which I completely think is an oversight. Pai is definitely one of my favorite, if not my favorite, cities in Thailand. I agree that you won’t get beautiful beaches that is so iconic with Thailand or elephants that’s on everyone’s Instagram, but that’s the best part about Pai, in my opinion. To be fair, I was a bit disappointed when I first go there because it was such a small, kind of dingy town but it completely and fully grew on me. The 2.5 - 3 days I spent there was not enough, not even close. To be honest, I was bummed I had spent so much time in the South because I was forced to leave Pai (my 30 day Visa was up). Okay, so enough about me gushing over Pai, here are the main things to do:
Rent a motorbike
The roads around Pai are perfectly paved and so much fun to ride. It may seem scary but I think Pai is one of the safer cities to learn how to ride for the first time. There’s not a lot of car traffic, the roads are wide and well paved, and there are so many side streets that will lead you to beautiful locations. Renting a motorbike here is pretty cheap too - I think 4-5 USD a day.
Ride on a bamboo raft through Lod Caves
The motorbike ride from the main part of town here is a bit windy and if it’s been raining, slippery too, so be careful up this path. The ride took about 45 minutes and it’s along a beautifully paved road with trees and nature surrounding you. You can get use Maps.Me to direct you here, it’s one road. It’s 3 to a raft and no matter if you’re by yourself or with 3 people, you pay the same amount so it’s wise to bring a group with you to split the cost. You have a guide who treks with you through a bit of a jungle, the main opening of the cave, and then head down to the river inside the cave. This is when you’ll ride a bamboo raft through the cave. It was fun for us, the tourist, but I felt bad for the guys doing this job. Some parts of the river was really shallow so our guide had to get off and push us. When you get to the other side, the cave opens up to the beautiful green background. Then you take the raft back and follow the guide out. It’s a quick hour or so in the cave.
Relax in Tha Pal hot springs
Another short motorbike trip from the town, Tha Pai hot springs is relatively small but really beautiful! There weren’t that many people there so maybe we lucked out but we basically had the whole place to ourselves. The warm water, fresh air, and beautiful surrounding makes for a very relaxing afternoon activity, until you get too prune-y.
Pay Canyon to watch the Sunset
I heard the sunset here is phenomenal. Unfortunately the day I went, it was really cloudy so we didn’t get to see any sun setting. However, Pai Canyon was beautiful regardless. The orange-y dirt blended perfectly with the green trees surrounding it, makes for a great photo opp! There are some trails along the canyon for you to walk through to see other parts of it. Be careful though, there paths that drop pretty deep on both sides. You don’t need to hear hiking boots or anything that intense, but do be careful where you walk.
Eat your heart out at the Sunday night market
Every night starting at 5pm, the main walking street of Pai is filled with all sorts of amazing food stalls. I would buy multiple meals in one night because everything looked so good and I couldn’t say no. From traditional Thai food to pizzas to Burmese food to the best smoothies ever to pork ribs to sushi and everything in between. It was a fat kid’s haven. My hostel, Common Grounds (definitely stay here), was right on the Main Street so we never had to walk fair to get food. Although it doesn’t compare in size with street food in Chiang Mai or Bangkok, there’s something about this little town that made this feel so much better. Maybe it’s the close proximity to everything and how small and tight-knit the town feels, I’m not sure but if you go, tell me if you get the same feeling.
Go chasing waterfalls (okay sorry a bit clique and lame)
There are tons of waterfalls around Pai since it’s known to rain a fair bit each yet (we’ve been rained on a ton). The two most popular one to visit are Pombok and Mo Paeng. Again, both of these are short motorbike rides from the town. The side roads up to them can be a bit scary since they aren’t all completely paved but if you’re careful and relax, you’ll be fine driving up here.
Visit the (hopefully built) temple in the sky / White Buddha
This is another great spot to see the sunset but bring lots and lots of mosquito repellant because for some reason, this was the most infested. Unfortunately, when I went the Buddha was still under construction so the experience was a bit underwhelming. Hopefully this is no longer the issue and you see the new beautifully built white buddha while catching the sunset.
Bar hop hop hop
One of the best things about Pai is that it’s so small so where you go out, you’ll meet people you met along your travels or just walking by them in the town. It’s the same with the bars! Everyone ends up going out together and migrating at the same time from one bar to the next. Starting at one end of the street, everyone will move all together to the next like a self guiding bar crawl since bars close at different times. Everyone will end up at _____ where you can party until 4, 5, 6, or 7am. One bad part of Pai is that it’s so small. If you did something embarrassing the night before, you’ll run into the person the next day, without a doubt.
Indulge on some shroom shakes
I’m not saying I did this here but it’s a popular activity among travelers. At sunset bar, you pay 500 baht for a shake that will take out of this world for a few hours. People tend to take it on a rainy afternoon and all they want to do is chill on the roof of the bar. It sounds pretty pleasant, actually. Don’t be alarmed though, these shakes aren’t that potent so you won’t lose control or anything, you’ll just be seeing some strange objects around you move.