Getting High On Pai: My Favorite Thai Paradise

Most of my time in Thailand was spent in Chiang Mai, but I also took a couple of trips to a city called Pai (pronounced pie).  Pai was a little slice of paradise known for its hippie culture, peaceful setting, and amazing views.  It’s located in Northern Thailand and is also famous for backpackers.  I like Pai so much that I went there twice.  The first time I went on a solo trip to do some exploring.  I later returned with some friends on a motorbike trip. This has been one of my favorite places on my journey so far so I thought I’d share a little bit about it and what it has to offer.

The Commute

me-on-the-motorbike

It takes about 3 hours to go from Chiang Mai to Pai.  Most people take the trip either by bus or by motorbike.  It’s important to note that this commute is famous because there are 762 curves on the trip over.  I definitely got to know this journey quite well.  I went by bus the first time and it really was a crazy ride.  Trying to sleep on the ride over is an impossible feat.  Some people didn’t handle the turbulence too well and ended up getting sick.  

On my second trip, five of us went over on 3 motorbikes and got to see all the awesome scenery along the way.  Taking this mode of transportation also allowed for a much smoother ride in my opinion.  I definitely recommend this if you can do it.  It’s also relatively cheap to rent a motorbike for a few days.

Accommodation

my-bungalow-in-pai

On my solo trip, I got a private room in a hostel.  It was fairly cheap and it allowed me my own space so I can work.  The internet in Pai really isn’t that great, but I managed to be productive nonetheless. The room wasn’t really that comfortable though and the showers had no warm water.  Generally speaking, the hostels in Pai aren’t as good as some other hostels in Thailand.  Although you can find some gems if you really look.  I did a lot of exploring the area on my own from here.  I was really taken back by the beauty that Pai has to offer.

The accommodation on my second trip was so much better.  We ended up booking 3 bungalows at a peaceful resort. It was great to be in a quiet place surrounded by nature.  Not only did I get a little work done, but we also got a chance to see so much more since we had our motorbikes there.  We even did a barbecue on the property and sourced some food from the local market.

Pai Canyon

view-from-pai-canyon

Pai Canyon was a great place to see the sunset.  Most of the backpackers and a few of the locals would go there every night.  It got crowded around 6 PM as everybody gathered to wait for the sun to go down.  The view was awesome and I would recommend seeing it at least once.  Wear proper shoes and watch your footing if you do go though.  There are some narrow parts of the canyon that can be quite dangerous.

Lod Caves

the-caves-in-pai

The caves were one of my favorite things to do.  I actually went back to see this again on my second trip.  You hire a guide with a lamp to take you through and give you a tour of all the caves.  They also take you on a raft and paddle you through the water.  Definitely a cool experience.  It’s pretty far from town and it’s a tricky drive up the mountain, but totally worth it.

Viewpoints

one-of-the-viewpoints-in-pai

Pai is in the middle of the mountains in Northern Thailand which means lots of jungle and forest terrain.  The views they had from several different locations both in and out of town were extraordinary.  If you’re someone that loves scenery or photography, this is definitely something you should see.

Hot Springs & Waterfalls

hot-springs-in-pai

Another popular attraction is all the different hot springs and waterfalls that are available in Pai.  The hot springs were really like going into a hot tub provided by nature.  A few of them even allow boiling eggs in the hot water. I didn’t get to see too many of the waterfalls because I had a bit of a scare on my first trip to Pai. I almost broke my thumb when I slipped and fell on a waterfall trying to take a picture.  It could’ve been way worse and I came out okay, but I would do it again if I could.  The waterfalls here are definitely a sight to see, but make sure you wear the proper shoes.

Night Market

bakery-at-walking-street-in-pai-night-market

I really loved the night market in Pai compared to the other cities in Northern Thailand.  They had better quality food and clothes and it was usually cheaper.  It also gives you chance to stroll around and get a sense of the energy of the city.  You get to see a bunch of rainbow haired, tattooed hippies embracing the artistic culture and relaxed vibe that Pai offers.  I even saw a guy dressed in a full predator costume from the AVP movies and a guy dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow and it was far from Halloween.

The Barbecue

our-resort-in-pai

During my second trip, we were able to have a barbecue since we were at a nice resort surrounded by nature.  We sourced some food to cook at a local outdoor market.  It was a pretty cool experience and definitely a lot of fun.  Once we got it all together, we grabbed some beer & alcohol from the 7-11.  It was nice and quiet where we were staying and made for a really nice night.  It almost felt like I was at a campfire.  

White Buddha

me-at-the-white-buddha-in-pai

The White Buddha is one of the city’s main tourist attractions and it was a really cool spot to see the Sunset.  It was one of many sunsets I saw in Thailand but definitely one of my favorite places for it.  You have to climb 353 steps to get to the top, but I really liked this spot.  It’s a great place to wind down before hitting the night market and grabbing some food.

Chinese Village

me-in-the-garden-area-of-the-chinese-village Sunrise-in-the-chinese-village-in-pai

There is also a really nice Chinese village in Pai.  You can go there and watch the sunrise in the morning.  It has a beautiful view and a garden.  You can also get coffee and breakfast there.  Captain Jack Sparrow from the night market was here also and he happens to be an incredibly good photographer.  I’m not a morning person, but I’m so glad I managed to get up and see this.  I would consider this a must see, don’t miss it!

Bars & Nightlife

dont-cry-bar-in-pai

There are a lot of really cool bars in Pai.  They are mostly laid back and very artsy much like Pai is in general.  Drinks are cheap compared to other cities.  My favorite bar here is a bar called Don’t Cry Bar.  It’s open late and has a DJ spinning a variety of music.  There are fire pits and you can mingle with people from all walks of life which really adds to the ambiance.  

Memorial Bridge

me-on-motorbike-at-pai-memorial-bridge

The memorial bridge in Pai has a history going all the way back to World War II.  It has been a very popular tourist spot because of its rich history.  Not to mention it’s a great place to visit for the selfie-obsessed traveler.  We almost missed it but happened to notice it on our way out of town heading back to Chiang Mai.  It’s a nice attraction if you get the chance to see it.

Final Thoughts

jack-sparrow-taking-photos-in-the-chinese-village

Should you visit Pai?  If you love art, photography, beautiful scenery and a laid-back lifestyle, this is the place for you.  Not to mention the great food and lots of unique bars pining with backpackers and fellow travelers.  I have so many fond memories of this place, it’s really hard to say anything negative about it.  Besides, how many people can say they had their picture taken by a pirate? If you happen to be in the vicinity of Northern Thailand, this small paradise is an absolute must.

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  • Thanks, great article.

    • Ron

      No Problem Bablofil, I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂