Located in the Mae Hong Son province, Pai is a peaceful village in the mountainous regions of northern Thailand. With a somewhat hipster feel, the sense of community might just keep you from leaving. Besides that, there are many epic things to do in Pai, particularly for an adventure lover.
What to do in Pai
Get to know Pai
If you want to get a feel for the area, we highly recommend starting at the heart of the town, Pai walking street. Although this is not your typical walking street or night market, it is much quieter than its Chiang Mai equivalent.
In saying that, the range of food options will no doubt have your tummy rumbling. You can expect all your favorite Thai dishes like pad Thai and khao soi (creamy coconut curry noodle soup). But you can also find dishes from various cuisines, including sushi, bruschetta, falafels, curries and barbecued meats. Even broccoli-filled spring rolls—who doesn’t love deep-fried food?
The Pai walking street is surrounded by bars and restaurants, so you will surely find something to satisfy your taste buds.
If you’re not hungry, don’t fret, the markets offer more than just food. Ranging from classic handcrafted souvenirs to clothing, postcards, jewelry and more. Feel free to barter, although most goods are already well-priced. Remember to negotiate respectfully, and you’ll definitely get a bargain.
Expect the street to liven up from 4 pm until 10:30/11 pm.
Pai Canyon is known for its various hiking trails and its amazing panoramic views of the surrounding mountain range.
From the car park, it is approximately a 5-minute hike up a decent set of paved steps to the first viewpoint. There are lookouts with 30-meter (98 feet) sheer drops for all you adventure lovers. It is possible to hike past the viewpoint along narrow ridges to avoid the crowds. However, wear hiking shoes if you choose to do this.
Hiking to the viewpoint for sunset should be at the top of your list of things to do in Pai.
The Pai Canyon is open 24 hours and is free to enter. It’s just a few minutes out of town, so get there via scooter or tuk-tuk.
Visit the Pai Hot Springs
When planning what to do in Pai, there are two popular hot springs. Thai Pai Hot Springs is the closest to town and the most well-known. It costs 300 baht (~$9) to enter.
The top pool is the hottest at about 80°C. After that, each pool below gets cooler.
If you enjoy nature, the second hot spring is for you. Known as Sai Ngam Hot Springs or the Secret Spring, it is easy to see how it got its nickname. Nothing beats the scenery surrounding these springs, which are hidden deep within a jungle oasis.
Located approximately 15 km (9 miles) north of Pai, with crystal clear water and temperatures around 34°C (93°F) it’s easy to spend the day soaking up nature. For 300 baht (~$9), you can enjoy everything Sai Ngam offers, including changing rooms, bathrooms, and food and drink stalls.
Swim at Mo Paeng waterfall
A 20-minute drive from the center of Pai is the Mo Paeng waterfall. It’s the ultimate waterfall experience—not only does it have a natural water slide, but multiple smaller waterfalls and swimming holes surround it. In addition, there are large grass areas and wooden gazebos, so it’s the perfect place to fully relax for the day.
It’s open from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Of course, if you want to enjoy the falls with fewer tourists, we recommend going earlier.
Have breakfast at Ban Cha Bo Hill
If you are heading to Pai from Mae Hong Son City or vice versa, then stop at Ban Cha Hill for breakfast with a view.
Take in the epic viewpoint overlooking the rolling mountains, or visit the cafe or restaurant while hanging your feet above the mountains. It makes for a great photo.
On that note, if you do enjoy a good photo, go early as you might catch the mountains hidden in a sea of fog. The cafe and restaurant are open from 7:30 am until 4 pm. The food and coffee are reasonably priced, considering the epic view.
How to get to Pai
When planning your Thailand itinerary, it’s important to work out how to get between each location. While Pai is a wonderful place to visit, getting there is a little more challenging.
To make your life easier, below we look at the most convenient ways to get to Pai from Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
Bangkok (and Chiang Mai) to Pai
There are a few options to get from Bangkok to Pai, but flying directly into Pai isn’t one of them.
This leaves us with a few options:
- Fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (~$16 to $43), then jump in a minivan to Pai (~$6) or a private transfer (~$110).
- Catch a train to Chiang Mai (~$7 to $57). Prices vary depending on which cabin class you choose. Then take a minivan (~$6) or private transfer (~$110).
- Ride the bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (~$17), then jump in a minivan (~$6) or private transfer (~$110).
Pro tip: If you get car sick, the road from Chiang Mai to Pai has 762 curves, so we advise you to pack some anti-motion sickness pills, just in case.
Chiang Rai to Pai
The easiest way to get to Pai from Chiang Rai is by private car or minibus. A minibus is the way to go if you are traveling in a group of 6+ people.
Overall, Pai has so many things to do, from waterfalls to sunset spots, amazing food markets, hot springs and much more. It definitely warrants a place on your bucket list if you are heading to Thailand.
If you want to explore Pai at a leisurely pace, then it’s best to rent a scooter (for those with an international motorcycle license). Alternatively, by foot is the best option.
There aren’t really any clubs in Pai. However, there are a lot of bars frequented by travelers. A lot of hostels offer pub crawls, too.
YES! You most certainly can do Pai on a budget. It is catered toward backpackers, so there are plenty of affordable accommodations, food options and transportation methods to see the surrounding sights.