Set in a picturesque valley north of Chiang Mai, the laidback town of Pai is a real magnet for hippies, backpackers and nature lovers. Recent tourism development since the early 2000s have made it more appealing to the broader tourist crowd but the small town has managed to maintain its authentic charm and (most of) its serenity. In the high season it may be hard to find a room in one of the +350 guesthouses around town, but come in the low season and you’ll find heaps of quiet accommodation, outdoor activities and a lively night scene.
Thailand’s (very ambitious) answer to the Grand Canyon, Pai Canyon is one of the most picturesque sites around town that offer incredible views and fun opportunities for hiking. You can spend as many hours as you like exploring the sprawling area and then sit back on a mountain town with a beer in hand as you watch the sunset.
For a fun night on the town, Pai’s Walking Street is the place to go. You’ll find all sorts of goodies here from delicious street food to market stalls selling everything from personalized postcards to quintessential hippie clothing and jewelry. Stalls start setting up in late afternoon and stay open until around 11pm.
Read also about the famous walking straat in Pattaya.
Pai River is one of the most scenic sites around town so it’s worth exploring a bit differently. Rent a tube in town (you’ll find plenty of stores with tube rentals) and hire a tuk-tuk to take you a few kilometers up the river. Then, sit back, enjoy and float back into town.
The Land Crack
Back in 2008, a commercial farmer woke up to see an enormous land crack in the middle of his farm which rendered his land almost useless for cultivating. Some trees remained on the land which allowed him to feed his family but his livelihood had shrunk significantly. The ingenious man thus decided to turn his farm into something of a tourist attraction, offering passers-by a tasty meal made up of the produce he can still cultivate – all free of charge save for a donation which guests can choose to make at the end. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit the odd (and, did we mention, gigantic) land crack that started it all.
Pai Hot Springs Resort
If you happen to visit Pai in the cool season, the Pai Hot Springs Resort is where you’ll want to go for a relaxing afternoon. Located just 7km outside of town, you can easily get there on a rented scooter (road signs abound) to kill a few hours lounging in these naturally formed heated pools.
Photo by BrendanMcGarry
In the warmer months (think March-June), however, your favorite spot will be one of the many waterfalls located in the town’s vicinity. You can easily reach Mae Yen Waterfall by foot from Pai, but if you’re looking to escape a bit further Mor Paeng and Pam Bok waterfalls are just a short drive away.