A small mountain town in Mae Hong Son Province, Pai has grown into one of north Thailand’s top tourist destinations over the past decade. Peaceful and bohemian, Pai’s hippie atmosphere and beautiful surroundings make it a great destination for weekend trips from Chiang Mai.
Pai, Thailand © tequilapartners
From elephant trekking to bamboo rafting, trekking and more, Pai’s natural surroundings make it a great destination for outdoor activities. Numerous small resorts dot the landscape around Pai itself, offering everything from luxury accommodation to low-cost bamboo bungalows.
Although Pai is located in north Thailand’s rugged mountains, it feels almost like Koh Phangan or another beach destination. The town’s laid back feel, fun nightlife and friendly atmosphere all combine to make it a great destination for solo travellers and couples alike.
Main Areas of Interest in Pai
Pai Walking Street Market
Pai’s Walking Street runs along Rungsiyanon Road. At night, the street transforms into an open air market with small shops selling souvenirs, clothes and street food, as well as postcards for visitors to send to friends back home.
The Pai River, which runs throughout Northern Thailand and onwards towards the border with Myanmar, is located to the north and east of Pai. The river separates Pai from several resorts located to the north of the city.
Route 1095 connects Pai with Chiang Mai and forms part of the Mae Hong Son loop. The road, which runs through the south of Pai onwards to Mae Hong Son, passes by Pai Airport as it goes through the town centre.
People travelling to Pai by bus or motorcycle will pass beside the Pai Memorial Bridge on the way into the town. Built in 1942 in preparation for Japan’s invasion of Burma, the bridge isn’t actively used today, but is a popular tourist attraction and photo site for visitors.
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Pai Canyon © infanticida
Things to Do in Pai
Located eight kilometres from Pai on Route 1095, Pai Canyon’s incredible cliffs are the result of thousands of years or rain erosion. The canyon’s walking trails offer spectacular views over the surrounding area, although steep cliffs mean they’re not for the faint of heart.
Pai Piranha Fishing Park
Pai’s relaxing atmosphere and beautiful scenery make it a great place to go fishing, but local rivers are off-limits to visitors. Pai Piranha Fishing Park is a small fishing park located outside Pai with a great range of fish on offer for skilled anglers.
Wat Phra That Mae Yen
Known as the Temple on the Hill, Wat Phra That Mae Yen is a hilltop Buddhist temple with great views over Pai and its surrounding countryside. Accessing the temple means scaling almost 300 stairs, making a visit good exercise for visitors to the area.
Pai is a surprisingly good place to train Muay Thai, with two camps located in and around the town. Charn Chai Muay Thai Gym is located close to the centre of Pai, while Sitjemam Muay Thai has a more remote location slightly outside the town itself.
There are several waterfalls around Pai, most of which are accessible by motorbike or require a brief hike through the jungle. Pam Bok Waterfall is one of the closest to Pai, with a small natural pool beneath the waterfall.
Tubing and Bamboo Rafting
Best Luxury Hotels in Pai
- Reverie Siam Resort
Located slightly outside Pai, Reverie Siam Resort is a four-star boutique resort overlooking the Pai River. The resort offers a selection of rooms and private villas with free Wi-Fi, as well as a large outdoor swimming pool.
- Puripai Villa
Located a short distance out of Pai on the way to Mae Hong Son, Puripai Villa is a luxurious resort hotel with a selection of modern rooms and villas, including private one, two and three bedroom pool villas.
Best Mid Range Hotels in Pai
- Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm
Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm is a comfortable resort located close to the Pai River and a short distance from Pai’s nightlife. The hotel’s picturesque bungalows and relaxing surroundings make it a wonderful escape that makes the most of Pai’s unique atmosphere.
- Baan Kungkang De Pai Resort
Baan Kungkang De Pai Resort is a mid-range resort located outside Pai on Route 1095 — the winding highway that connects Pai with Chiang Mai. The resort’s beautiful grounds and large pool make it a great place to relax and enjoy northern Thailand’s stunning landscape.
Best Budget Hotels in Pai
- Oor U Pai Guest House
Oor U Pai Guest House is an inexpensive guest house located in the centre of Pai, a short walk from Pai District Office. With just 18 fan and air conditioned rooms, all equipped with free Wi-Fi, Oor U Pai is an affordable option for backpackers and budget travellers looking to stay in Pai.
- Sawasdee Pai River Resort
Just steps from the Pai river, Sawasdee Pai River Resort is a conveniently located, affordable resort close to the centre of Pai. A selection of bungalows and rooms are available with free Wi-Fi and funky interior decorating.
Places to Eat and Drink in Pai
Pai, Thailand © patio
- Big’s Little Cafe
One of the best places in Pai for a traditional English breakfast, Big’s Little Cafe is a small café with a great selection of baguettes, breakfast dishes, burgers and coffee.
Another popular local café, Cafecito serves tasty Mexican and Spanish food with high quality, locally produced coffee.
- Le Reve De Pai
An upmarket wine bar in Italian restaurant, Le Reve De Pai is, like the rest of Pai’s restaurants, unpretentious and a great place for a satisfying meal.
- Burger Queen
Burger Queen is, as its somewhat litigation-baiting name may suggest, a local burger restaurant close to the centre of Pai with a great selection of delicious homemade burgers.
- Na’s Kitchen
Pai is full of small international restaurants serving food from all around the world, often very well. Na’s Kitchen keeps things simple by serving a selection of high quality, well-known Thai dishes that all visitors to Pai will be familiar with.
- BeBe Spice Indian Restaurant
BeBe Spice is a small Indian restaurant serving excellent curries and traditional Indian dishes in a relaxed open air setting.
How to Get to Pai
Travel © tanvach
As the crow flies, Pai is barely 90 kilometres from Chiang Mai. However, the rugged mountains that surround the town mean that travelling to Pai from Chiang Mai is a 135 km journey that, for the most part, takes place at fairly low speeds.
- Small minibuses connect Chiang Mai and Pai, taking around three hours to complete the trip along Route 1095. There’s also a public bus service that departs once daily at 7am and takes approximately four hours to make it to Pai.
- Passengers that get carsick easily should consider taking motion sickness medication before departing for Pai, as Route 1095’s 762 curves — many of which are sharp hairpins — can take their toll on passengers over the course of the journey.
Although Route 1095’s winding corners can be a nightmare for bus passengers, the steep hill road is a great experience for experienced motorcyclists. Both small and big bikes are available for rent in Chiang Mai, making the journey to Pai a fun half-day journey for confident riders.
Since Pai is relatively close to Chiang Mai in a straight line, flying is a much quicker way to get to the town than travelling by bus. Flights on Kan Airlines depart from Chiang Mai once or twice daily, depending on the season, and reach Pai Airport in under 30 minutes.
Check Skyscanner to compare airlines for the best prices and flight times to Pai.