Pai: A Hidden Paradise in Northern Thailand
January 1, 1970
by Xime ??
From beaches to mountains, Thailand has it all
Thailand was always a country I wanted to visit not only for its well-known beaches and its almost perfect climate but also for their culture and specially their people, Thai people are known as warm and friendly hosts and after my trip to Pai I can certainly confirm that statement.
I was visiting Thailand earlier this year, my boyfriend had asked for 2 weeks off at work while I was pretty much unemployed and had all the time I wanted to spend there, well actually according to my visa I could only be there for 60 days which I thought it was more than enough but after you go there you will see you need more than 2 months to really explore that beautiful country.
While I was in Chiang Rai visiting all the temples I met a girl at my dorm who mentioned Pai, at that moment I thought she was referring to an island since must of the backpackers you find along the way are pretty much running away from the cold searching for warm beaches and fresh coconuts but when she starting describing the place I knew it was something different. I had never heard of Pai before so I wasn’t sure if it was somewhere I was willing to go and check out since when you are on a visa and you have only 60 days to spend there you have to make smart decisions about the places you want to visit, there are few factors you have to take into consideration such as time, distance and of course budget.
After doing some online research and checking my budget I decided to give it a try, it was doable so why not.
Pai is a small hippie type of town up in a mountain in the north of Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar so the only way to get there is from Chiang Mai. Since I was in Chiang Rai which is also in the north of Thailand but close to the border of Laos I had to take a 3hr bus to Chiang Mai which was only around 150 baht ($5 USD approx). Once I got to the the bus station in Chiang Mai I bought my ticket to Pai, this one was around the same price, the only difference is that instead of a bus its a minivan.
I waited around an hour for the minivan to get full, I was sitting all the way in the back and since the ride is about 3 hours I though I was going to be able to get some rest but as soon as we started going up the mountain I figured that was going to be almost impossible. It turns out that there are 762 curves on the way to get there so my nap time had to be postponed which was actually the best, I had never seen such a beautiful sight, tall trees, green mountains, the sky turning orange from the sunset, just perfect, that’s when I knew those curves were worth it, Pai was already feeling like a great decision.
Pai at night
I arrived to Pai around 7pm and since the bus station is right on the walking street it makes it very easy for us travelers so just walk around and look for a place to stay. Since I didn’t know exactly what to expect I booked 2 night at a hostel close by called “Carrot on the moon” just to be on the safe side.
The hostel was literally 5 minutes away from the station so I went there, checked in and went back to town to explore a little bit of Pai at night.
My first thought was “Great! I can actually walk on the street without having to look out for scooters”. For all those who have visited Thailand know that scooters take an important role in this country, they are all over the place, is the easiest and cheapest way to get around so its hard to find a place where you can actually avoid them.
While I was walking on the street looking for a place to eat I started noticing the people, unlike other parts of Thailand where you see mostly young backpackers, Pai seems to be the place for everyone, from families with little kids to older couples trying to get away from their daily routine back home and of course us, the solo travelers.
I checked out some souvenir shops, tried some coconut pastries on the street market and even got a hot latte (even though Pai gets very hot during the day you definitely need a light jacket at night). After walking around for an hour or so I finally found this place to eat, I ordered a pad thai with chicken which by the way was delicious and the best part, super cheap.
It was getting late so I decided to head back to the hostel to get some rest.
Hot Springs and Pai Canyon
The next morning, I decided to rent a scooter for 150 baht (whole day) and drove around 16km to Sai Ngam hot springs which ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. Driving down the mountain was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far, clear sky, amazing views, it was a really peaceful moment. Once you get there you have to pay a fee to enter and for parking but a very reasonable price. I stayed there for little more than 2 hours, the water was just perfect to relax and enjoy the lovely weather.
I started heading out around 3pm, my next destination was Pai canyon and I wanted to get there before the sunset, apparently it gets really crowded and I was trying to avoid all the tourists so I could actually enjoy the view. I got there around 4pm, parked my scooter and hiked up, dont worry it is only a few minutes, nothing challenging. Once you get up there you feel nothing but happiness, the place is so peaceful it makes you want to stay there more than just a few minutes, I literally sat down and stayed there for an hour doing nothing but contemplating the amazing view.
I booked two nights in Pai and ended up staying for a week so if you are looking for a place out of the ordinary Pai is the place to be.