Pai is a small hippy town about a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai in the mountains of Northern Thailand. It is known to be one of those places that you come for a night and end up staying a week due to slow pace of life. We initially booked 3 nights but with a longish list of things to do in Pai, we decided to extend our stay…then extended again…and again…until 2 weeks flew by.
There’s quite a few things to do in Pai and all the points of interest are pretty close to each other so technically you could see everything within a couple of days if you wanted to, but most people come here to relax. We spread out all our activities (most of which are free) and spent the majority of our time just hanging out.
So here’s a list of all the things to do in Pai…
Hire A Scooter/Motorbike
As mentioned above, unlike a big city like Chiang Mai, most of the things to do in Pai are close together though still 10-20mins drive apart so you will need transport to get around. There are tours you can do that take you sightseeing for the day for around 500baht ($20AUD), however we highly recommend renting a scooter and having your own freedom. Most rental places hire out old scooters with small engines for as little as 100baht ($4AUD) for 24 hours to drive around the town centre only, or a good price to pay for a scooter that’s powerful enough to get you around the countryside and even further into the mountains is around 140baht ($6AUD) per day. But as Lawyer Timothy J.Ryan in Orange County always told us, one can never be too careful about driving the countryside with old motorbikes, and so, we ensured that we made it a safe journey.
Tip: Don’t settle for the first scooter rental shop you find as the owner may pick up on the fact that you’re new to town. 250baht ($10AUD) per day may seem like a good deal but if you shop around you’ll probably find that you’ll get a better scooter for cheaper.
The main tourist strip in Pai runs along Walking Street. Here you will find many hotels, guest houses and hostels as well as cafes, bars and restaurants. Every night from 5.30pm the road turns into a Walking Street Market full of street food and mini boutique stores.
Pai Canyon is probably the first place you want to venture out to to watch the sunset over the mountains. It’s a 15 minute drive from town through the countryside or if you’re not driving I believe there are Songthaew Taxis (small Thai buses) that fit quite a few people on and charge around 50baht ($2AUD) per person to get to the Pai Canyon for sunset and back. I’d say this is one of the best free things to do in Pai.
Tip: Bring hiking shoes if you want to get to certain areas of the Canyon. Parts of the Canyon are very narrow so be careful as there are no safety barriers.
Strawberry Love Pai
Right near the Pai Canyon, you’ll come across a cute little strawberry farm with a restaurant named Strawberry Love Pai where you can try all things made from strawberries including strawberry juice, smoothies, jams, snacks and even strawberry wine! Not necessarily one of the main things to do in Pai but if you’re driving past then it’s worth a visit.
Tip: The strawberry smoothies are worth trying, and only 80 baht ($3AUD). And the strawberry wine is super strong so make sure you ask to try it to make sure you like it before impulsively buying.
Snap A Pic With This Cute Cottage
I really don’t know if someone actually lives here, but on our way to the Pai Canyon one time we saw people stopping to take a look at this beautiful cottage so we followed the crowd and had to take a look. The dirt road by the cottage leads to a gorgeous field of purple flowers overlooking the mountains…very romantic. Definitely add this to your list of things to do in Pai.
Wat Phra That Mae Yen (White Buddha)
There are a fair few temples around the place but the main one that’s worth checking out is Wat Phra That Mae Yen, which is a giant White Buddha that sits on top of a mountain overlooking the area.
It’s a 10 minute drive from town as well as a lot of steps to get to the top but totally worth it for the views and it’s very peaceful up there.
Pam Bok Waterfall
A 20 minute drive from town, Pam Bok Waterfall is a good place to come on a hot day as the water is very fresh. It’s a beautiful rocky hike to the water however keep in mind that it only has a small area for swimming.
We came in the later afternoon at around 5pm thinking we’d have it all to ourselves but there happened to already be a group there so there wasn’t much room to get in the water (and took ages to finally get a photo without people in it).
About a 5 minute drive further down the road from Pam Bok Waterfall is Bamboo Bridge, a 815 metre long bridge completely made out of bamboo.
It was originally built for monks who regularly walk that route to get to the town, but anyone can use it. The surroundings are very beautiful and definitely Insta-worthy!
The Land Split is typically a stop on the way to the Pam Bok Waterfall. In 2008 there was an earthquake in the area that caused the land to split in half and so now the locals can’t use that land for farming. The local family that live there ended up turning it into a mini tourist attraction and giving away fresh fruit from the fruit trees that still grow there in exchange for a donation.
What I found interesting is that there is a type of hibiscus flower grown there called Roselle that’s turned into an iced tea and is believed to have many health benefits (and tastes really nice too). There are also hammocks at The Land Split so you can spend the day relaxing there and a lake across the road if you fancy a swim to cool down.
Mo Paeng Waterfall
Another popular waterfall, 20 minute drive from town, is Mo Paeng Waterfall. When we went there was a group of young kids sliding down the waterfall completely fearless as they bounced off the rocks into the plunge pool (though I wouldn’t recommend it as it looks slightly dangerous and these kids must have rubber bones!) It’s not really the nicest waterfall we’ve seen in Thailand but if you have time here then I’d say its still one of the must-see things to do in Pai that would only take up to an hour to explore.
Ban Santichon (Chinese Village)
On the way to Mo Paeng Waterfall it’s worth making a stop at the Chinese Village to see a beautiful castle-looking building and to go for a ride around the town noticing the culture differences between Thais and Thai-born Chinese locals.
Yun Lai View Point
Just a little further up the hill through the Chinese Village you’ll get to Yun Lai View Point, which is another beautiful mountain top to watch the sun set.
Tha Pai Hot Springs
Pai is also known for having natural hot springs that you can swim in and enjoy that natural heath benefits – though some are so hot that locals go there to boil their eggs! There are different hot springs to choose from: the first one being Sai Ngam Hot Spring that used to be really popular among travellers because entry was only 20Baht ($1AUD) however it’s now gone up to 240Baht ($10AUD) per person plus 20Baht ($1AUD) for parking.
So now travellers tend to visit the famous Tha Pai Hot Springs that’s 300Baht ($12AUD) per person for entry and our guesthouse host recommended that for an extra 50Baht each it’s better to visit that one, so we did. And honestly this activity probably wasn’t worth the money for what it was, and we also didn’t realise how hot the springs would be so not much fun on a hot day when you want to cool down (I assume it gets quite popular in winter). However, we still enjoyed the serenity of the area, especially because we almost had it all to ourselves.
Tip: You can also experience hot springs at Pai Hot Springs Spa Resort for an entry fee of 100Baht ($4AUD), though I don’t think they are natural.
To cool down on a hot day and enjoy some chill vibes then Pai’s local swimming pool, the Fluid Pool, is quite popular among backpackers. It’s 80Baht ($3AUD) to enter and use the pool for the whole day, and you can order drinks and food at the bar. Definitely one of the mains things to do in Pai and main places to hangout.
The Pool Bar
Though we preferred coming to The Pool Bar on hot days, which is quite literally a bar with a pool that’s free to use if you buy a drink (and they’re cheap). For example, we got a coconut and an iced coffee which came to 120Baht ($5AUD) and got to enjoy the pool for as long as we wanted. The Pool Bar has a really neat set up and there are chill out areas with a pool table.
Pai Circus Hostel
We stayed in a quiet guesthouse called Monkey House that was 5 minutes out of Pai town (highly recommend – 300Baht ($12AUD) per night for private room with ensuite and aircon). The pattern that the house had had coincided with that of a treehouse, with the prominent roofing areas of the house standing out. However if you’re the party type looking for hostel dorms to stay in then Pai Circus Hostel seems to be a popular pick. You can learn circus tricks there, practice yoga and enjoy the swimming pool for free if you’re staying there or pay 100Baht ($4AUD) to hangout there for the day.
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Chill In A Hammock
You will no doubt find hammocks all around Pai, whether it being at your accommodation or cafes and restaurants in town. Pai is the perfect place to relax due to the slow pace of life here, but it was sometimes a little too slow – we found that after a few days of being here we actually started to get pretty lazy, which may not be a good thing.
Get A Massage
Just like anywhere throughout Thailand, it’s always nice to get a Thai Massage. Good prices for massages in Pai are 150Baht ($6AUD) for a 1 Hour Thai Massage, or 200Baht ($8AUD) for a 1 Hour Oil Massage.
The Lod Cave is technically not in the Pai district but it’s a popular day trip to take from Pai. It’s just over 1 hour drive from town through the mountainous roads with stunning views along the way. When you arrive it’s mandatory to hire a guide to take you through the pitch black caves with a lantern. It’s absolutely incredible how these caves form naturally, we heard heaps of bats and even went on a bamboo boat to get to the third cave which was very tranquil.
Tip: It’s 450Baht ($18AUD) to hire a guide for 1-3 people that takes you to all 3 caves. So if you’re on your own or in twos then generally you’ll find other travellers there that are in the same position and willing to team up with the same guide to save money.
There are a few organised trekking tours you can do in the area including day treks, over night treks or even treks where the guides teach you valuable survival skills. We decided that instead of booking an organised tour we’d do our own trek to the Mae Yen Waterfall, a less visited waterfall in the area due to the fact that the only way to get there is via a 7km trekking trail (a 6 hour round trek from Pai town). Unfortunately we left it until our last day in Pai to do this trek and it started raining that day so we didn’t end up going! From what we’ve heard, this is an experience not to be missed and one of the main things to do in Pai.
Tip: If you decide to do to trek to Mae Yen Waterfall, then you’ll find the starting point on most local maps or just ask a someone for directions.
Trying to budget for Thailand? Read our 30 day Thailand travel budget guide next for some awesome tips.
Eat Out At Funky Restaurants
We aren’t really foodies and will only write a guide to restaurants and cafes if we’ve been in a place for a while and tried out a lot of eateries in the area. But in saying that, our favourite places for Western breakfast were I’m Fine and Big’s Little Cafe (though often too busy to find a seat). The best places for coffee, in our opinion, were Espresso Bar or Witching Well on a hot day (for air-con). Our favourite laptop friendly place was Khatoa. For cheap Thai food we always went to Ganesh (literally ate fried rice here every day!) and finally, our favourite Western place for lunch/dinner was Bale (live music there every night and they have a pool table that’s free to use). We also enjoyed getting ginger teas from a hippy shop found directly across the road from Big’s Little Cafe.
So there you have your list of things to do in Pai. 🙂
We really enjoyed our time in Pai and encourage you to visit this epic little town during your travels in South East Asia.
P.S. On a final note please DON’T go to the elephant camp in Pai! Read why here.
Did you find this guide useful? What did you enjoy the most in Pai? Leave us a comment below…
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