BEST THINGS TO DO IN PAI | THAILAND
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
Pai is a little mountainous town in Northern Thailand, near the Myanmar border, about 130 km from Chiang Mai. It used to be a quiet market village inhabited by Shan people, whose culture is influenced by Myanmar, but today Pai primarily thrives on tourism.
The town is quite small with a population of about 4000 people. Having lived past 5 months in the Southern part of Thailand, I have heard numerous times people talking about this place. It is said to be a hippie paradise destination – beautiful natural landscape, laid-back atmosphere, plenty of wellness practices and health-conscious restaurants.
We stayed in Pai for about 2 weeks during the burning season, so we didn’t manage to see all the lush rice field scenery that you can see from Google pictures. I will write about the burning season in the next topic.
Still we enjoyed our Pai trip to the fullest and what I most liked about this small town was FOOD. Most of the restaurants grow their own ingredients, so everything is fresh and high quality. You don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant to get some epic dining experience – one of the best meals we had cost less than 2€.
In this Guide
How to get there?
The only way to Pai is to drive there. You can drive by yourself by bike, take a minivan or hire a private taxi. There used to be a flight option too, but the Pai airport is permanently closed now.
Keep in mind that the road is 130 km from Chiang Mai, but it is mountainous with 760 curves and takes about 3 hours to drive. We took a private taxi, which is 10 times more expensive than the minivan, because I heard people getting sick and nauseous after this crazy road sitting in a bus, which bounces back and forth.
I have never been seasick or nauseous after driving but we both were really pale after arriving in Pai, even though sitting in a small car. It felt like a two-hour roller coaster.
When we drove back to Chiang Mai I looked all the time on the road or better - sit in the front seat. It helps, this time I felt okay.
But some people love this adventurous drive, especially bike riders.
When is the best time to visit and how is the weather?
The best time to visit Pai is from the end of November to February when the climate is cool and pleasant.
March to June are the hottest and most humid months of Pai and travelling is very undesirable during that time. March is also the month when the farmers of Pai burn their fields, ‘burning/fire season’, to prepare for regrowth, and also to get rid of biowastes like corn that can't be sold in the market. Although It's illegal to burn the fields as it causes harm to the environment and people's health, farmers still continue this practice as there is a lack of cheaper alternatives.
July to November experiences rainfall and exploring the region at that time is not a great idea.
We visited Pai at the end of March, the time which is not so recommended, but we thought when it is so bad we can always leave. For our luck the locals said it has been the best burning season for decades, and the air was much cleaner. We managed to see a mountainous background, which usually is invisible because of the smog.
Things to Do
Explore the Pai Canyon
The most popular natural attraction in Pai. You can walk and hike along the canyon edge or just chill and have a picnic to catch the sunset. For sunset come earlier, because the sun disappears behind the mountains 20 minutes before.
Climb to the Big White Buddha
You will see White Buddha located on top of the hill from every part of town so just drive in that direction and you will get there. The temple is open every day 6 am – 6 pm and the entrance is free.
You will have to climb from a parking lot 300-stairs up to the Buddha, where besides that is a nice viewpoint of Pai and the mountains surrounding it.
Try your hand at Muay Thai
As the national sport of Thailand, trying your hand at Muay Thai is an absolute must. Though it is a small city, there are a number of Muay Thai arenas, where class and private training take place every day.
I attended Charn Chai Muay Thai group training at 8 am in the morning with about 15 participants and 6 trainers. The first timers learned basic movements, while the more advanced people did pads, sparring or bags. The training lasted 2 hours and cost 300 BHT (about 8€).
Get a traditional Thai massage
What is better after venturing and hiking around Pai than a Thai massage at the end of the day.
Luckily Pai has plenty of spas to choose from. We really enjoyed Sapayia Spa, which offers a variety of treatments. Spa is super clean, modern and the massage was very good.
Visit Tham Lod Cave
One of the best day trips that Pai has to offer is venturing to Tham Lod Cave. Just 50 kilometers north of the center of Pai, Tham Lod Cave translates to “cave where the river runs through.”
You can’t visit the cave by yourself, local guides are included in the visiting ticket. The cave remains fairly untouched, so it was good to have a guide with a big lantern in front of us, using a phone flashlight was hard as you could barely see anything.
There are three main chambers, totalling 1,600 meters of explorable terrain. Visitors can discover stalagmites, stalactites, columns, coffins from over 1,400 years ago, and various ancient artifacts.
The Lang river flows through the cave and you can ride on a traditional bamboo raft through the caverns.
Soak in the Sai Ngam Hot Spring
It is 16 km from Pai centre, along the same road that leads to Tham Lom Cave, so both of these activities could be done in one day.
These hot springs are right in the jungle making them feel tranquil and a perfect place to relax away from the hustle and bustle of Pai.
Visit the Chinese Village & Yun Lai viewpoint
Santichon village or the Chinese Yunnan Cultural village is settled by Yunan tribesmen. It is located about 5 km from Pai.
The modern generation of these Yunnan people now are Thai citizens and can speak Thai and Chinese fluently. The Thai government has turned this village into a tourist attraction, where people can explore Chinese clay and mud houses, taste the green tea and pork hocks.
Continuing from the village, you can drive up a steep road to the Yun Lai viewpoint where there is a gorgeous view of the green nature that surrounds the city of Pai.
Explore the Walking Street
Every night the main street of Pai fills up with food vendors and market stalls offering clothing to food, with the best cheap food options like fresh fruit smoothies, deep-fried everything, Thai food and sushi. You certainly won’t stay hungry!
It is a good place for shopping also – there are souvenirs, herbal remedies, jewellery and more.
Regardless of whether or not you want to buy anything, the markets are always fun to wander around.
Walk Across the Bamboo Bridge
The bridge like a name suggests is made of bamboo and will have you walking lightly as it creaks beneath you. It is about 800 meters in length, in the middle of the rice fields, surrounded by water buffalos.
We went there, as I mentioned before, during the dry season, so it wasn’t much to see there. Looking at pictures from the rainy season, the landscape was absolutely breath-taking. Everything was lush and green.
Visit a Herbal Steam Dome Sauna
Good Life Dacha is a hippy vibe spot, in the same complex they have accommodation, healthy food restaurant, sauna area, live music and relaxation rooms. It is also Pai’s first fermentory where they produce family reciped kombucha and kefir.
There are 2 saunas - Herbal dome and Finnish. Also there is a cold plunge where you can jump after. Good Life Dacha is a nice community place where to chill and relax.
Have a coffee and cake at ‘Romance another Story in Pai’
It is a farm hotel near Pai, about 4 km from the centre of the town. The café is open for everyone and it is a really lovely place to have a cake and enjoy the views. You can also feed the sheep, play with mini pigs and ride horses.
Also read 'Best Cafes and Restaurants in Pai'
Based on this list you can probably tell Pai is not a typical tourist town in Thailand, where you can find beaches, island parties and streets fully dedicated to nightclubbing. It makes Pai a unique charming town and popular place for backpackers who are more into nature and healthy living.
I hope this list will give you some ideas for things to do during your trip to Pai.
Visit also YOUR TOUR DESK for tours in Phuket and Bangkok.