Pai, Thailand – How to Arrive, Where to Stay and What to Visit ?

Maps – Orientation

Map 1 – From Chiang Mai to Pai

Map 2 – Center of Pai

Map 3 – Pai – Interactive Map

How is Pai ?

Many people who visit Pai for the first time are saying : “It is not exactly what I expected”.
Let’s start for what is Pai : A small town with a river and green fields around.

The houses in the town are usually no more than 2 floors.

There are some attractions in the suburbs like waterfalls, a scenic canyon,  a bamboo bridge in the fields, a big Buddha on a hill and a nice cave situated about 50 Km away (see the second page, for details). The town is quiet and pleasant and when you cross the river (by foot) you are in a beautiful countryside environment.

Pai is a good destination for a relaxed week-end. The visitors to Pai are mainly young backpackers. There is a good nightlife, but not as crazy as in the full moon parties of the island Koh-Phangan. If it is your first visit, you can spend 4 nights in Pai without getting bored.

In the past, Pai was known as a destination for smoking quietly Cannabis, far from the civilization. But now that Cannabis is legal everywhere in Thailand, Pai is just a nice place.

Pai is not a center for Digital Nomads, you don’t see people sitting with Laptops in coffee chains (there are almost no coffee chains in Pai, just small coffees).

But I managed somehow to find a coffee chain in a gas station

What Pai is not :

1.  Before arriving to Pai, I imagined I will find a small village with a hippie community (maybe like in the movie Hair). I was wrong. The hippies are going somewhere else, or they don’t exist anymore. Pai has regular backpackers and they have some money on them.

2.  I imagined I will not find good food in Pai. I was wrong. There are some good restaurants in Pai. They are not as good as in Chiang Mai but still, good food is available.

3.  I didn’t know if there are ATMs in Pai, so I brought some cash with me. I was wrong. There are ATMs (don’t laugh, in some remote places in South East Asia, there are no ATMs).

and there are 7Eleven stores

and there are even wash machines with coins

4.  I thought that the road to Pai will be extremely difficult for a motorbike (based on the stories of the almost 800 curves). I was wrong, see the next chapter.

How to Arrive to Pai ?

Option 1 : By Minibus

There is one company of Buses operating between Chiang Mai and Pai. They uses minibuses and not big buses (probably because the minibuses are more suitable for the road to Pai).

The minibuses depart every hour. They use more minibuses if there is high demand. The bus station in Chiang Mai is located on the right side of the city. See location on Google Map. You can buy a ticket at the bus station or in one of the travel agencies in town or online with 12GoAsia. Of course that you should buy your ticket in advance to assure a seat.
In Pai the bus station is in the walking street.

In the Photo : Minibuses sleeping at night in the central Station in Pai, before a hard day awaiting them the next day.

The problem with the bus ride to Pai : There are 762 curves on the way and the driver wants to arrive in 3 hours, so he is driving fast and you get sick (there is 1 pause, on the way). I was so afraid of this minivan journey, that I chose to drive to Pai on a motorbike.

Option 2 : By Motorbike

The cool way yo arrive to Pai. Instead of being packed inside a minibus and getting sick because of the curves, you are driving a motorbike and enjoying the curves.

Yes, there are a lot of curves but if you can manage 1 curve, you can manage also 762 curves. The road is just moderately steep.
With a motorbike you can stop on the way in nice places.

You can also make a stop exactly where the minibuses are making a pause and see the passengers happy to get out of the Van.

It will probably take you 4 to 5 hours on a motorbike, including the pauses.
(If you see sheep on the way, you stop to watch them, of course ).

Precautions :

  1. Try to avoid driving when the road is wet or at night. It is significantly more problematic for a motorbike.
  2. Be alert in the curves. It is easy to “get bored” after a while and not take seriously the turns. Slow down before each turn.
  3. Choose a good motorbike from the rental shop. Try to choose a new one. The motorbike should have good brakes, lights working and good engine. 125 cc is enough for 1 or 2 persons.
  4. Be alert with the vehicles around you. Some of them don’t respect the lines and are making dangerous bypasses. It is especially true for the drivers of the minibuses.

Note also :

  1. When you rent the motorbike, make sure the shop agree that you ride far away.
  2. Usually, the shop will not be responsible for the towing in case of an engine failure (you will have to pay for that). They will give you a number to call.
  3. There are some rental companies that have a shop in both towns and you can return the motorbike in either of the places. It seems that Aya service is one of them. They can also transfer your bag for you.

Gasoline : On the second part of the road to Pai (road number 1095), there are no big Gas stations, so fill the tank when you are still close to Chiang Mai.

I prefer a motorbike with a place to put a bag in the front, instead of carrying a backpack on the back during the drive (like the guys on the following picture). You can leave your main suitcase at the hotel in Chiang Mai.

Option 3 : By Car or Taxi

You can rent a car instead of a motorbike. You can rent a driver for a few days.

Option 4 : By Flight

There is a small airport in Pai. The airport is suitable for small airplanes, the sportive ones. There are usually no commercial flights to Pai. If you are willing to pay the price of a flight, so just take a Taxi between Chiang Mai and Pai, you will arrive in 2 or 3 hours.

Where to Stay in Pai ? – Hotels

Let’s look again at Map number 2 :

Option 1 – Town Center

Pai is a small town and there are small hotels in the center. There are some good hotels but not very fancy ones, Pai is a backpacker destination after all.

See Hotels in the center of Pai. After you Click, use the Map to find the desired location. Read opinion of travelers for each hotel.

If you want a relatively big hotel in Pai, take a look at Peacock De Pai Hotel. It is new and modern. The hotel is at a walking distance to the walking street.

There is even a swimming pool (not big enough for swimming, just for having fun)

There is also the Hotel Medio de Pai . Also at a walking distance to the walking street.

Diamond Hotel is big, but less attractive than the 2 previous ones. Also this one is at a walking distance to the town center.

Revolution Hostel Pai is good if you want to party.

Option 2 – The Countryside, right side of the river

At a walking distance from the walking street, there is a little bridge and if you cross it, you are in a countryside environment. You can make acquaintances with cows and chicken in this area. Many visitors choose to stay here in a bungalow.
There are bungalows for all the budgets and in all colors.

Some bungalows are very modern

See Hotels (Bungalows) on the right side of the river in Pai. After you Click, use the Map to find the desired location. Read opinion of travelers for each accommodation.

Option 3 – Far from the Center

If you have a way of transport, you can stay more towards the countryside and enjoy more nature at lower prices.

See Hotels in the zone of Pai. After you Click, use the Map to find the desired location. Read opinion of travelers for each hotel.

How to Move around Pai (and reach the attractions) ?

Option 1 : Walking

For the town and the fields beyond the river, you don’t need any vehicle. Just make nice walks.

Option 2 : Motorbike

You either have a motorbike because you arrived on it from Chiang Mai or you can rent one in Pai. There are a lot of motorbikes for rental in Pai and it seems that they are even a little bit cheaper than in Chiang Mai.
A motorbike is the best way to visit the attractions around Pai.  Most of the attractions are less than 20 km away. The cave “Nam Lod” is 50 Km away.

Option 3 : Regular bike

Good for the nearby attractions

Option 4 : Organized Excursion

You will find a lot of publicity near the travel agencies in town. You can join an organized tour in order to reach the attractions around Pai.

How is the Climate in Pai ?

Like in all Thailand, also in Pai, there is a rainy season between May and October. The peak of the rain is in August, about 200 mm.
As for the temperatures : At day time, between 25 to 33 degree Celsius. At night between 11 to 20 degree Celsius. The coldest months are : December, January and February.

Where is the Nightlife in Pai ?

Look at Map 2, above. The “walking street” and the surrounding streets are the main nightlife of Pai. There are a lot of bars for drinking a beer. In some of the bars you will see some dancing. Look also at some ads on trees, there are sometimes special parties.

In the photo : Why not Bar ?

What to Eat in Pai ?

There are no Italian expatriates who have chosen to live in Pai and to open an authentic Pizzeria (nor any other restaurant owned by a foreigner), but there is still good western food available in town.
Excellent places that I experienced :
Lemon Thyme Cafe – Excellent avocado sandwiches, pasta and more western food. Also interesting drinks.

The avocado toast :

There is a nice garden in Lemon Thyme Cafe.

Charlie and Lek –  Excellent Thai food and cheap prices.

Excellent Vegetarian options

Cheese Madness – They have cheese sandwiches and wine (they have a stock of good cheeses from Europe).

The bars in Pai serve some western food. You will find at the bars Pizzas and salads. Here in the photo : Onion rings that goes well with a Leo beer. Leo is a Thai beer (belongs to Singha brewery).

At night, in the walking street, there are stands with a lot of street food.

Even Gyoza

Of course that there are a lot of restaurants withThai food in Pai.

Continue to Page 2 – What to Visit in Pai ?

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