I had heard so much about Pai from fellow travellers in Laos when I mentioned that I was travelling to Northern Thailand so had to go see it for myself. This is a small hippy village located 3 hours from Chiang Mai and it’s surrounded by nature, hot springs and view points. I can see what all the hype is about. You can spend your days here chilling out in a local coffee shop, in a hammock, or go see the countryside attractions.
How to get to Pai from Chiang Mai
Your hostel in Chiang Mai will help you book a minivan for around 220 Baht. The journey will take around 3 hours driving around over 700 bends, if you suffer from motion sickness brace yourself! Despite the bending roads, the views of the Thai countryside are stunning on the way there.
Where to stay
Pai Circus Hostel
This hostel is located up on the hill about a 10 minute walk from the main town. You can choose between a 12 bed, 4 bed dorm or your own bamboo hut for even less. I chose the last option as I wanted my own space after spending the past 3 days sharing a dorm in Chiang Mai. The hut has double bed, mosquito net and fan, with shared bathroom and shower near by.
How to see the Pai attractions
Book a Pai day trip from the circus hostel or other hostels in the area.
Time: 10 AM – 6:30 PM
Cost: 500 Baht or around 14 euro
What to bring: Swimwear, suncream, towel, temple appropriate clothing.
- Lunch ( choice of fried rice or pad thai)
- All entrance fees to the attractions.
- Bottle of water
- Pick up and drop off from your hostel and transport for the day to five attractions.
Hop on the back of a truck with 10 other travellers to explore Pai. We visited the following stops:
Climb the steps up to the White Buddha. (Make sure you bring temple wear as you won’t be allowed up the steps without long pants and covered shoulders). Once you arrive at the top take in the view of Pai and the Thai countryside behind you.
Kiem Lom Viewpoint
Next, hop back into the truck and be driven around the bending roads uphill to the viewpoint. Unfortunately during February, there are a lot of forest fires and air pollution so the view wasn’t very visible on the day we went.
Thum Lod Caves and Bamboo Rafting
This was one of the highlights of the day. Our group was divided into 3’s and assigned a guide to bring us through the caves. (note: you cannot enter the caves without a guide)(150 baht per guide for 3 people – included in the tour). Our local guide showed us around the cave leading the way, carrying a gas lamp too hot to stand close to but would be our form of light for the tour. The cave is massive, look around and you will see the stagalmites and stagaltites formed thousands of years ago. Our guide pointed out some of the calcite formations that had grown into the shape of elephants, monkeys and other animals. She also showed us some drawings done by local people over 3,000 years ago. As we made our way around we arrived at the river which runs from one side of the cave to the other. She led us onto a bamboo raft which was then paddled down the river by another local man. Look up and you can see thousands of bats lining the ceiling, and in the water as you sail through on the raft hundreds of black and gold fish swimming around and underneath the raft. We reached the other side of the cave and carefully balanced our weight to walk off the raft onto land. We climbed some steep stairs up to another part of the cave. Watch for the bat poo! you won’t miss it as it covers the stairs and railing up.
Natural Hot Springs
The hot springs were turned into a 2 hour stop off as the waterfall also included in the itinerary is dried up during the dry season so we were told by our driver it wasn’t worth our while to visit. Despite the outside temperature of 30 degrees, the hot springs were still a good temperature for us to enjoy and relax.
We reached Pai Canyon around 5:30 PM, just in time to take in the view of the sun disappearing behind the Thai countryside mountains. Note: Climbing around the canyon is not for the faint hearted or for anyone for a fear of heights. Narrow sandy strips of Canyon make the walkway around the area and aren’t protected by fencing or barriers so watch yourself. Many other people were up there for the same reason, the views at this time of day are stunning.
Why the group tour is worth it!
- Save yourself from the notorious, winding, steep hills by not renting a scooter. The tour includes transport so why not have an experienced local drive you around instead? So many people recommended that I rent a scooter as its the only way to really see Pai however I am so glad I chose to go on the tour and save myself from risking crashing and seriously injuring myself as so many people here do. The attractions are pretty spread out so we did about 2 hours driving in the day, mostly on winding ,bending, up hill and down hill roads around the cliff face. (Plus you’ll save yourself the 200 – 250 baht on the rental and 90 baht on gas and all the extras that come with possibly damaging the bike).
- If you’re travelling solo you’ll spend the day touring around with 10 other fellow travellers.
- Lunch is included in the price! (which generally costs between 40 – 50 baht otherwise)
- All entrance fees are included. (Hot springs – 200 baht per person, Thum Lod Caves 150 baht per guide).
- All of the above would add up to more than the 500 baht you will pay for the tour so save some money and stress and book the tour!
Where to eat
Om Garden Cafe
This is a pretty little spot located in the town centre to chill out and grab a good breakfast / brunch and great coffee.