From Chiang Mai, a steep and winding road (762 curves!) through the mountains, leads to this rustic oasis suitable for adventure travellers as well as those in need of relaxation. Once a tranquil town rarely encountered by tourists, Pai has now become the backpacker mecca of Northern Thailand. Whilst still maintaining its laidback charm and simple character in the surrounding countryside, the town itself is filled with vibrancy especially in the evenings with the Pai Walking Street and variety of bars. Located in a region sprinkled with an abundance of caves, waterfalls, hot springs and temples dating back to the 1800’s, Pai is pulsing with opportunities for natural and cultural exploration alike. Situated on the shores of the River Pai and surrounded by jungle drenched mountains, this unique town has a way of making visitors wish they would never have to leave.
- Find yourself a pair of wheels then get lost amidst the rice paddies and fruit groves.
- Spend one or two days whitewater rafting on some of Thailand’s most spectacular rapids between Pai and Mae Hong Son.
- Explore some rather nail-biting trails at Pai Canyon whilst enjoying panoramic views of the ravine and it’s attractive flora. Whether you choose to venture into the ridges or not, a spectacular sunset can be enjoyed.
- Visit Wat Phra That Mae Yen temple on the hill; climb the 353 steps to reach a giant, white Buddha with the best view over Pai.
Distance from Chiang Mai city to Pai: 149km
Distance from Pai to Mae Hong Son: 150km
Minivans depart from Chiang Mai’s Arcade bus station several times per day for the three hour winding journey to Pai. The primary company offering these services is called Prempracha Transport; it’s recommended to book your seat at least a day or two in advance.
Domestic airline, Bangkok Airways, offers a 20 minute flight between Chiang Mai and Pai. It is a scenic flight, soaring over the majestic mountains.
Taking the scenic three-hour drive from Chiang Mai to Pai is undoubtedly the best way to arrive in this quaint town, meandering across a stunning mountain range through winding roads, until finally descending into the picturesque Pai valley. GT-Rider has put together an excellent map worth getting hold of before your journey; the map contains loads of information, road details and recommendations about Mae Hong Son province.
Getting Around Pai
The town itself is navigable by foot or bicycles but if you want to venture out into the countryside it’s necessary to rent a scooter or taxi for the day. There is a taxi stand at Pai bus station; you can negotiate with the driver to take you to a number of attractions for a day. Bicycle and scooter rental shops are very easy to find in the town.