Popular with backpackers and bohemian types, Pai is a delightful village midway between the northern cities of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. The peaceful valley, rolling hills and lush misty mountain sides assure a relaxing atmosphere. It’s cheap, down-to-earth and unspoilt by mass tourism. Many spend months here at a time. The trip to Pai from Chiang Mai is worth the excursion alone, a roller-coaster ride through mountainous unspoilt scenery with fantastic views. You can also now fly there.
Although Mae Hong Son province is generally very mountainous, sitting as it does in the tail end of the Himalaya range, Pai itself occupies an broad elongated valley which can be very pretty in the rainy season when the rice turns it into a patina of green. The Pai river meanders across the patchwork and the small town is characterised by bungalows and a laidback atmosphere. However there are a number of activities on offer which include caving, whitewater rafting, adventure tours, trial bike riding and trekking to visit several different hilltribes who have villages in the area.
Most people come to Pai to get away from the action, and the sleepy town caters to a hippie traveller crowd. There are various markets held on different days and at different times, like the Morning Market and the renowned Wednesday Market, where you can soak up the local culture and pick up tasty Thai food. Hilltribers in their colourful costumes come to town to hawk their wares, giving a more authentic and less touristy environment than Chiang Mai.
There have been a few modernisations that have accompanied Pai’s rise in popularity, such as the establishment of banks, a few 7-Eleven stores and the appearance of gaudy neon ATM machines on the main street, but this was bound to happen if backpackers are beating a path to the place. Like most towns in Thailand, there are at least a few temples scattered around town. One of note in Pai is the charming Wat Mae Yen with its distinctive multi-tiered Burmese-style roof.
If a bout of physical exertion is what you’re after, there are some good hiking routes leading out of town and the Tha Pai Hot Springs to rest in afterwards. However, the hot baths at nearby Thai Pai Spa is much better value than the rip-off 200 baht for the national park venue. There are some beautiful waterfalls just a few kilometres out of town, including the popular and conveniently reached Muang Soi waterfall, and renting a motorcycle is an easy option.
Trekking companies operate out of Pai and it’s a good place to head off into the mountains for a few days. There is also the bizarre Pai Canyon at the southern end of the valley, although it could hardly be called ‘grand’. Venture farther afield to Soppong, halfway to Mae Hong Son, and you can explore the many remarkable caves here, and even sign up for ‘black water rafting’ on a subterranean river.
But the main reason many come is simply to chill out, either at one of the basic bungalows that line the river meandering through the valley, or in the many rustic restaurants and bars. There are a few bars in town to laze away an evening. The Bebop Jazz and Blues Club has live music most nights, along with a few other venues popular with the resident reggae crowd. For the morning after, a pleasant blend of local hilltribe coffee will get you moving at one of the many cafes.
Days can be whiled away with yoga classes, cooking, reiki and massage courses. Then one can participating in new age groups, creating art (especially at Sipsong Panna artists guest lodge), or even floating down the river on rubber tubes.
Recommended Accommodation in Pai:
– B2 Pai Premier Hotel: Perfectly sits in the heart of the city. A contemporary hotel features and a wide range of facilities including free WiFi, 24-hour security, outdoor pool, garden and restaurant. A great choice for a relaxing holiday…more details and booking
– Baan Kungkang De Pai Resort: Sits in a quiet area, just a 5-minute drive from the city center. This resort has everything you need for a comfortable stay include free WiFi, 24-hour security, daily housekeeping, outdoor pool and gardens…more details and booking
– Bura Lumpai Resort: Sits by the Pai River, surrounded by rice paddy fileds and mountains. Featuring a wide range of services and amenities such as restaurant, tour, WiFi, transfer and traditional Thai massage service, outdoor pool and garden. Rooms come with air conditioning, terrace, minibar, cable TV, bathroom and shower facilities…more details and booking
– Canary Guesthouse: Peacefully sits on the banks of Pai River and 1.6km from the downtown. It has everything you need for a good night’s sleep such as free WiFi, a fan, mosquito net, private bathroom and cable TV…more details and booking
– D2 Pai Resort: Sits just a 5-minute drive from Pai Airport. A 13-room hotel offers comfortable rooms with facilities such as air conditioning, LCD TV, free WiFi and bathroom with a shower. The on-site restaurant offers a variety of Thai cuisine…more details and booking
– Diamond De Pai City Hotel: Conveniently sits in the city center and the airport is only a 5minute drive away. Features comfortable rooms come with air conditioning or a fan, satellite TV, refrigerator and bathroom with a shower…more details and booking
– Hotel Pai Country Hut: Located just 100m from Pai Walking Street and a 10-minute drive from the airport. It features the wooden furnished cottages overlook the mountains and come with basic facilities like free WiFi, a fan, balcony, mosquito net and shower facilities…more details and booking
– Kirina Retro House: Conveniently sits 0.7km from the city center and easy access to Pai’s main attractions. A 11-room hotel provides everything you need for a comfortable stay. One of an excellent choices of a stay in Pai…more details and booking
– Kuad Khon Thoe Pai Cottage: Sits in a quiet area, 7 km from the city center. Features tastefully furnished rooms with modern facilities such as air conditioning, free WiFi, private balcony, LCD TV and bathroom with hot-water shower. Outdoor pool is also available…more details and booking
– Mari Pai Resort: A cozy resort surrounded by the rice paddy fields, just a kilometer away from the heart of town. Features air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, balcony, cable TV and bathroom. The on-site restaurant offers both international and Thai dishes…more details and booking
– Montis Resort: A luxury resort sits in a small and quiet area of Pai and surrounded by lush mountains. Featuring stylish rooms with a wide range of facilities like air conditioning, free WiFi, patio, LCD TV and DVD player. Restaurant, outdoor pool and fitness center and a free shuttle service are available on-site…more details and booking
– Pai Good View Resort: Sets in a convenient area, only 3 km from the city center and 5.2 km from the airport. It has everything you need for a comfortable stay. All units come with TV, bathroom and air-conditioning or fan…more details and booking
– Pai Hotsprings Spa Resort: An oriental chalet styled resort, sets on the bank of Pai River, a 30-minute flight away from Chiang Mai. Featuring hotspring public pool and accommodation with mineral spring water piped into each bathroom. Enjoy traditional Thai massage service & restaurant on-site…more details and booking
– Pai Island Resort: A 10-room boutique resort is only 5 minute-drive from Pai Airport. Features fine furnished rooms with modern facilities including WiFi, air conditioning, minibar, private garden and outdoor bathtub. Bar and restaurant are available on-site…more details and booking
– Pai Iyara Resort: Surrounded by lush mountains, only a 3-km away from downtown. It’s an ideal place for a relaxing holiday. This small resort has everything you need for a comfortable stay. Restaurant and outdoor pool are also available…more details and booking
– Pai Laguna Hotel: A cozy hotel, sits 3km away from Pai Airport. It features comfortable rooms equipped with facilities such as satellite TV, private balcony, seating area and bathroom. Free WiFi is available in public area and on-site restaurant serves continental breakfast…more details and booking
– Pai Nai Fun Hotel: Sets along the Pai River, a 10-minute drive from Pai Airport. Offering clean and comfortable rooms with all necessary amenities including air conditioning or fan and free WiFi…more details and booking
– Pai Treehouse Resort: Sits on the out skirts of Pai, 81km from Chiang Mai Airport. It features a simply rooms with basic facilities like a fan, cable TV and refrigerator. A great place for eco-tourists…more details and booking
– Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm: Sets by the Pai River, amidst the tropical gardens. A Thai style cottages features furnished rooms with modern facilities such as free WiFi, cable TV, private balcony, bathroom with a hot shower. The on-site restaurant offers a traditional Thai Cuisine and a selection of wines…more details and booking
– Pai Vintage Garden Resort: Sits 1.2km from the city center and a 5-minute drive from Pai Airport. Designed for both business and leisure travelers. The resort provides everything you need for a convenient stay such as air conditioning, free WiFi, cable TV, bathroom and a shower…more details and booking
– Pai Yododo Resort: Located 4km from the airport and 2km from the city center. Features tastefully furnished rooms set with free WiFi, air conditioning, TV and bathroom with a shower. There’re also on-site restaurant and outdoor pool…more details and booking
– Phu Pai Art Resort: A luxury resort sits amidst the rice paddy fields, a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai. Features outdoor pool , restaurant, Thau massage and airport shuttle service. All rooms are set with air conditioning, satellite TV, minibar, bathroom, bath tub and shower facilities…more details and booking
– Puripai Villa: This unique accommodation style sits on a hillside, a 5-minute drive from Pai Airport. Features wooden flooring and furnishing villa with a variety of modern facilities such as free WiFi, LCD TV, DVD player and bathroom. It’s an ideal for a private retreat…more details and booking
– Rainbow House: Only 700m from lively Pai Walking Street. Featuring traditional Thai-styled cottages with simply furnished come with basic facilities like a fan and bathroom with a shower…more details and booking
– Reverie Siam Resort: Sits only 1km from the city center. Featuring a mixture of traditional Thai and Colonial style resort with a variety of facilities including free WiFi, air conditioning, outdoor pools, 24-hour front desk and a shuttle service. The on-site restaurant serves European dishes and a wide selection of wines…more details and booking
– Romance Another Story in Pai Hotel: Sits 2.8 km from the city center and 5-minute drive from Pai Airport. Features cozy and comfortable cottages equipped with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, LCD TV, balcony, minibar and bathroom with a shower. A perfect place for retreat and relaxing…more details and booking
– Tarnjedton Pai Resort: Located 4km away from downtown. Offering quality accommodation with a wide range of facilities including taxi service, free WiFi, 24-hour room service, children’s playground and garden…more details and booking
– The Countryside Resort Pai: Designed for both business and leisure travelers. Sits only 1km away from Pai Airport. Features comfortable rooms with free WiFi, air conditioning or a fan, terrace and bathroom with a hot-water shower. It also has a variety of recreation facilities like outdoor pool, massage and garden…more details and booking
– The Heart of Pai: Conveniently sits in the city center, just 200 meters from Pai Walking Street. With its laid-back atmosphere, it’s a great place for relaxing. This resort offers everything you need for a good stay…more details and booking
– The Sylvana Pai Hotel: Sits next to Pai Walking Street and 3km away from the airport. All rooms come with air conditioning, free WiFi, balcony, LCD TV and bathroom with a shower. It also has garden, outdoor pool and massage service…more details and booking
– Yoma Hotel: Sits in the heart of the city, just one kilometer from Pai Airport. A perfect place for retreat and relaxing. Offering air-conditioned rooms with a private balcony, satellite TV, free tea & coffee, bathroom with shower facilities. There’re outdoor pool and restaurant on-site…more details and booking