A few weeks ago, the About Thailand Living team visited Pai, in Northern Thailand. It is starry-eyed that we decided to share today our experience: visits, good addresses and little tips … BREF. A tailor-made journey of 48 HOURS IN PAI!
Northern Thailand is often assimilated with … Chiang Mai; and that is a shame! Many other treasures remain hidden and unknown. And among them, the city of Pai. Pai offers a serenity that is not found everywhere in the Kingdom of Siam.
Pai is different from other Thai cities. No tuk-tuk, no brouhaha, no pollution, no McDonalds … but the very cliché of the natural landscapes of Thailand.
So it was with our backpack that we decided to spend our next 48 hours in “the Northern North”.
FROM CHIANG MAI TO PAI
Our path started from Chiang Mai, a very popular place in the North of the Kingdom of Siam, and often the starting point for many day tours or other routes.
We did book our round trip well in advance on 12Go Asia but when you get to the bus terminal in Chiang Mai in person, you can well buy it on site directly. We paid 390 baht for the whole – about 10€. To book on 12Go Asia, it’s HERE!
Tickets prepared, one must go to the Terminal 2 of Chiang Mai – see on the map – and get ready for 3 hours drive within the Thai mountains.
LIL’ TIP: The road is quite winding so for all those who are a little sick in transportation, do not hesitate to take a medication 30 minutes before boarding the bus!
Having taken the van of 06:30 am, we arrived around 09:30 am, ready for a first day of visit. The van drops you off at the Pai Terminal – see on the map.
STOP 1 – PAI CANYON
Also called Kong Lan, Pai Canyon swaps a little physical effort against an impressive panoramic view. You will have a small uphill road to cross to fully enjoy the surrounding scene – totally accessible to all levels. Once at the top, you are free to discover the small red dirt roads, and for the more experienced ones, you can go down along the tiny kind of trails.
🏴 However, we advise you to watch your steps. The canyon is not secured and there is rarely a large influx. A misstep could be dangerous and could leave you alone in a bad position. Therefore, good shoes are highly recommended!
📍 To see the Canyon on the map, click HERE!
STOP 2 – THA PAI HOT SPRINGS
After the effort, the comfort! The sport of the canyon led us to choose a quieter place for our second stop. And what is actually better than Thai natural hot springs? For 300 baht – about 7.80 € – you can enjoy a rare moment of relaxation within the nature, with a naturally warm water of 36 degrees!
We found these sources really nice and it is always a surprise to see such hot water in the middle of the Thai nature! A 100% recommendation!
📍 To see the Tha Pai Hot Springs on the map, click HERE!
STOP 3 – WAT PHRA THAT MAE YEN or WHITE BIG BUDDHA
Also known as the “Temple on the Hill“, this summit offers spectacular views of the entire city and is the perfect place to watch a sunset.
353 steps are waiting on you to reach the highest point and enjoy a beautiful view of the Pai mountains. 📍 To see it on the map, it is HERE!
But much more than the stunning view, at the top of this small hill stands proudly the White Big Buddha, which overlooks all the rest. The stairs are worth it; this giant is impressive and it is the perfect opportunity to sit and take a break while admiring the entire green city.
STOP 4 – PAI MEMORIAL BRIDGE
We continue our journey to a monument of the past that proudly stands in the middle of the city: the Memorial Bridge. This historic bridge was built by the Japanese during the Second World War, the road between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son being strategic for them as close to Myanmar, a former British colony. Its initial goal was to cross the Pai River and to carry the necessary heavy troops and vehicles. In short, a little history bridge; a must-see!
📍 To find it on the map, it is HERE!
STOP 5 – PAI WALKING STREET
We decided to end this first day of adventure in Pai by The must-see place of Thai cities: the Walking Street. And it was a very nice surprise. Clothes are very numerous and cheap and the food is INDESCRIBABLE. Only one tip: GO! … and taste Thai sandwiches. 😏
📍 To see it on the map, it is HERE!
STOP 1 – YUN LAI VIEWPOINT
For this second day, we decided to follow the advice of internet and got up early to attend the sunrise at Yun Lai Viewpoint. And what a show! The road is uphill though, so be careful with the scooter, but the result is worth it. To get to the top, you have to pay 20 baht entrance – about 0.50 € – and then just sit and wait while admiring the surrounding scene.
We highly recommend it … this viewpoint has been our favorite view. 😍
📍 To find Yun Lai Viewpoint, it is HERE!
STOP 2 – KAREN VILLAGE
It was out of sheer curiosity that we went to the Karen village, known as the giraffe women. The Karen are a Tibeto-Burman tribe and some of them live in Northern Thailand in split groups. Here we had to pay 100 baht – about 2.5 € – to enter their village; these entrances are their daily livelihood.
… we would not recommend this place though.
We did not take pictures here, the atmosphere was rather heavy according to us. Paying to enter their home and to take pictures of them made us feel indirectly guilty … Nevertheless, they each hold stands with jewels they make themselves and sold at affordable prices. Do not hesitate to help them a little in their daily lives by buying some souvenirs for your beloved ones. And they remain very smiling despite the obvious barrier of language.
Just outside the village are rice fields that the Karen cultivate themselves.
To see the village on the map, it is HERE!
STOP 3 – MOR PAENG WATERFALL
One of Pai’s most popular waterfalls is Mor Paeng Waterfall, which stands proudly at the top of its 200-meter freefall. Several pools are visible, but the place is still dangerous if you are not equipped with good shoes; the stones are very slippery. Take care, but enjoy the view and the peace surrounding.
We sat down for an hour listening to the sound of the water running away. 😍
📍 To see it on the map, it is HERE!
STOP 4 – MAE YEN WATERFALL
And we enjoyed the first so much that we decided to reserve our last stop for another waterfall … Mae Yen one. The hike to access is quite long and is reserved for people a little more used to it – about 3 hours hiking. The decor, however, is well worth it.
📍 To see it on the map, it is HERE!
… and this is where our journey ended! We took the van back to Chiang Mai that evening.
TO MOVE WITHIN PAI
Pai is a small town, so transportation is obviously not developed as it is in Bangkok. To optimize the time and to be completely free of our movements, we decided to rent a scooter. For a full rental day, you can easily find for between 100 and 150 baht – about 2.5 €. You must also count the full tank; the scooter is given with just enough to get you to the next gas station. For a liter of gas, it takes 40 baht – about 1 €. For 2 full days of adventure, we took 3 liters of gas. For the first full tank, your renter will tell you the road directly.
LITTLE TIP: The only deposit required is your passport, and we can advise you to always take pictures of your vehicles before traveling the city. 😉
AN ACCOMMODATION IN PAI?
You will not find a luxury 5 star hotel here, but many more natural accommodations. Guesthouses are in all corners of the city and all of them offer a rather natural experience.
GOOD ADDRESS: Prilpai Guesthouse
For our 2 nights in Pai, we chose this charming guesthouse 30 minutes walk or 7 minutes scooter away from the bus station of the city for the modest sum of 300 baht per night – about 7.80 €. A small wooden house, a double bed and a mosquito net … if you want an experience that comes out of the ordinary of your stay, this place is perfect!
And in addition to a calm and relaxing environment … breakfast is included; and the hosts are adorable! Enjoy a jam toast with scrambled eggs and a typical Thai banana in the surrounding silence. 🌾
To book, it is HERE!
To see Prilpai Guesthouse on the map, it is HERE!
LIL’ TIP: Prefer Agoda than Booking, where prices are often better – HERE!
A conclusion? Words are not enough to describe the magic of the city of Pai. Each stop was a discovery even more brilliant than the previous one. If nature does not scare you away and if you’re looking for that natural Thailand away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, get off the beaten track of Chiang Mai … Pai is for you!
About Thailand Living team is happy to have been able to share their personal experience, and we are here for any questions or advice needed. 😚