Pai is a little hippie city in northern Thailand know for its winding roads, mountainous range, barefoot inhabitants, art-in-real-life views and magic shakes. I heard of Pai from a scraggly, tan-skinned, Australian backpacker who mentioned, a little bit too casually, that the first time he went there for three days and stayed for three weeks.
Pai is only poppin’ during Thailand’s high season between November and March due to an influx of travelers to its main portal, Chiang Mai. Pai is three hours and 762 turns away from Chiang Mai, so for those of you who get car sick, dramamine will be your bestie!
HOW TO GET THERE:
The “bus” takes three hours and costs 180 baht ($6 USD). They’ll tell you it’s a bus, but really it’s 12-seater van driven by trained “drivers” who cut the corners hard, and cross double-yellow lines with no regard for the breakfast you ate, or the knot you’ll end up with after bumping your head against the window one too many times. Although the ride is brutal you’ll make it to the hippie paradise in one piece and you’ll be able to relish in the fact that you made it!
Driving a car yourself is the fastest route at 2.5 hours, but if you’re backpacking or just stopping by it’s an expensive option.
Flights are expensive and you will have to fly into a city about two hours away from Pai, which is why I mentioned that dramamine would be your bestie regardless of your choice of transportation.
WHERE TO STAY:
Common Grounds Pai 9.1 ($9 USD)
Located right toward the end of the famous Pai Walking Street. Not a party hostel, but definitely a social hostel. Comfortable beds, personal sockets and nice clean bathrooms.
Mad Monkey Pai 8.8 ($9 USD)
About 5-10 minutes away from the Pai Walking Street with bungalow dorms, definitely a party hostel. Awesome pregames, fire shows and turn up activities.
>Pai Circus 8.3 ($9 USD)
Close to the Pai Walking Street with an infinity pool and killer views. Lots of free activities and definitely a party hostel. It’s literally a place where you can work on your circus skills and it has a very outdoorsy feel to it.
Sawasdee Pai River Resort 9.5 (800 baht – $25 USD)
You get a private bungalow, queen sized bed, personal bathroom and a made-to-order breakfast. The staff is so kind and the location is perfect. Sawasdee Pai is perfect for couples looking for a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai.
Honorable mention: Pai in the Sky Hostel
WHAT TO DO:
Easily the coolest thing to see in Pai. Think the grand canyon, but smaller and in Pai, Thailand. It’s a dusty hiking spot that offers panoramic views of the mountains and valley that surround the city.
Pai Walking Street
Home to some of the most delicious and cheapest food you can find. I have had amazing tea, sweets, snacks and meals on the walking street. When it comes to eating in Pai, I would say forget the restaurants and hit the walking street.
Pam Bok, Mo Paeng and Mae Yen are just a few of the waterfalls you should scoot around to if you get the chance. The waterfalls are the best during Thailand’s winter months (November-March) because that’s when the water is flowing around the country.
*If you’re into seeing the world in a more colorful and magical way I suggest asking around about the magic shakes. You won’t be disappointed.