When I was traveling in Thailand in 2017 I remember meeting a lot of backpackers who had one thing in common: they loved Pai. “It’s the best place ever”, “It’s my favorite place”, “I spent several months there” was what they told me. Well then, I thought, I have to go there, too, to see what it is that makes this town up in the north of Thailand so popular!
For many, the ride from Chiang Mai to Pai can be a dealbreaker: a road with more than 700 road bends leading through the mountainous province Mae Hong Son is the only way to get there (either that or a plane). Our van was packed with female backpackers all willing to take a chance and after a few hours we arrived safe and sound.
Where to stay
Me and my friend had booked a private room at Baan Kati Sod, a B&B located about 1,8km outside of the city center. The first day we walked to the city and back which is perfectly fine and for the rest of our stay we rented a scooter. We were looking for a place with a jungle feel to it and found this in our B&B – the bungalows are surrounding a big open area with a tree house and hammocks in its center and the reception and breakfast areas are open and surrounded by vegetation.
What to see
Chedi Phra That Mae Yen temple
It is very easy to get around Pai and to explore its surroundings by scooter. Very close to our B&B was the temple Chedi Phra That Mae Yen. To get to the giant white Buddha statue at the top you have to climb a lot of steps, but the view from up there is lovely and absolutely worth it.
Tha Pai Hot Spring
Pai is also known for its many hot springs and although it was very hot at the time we decided to pay the Tha Pai Hot Spring a little visit. The average temperature of the water is 80°C, so going in knee-deep was as much as I could handle!
Pam Bok waterfall
Pai is also surrounded by multiple waterfalls which are all easy to reach. We visited the Pam Bok waterfall which we drove past at first! On our way back we were able to find it though and went for a little swim with the local kids.
Where to eat
I Love U Pai Café
A restaurant that we really enjoyed was the I Love U Pai Café which you will encounter on the right side of the road on your way back to town from the Pam Bok waterfall (it’s impossible to overlook the huge sign that says “I love u Pai”). It has an upstairs sitting area with hanging chairs and a fantastic view overlooking the mountains. They sell delicious smoothies and dishes, highly recommend their Khao Pad with egg, pineapple and cashews!
Pai Walking Street
Pai Walking Street or the Pai Night market is the perfect place to find delicious and authentic street food! Do not miss the market when visiting Pai, other than food you can also find a lot of hand craft, souvenirs, jewellery and other items.
Don’t worry that Pai might be to quiet for you! Along Pai Walking Street there are plenty of bars and restaurants where you can have a drink, and many of the bars even have live music in the evenings. On our last evening we found a cozy little bar just off Pai Walking Street with a really good cover band playing.
Like for a lot of the backpackers I had previously met, Pai easily became one of our favorite places during our time in Thailand! This is mostly because of its relaxed atmosphere, the kind locals and backpackers we met and all the good food we ate. I could see why so many people loved it and really recommend a visit – if you’re not put off by 1,400+ road bends that is (after all you have to leave one day, too, right?)!