A Backpackers Guide to Pai, Thailand

Pai is a village located in the northern Thailand. Perhaps we don’t have to talk too much about how well-known Thailand’s tourism is, recently. The point which makes Pai different from any other place in Thailand’s is its peace. Yes, I came to a really peaceful and quiet town, but it seemed to be addictive.

For those who want to escape the noisy sounds from the city to find a relaxing and private space, Pai is one of the best places to visit in Thailand.

Countryside around Pai. Photo from Flickr

The town is 136 kilometers away from Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand and a popular tourist destination. However, Pai is a  small town alongside the Pai River which softly flows along the town. Besides enjoying the peaceful landscape with the river, fields and forest, backpackers in Pai can also take part in many other entertaining activities.

The Best Things to do in Pai

Soak up the scenery

It is the landscape and peaceful atmosphere of Pai which attracts backpackers the most. The town has a cool river, high hills and mysterious forests, which are suitable for anyone who has a strong passion for exploring the nature.

After 3 days in the town, I figured out that the best way to admire the town is to choose the high place and from there, you can catch any movement of the peaceful town.

Views over Pai. Photo credit Flickr

From my own experience, the highest point which I could find is 10 kilometers away from Pam Bok Waterfall. Pam Bok is a very famous waterfall and from there, you can see a signpost which could guide you to many other places.

There is another point, which you can see the town from, and it could be an ideal place for dating and taking photos: Coffee In Love. It was quite surprising when such a small coffee shop could be so familiar to many people. The reason is its view. From the shop, you can see the whole village lying among the nature.

Explore the caves

There are many people who visit Thailand to explore the caves. About 45 kilometers from Pai, in the Mae Hong Son direction, there is a cave named Tham Lod. The way to this cave is quite slippery and again, it will attract adventurous people. However, I decided to use the motorbike to travel one more time. Renting a motorbike could help you conveniently and actively organizing the trip. Especially, you can stop anytime to take photos because as I have said, the way is always beautiful.

There are many other caves, but from my own opinion, Tham Lod is the most magnificent one.

Tham Lod Cave. Photo credit Flickr

Visit Pai’s Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon in the US is quite famous for almost everyone. Pai also has a similar canyon, although it might not be as gorgeous as the one in America. You will not have to pay any fee to visit this canyon.

Pai Canyon. Photo credit Flickr

The view is extremely beautiful, especially in the sunset. However, remember to wear sturdy shoes. You also have to be very careful when going on the narrow road, up to the canyon.

In the future, tourism companies might invest in this place, and perhaps it will not be free anymore.

Dip in the hot springs

Pai has 2 hot springs, the one named Tha Pai is very famous and popular. The hot spring is now located in a zone which has a spa service. In order to get in, you’ll have to pay about 200 baht per person.

Pai hot springs. Photo credit Flickr

Another hot spring is on the way to Mae Hong Son, which is about 15 kilometers away from Pai. The road to this hot spring is extremely slippery. However, the entrance fee is much cheaper with only 20 baht per person. If you go by motorbike, they will charge 20 baht more for each.

This hot spring lies among the shadow of the trees, the water is very clean and there are not many people who know about this place. To get there you will have to go about 10 kilometers on the main road, and then go 5 more kilometers on the land road. You can ask the local people to know more detail about the way.

Backpacker accommodation in Pai

Bungalows in Pai

The most relaxing moment for me was the time I spent in the bungalow. Pai river is very beautiful, and the bungalows along the river could be the ideal factor which will wipe out all the things in normal life which are bothering you. The price for a bungalow in low season could be about 200 baht.

Riverside bungalows in Pai. Photo Credit Flickr

After researching, I figured out that the cheapest bungalow is Family Hut. In my trip, the price was 200 baht for a bungalow with 2 beds with toilet inside. However in the high season, the price could double or triple.

The resort which is recommended the most by experienced people is Baan Pai Riverside Resort. This seems to be preferred the most by tourists. It has the space for relaxing with a balcony to hold party or to admire the sunset on the river. The price for a bungalow here is about 400 baht/night in the low season. However, it could be up to 1,200 baht in high season.

Dorms and Backpacker Hostels in Pai 

There are plenty of dorms and backpacker hostels in Pai with different price range, from 80 to 200 baht in low season. The best backpacker hostels in Pai are Mad Monkey,  Spicy PaiCommon Groundsand Circus Hostel.

Mad Monkey Hostel, Pai is less than a 15-minute walk from the center of Pai, so its easy to explore on foot or you can hire a bike to cycle around the explore. The hostel is also a great place to simply relax at the sociable bar or in the tropical gardens surrounded by Pai’s incredible landscaping. It’s just a few minutes away from many famous temples, including Wat Phra That Mae Yen (Temple on the Hill) while foodies will love the indulging in a variety of cheap street food stalls and handicraft shops on Pai Walking Street.

Mad Monkey also have an amazing offer with their flexible and great value Golden Tickets! Choose from 30, 60 or 90 days and stay at ANY Mad Monkey Hostel in Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, or Laos for a super low, fixed, one-time fee. Prices start at only £77 (about USD $108) for 30 days flexible mix and match dorm accommodation. All you need to do is buy your Golden Ticket and that’s your accommodation sorted! Click here for more details and to get your Golden Ticket!

Spicy Pai is a chain of backpacker hostels which appears in many popular backpacker destinations in Thailand. That is the reason why the service here is quite good. The dorm zone has many beds and is an ideal place for meeting new friends. However, it is very far from the center of town, it could take you at least 15 minutes, on the dark road to get to the center. Therefore the price is cheaper with 150 baht/person for one night.

Common Grounds provides large spaces for relaxing. If you prefer travelling alone, you should not ignore this place. Another advantage of the hostel is the location, which is in the center of town, behind the bus station. The price is about 200 baht/person for one night.

backpacker hostel in Pai, Photo credit Flickr

Circus School lies on a hill, which is a good place to witness the sunrise. The most interesting point is that the hostel provides circus courses for tourists. With from 400 to 600 baht, you can learn some basic circus tricks from here. At the weekend, Circus School usually holds BBQ party and circus shows. However, from my own opinion, the rooms here are not as good as the other two. The price is 150 baht/person for one night.

What to eat in Pai

Food in Pai. Photo credit Flickr

Similar to many other big cities in Thailand such as Bangkok or Chiang Mai, Pai also has a strong “weapon” to attract tourists – street food!

All the most delicious dishes in this town gather on one single street. From this street, you can find many types of food, from Thais and Chinese food to the Western delicacies. Especially, the food here is extremely delicious and cheap. This “eating road” is just like a string which connects people from all over the world. Backpackers love the cheap street food here and usually spend at least 3 days in this small town.

The food price in Pai is cheaper than Bangkok or Chiang Mai. My favorite restaurant is Na’s Kitchen, which is very famous for Thai curry.

How to get to Pai

For me, the destination is just one part of an amazing trip. The time you spend during the way to those destinations plays a very important role to create a nice trip.

That ‘s why I decided to use motorbike to go from Chiang Mai to Pai. For anyone who has passion for an adventurous trip, riding a motorbike along the Chiang Mai-Pai road is something that you will never forget. The wide landscape on the two sides of the road are quite attractive and you can stop and take photos anytime.

Motorike in Pai. Photo credit Flickr
Motorike in Pai. Photo credit Flickr

In order to rent a motorbike, you might have to pay from 110 to 160 baht. Aya service is one of the best providers.

Otherwise, travelling by bus and airplane are also popular choices. If you go from Bangkok, there are cheap flights from certain airlines such as AirAsia, Nok Air and Lion Thai. Kan Air is a brand which provides flights from Chiang Mai to Pai, but it does not have flights on all the days and the price is not cheap.

For those who choose to travel by bus, there are buses going from Chiang Mai to Pai all day long. Come to the Terminal 2 of Chiang Mai, buy a ticket, which is about 130 baht, get on the bus and it will take you there within 3 hours.

Jim from asia marvels

About the writer:

Hi there, I’m Jim – writer at Asiamarvels.com. I love travelling around Asia and love to share my stories with my readers. I’m sure there are so many things the world hasn’t discovered about this mysterious land yet and you’re eager to know more about it, right?

All right !!!!, let me help you. All guidelines, food tours, tricks and tips for your amazing trip to Asia can be found more at Asiamarvels.com…

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Sofia May 30, 2017 at 6:55 am

Thanks alot!!!
Very nice Information..

Anna May 30, 2017 at 7:11 am

Thanks Sofia! 🙂 Glad it was useful

Kev May 30, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Went to Pai in 1997 and it was a wonderful laid back destination away from the seediness of Chang Mai & Rai. Now it is overrun with flash packers etc. and advertising like this spoils it all. I’m glad I’ve seen Thailand as it was and that I know the few pockets that are still in-touched by all this internet advertising and “oh how I travel free” bollocks. I’ve lived in Thailand for 20+ years and have seen the very quick erosion of values solely because of western travel and to promote “peaceful havens” etc. makes it all the more worse. Your not travellers, you only go to the touristy parts. Shame on you for earning a living denigrating and destroying another countries way of life.

Anna June 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Hi Kev, I agree with you on many points that you make. Pai must have been much nicer back then and when I visited I did think it was too touristy, sadly things change and I didn’t write this post to travel for free or to earn money – actually it’s a guest post written by another writer who wants to get some more experience and exposure for his work and help out some other travellers. Anyway, thanks for sharing your opinion.

Anna July 16, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Sorry that you feel that way Kev, but I am jealous you got to see Thailand in 97! It would have been very different but the only thing you can be sure of is that nothing stays the same

Kunal June 2, 2017 at 9:50 am

Its really wonderful posting and unique writing words for the blogs. so thank you so much for sharing your views .

Anna June 2, 2017 at 11:51 am

Thanks Kunal, glad you liked the post 🙂

Courtney Blacher June 11, 2017 at 6:31 pm

I’ve always wanted to visit Thailand, and after reading this great post, I definitely will. Thank you for so many informations.

Anna June 13, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Great! Glad you liked it – Thailand is an awesome place to travel hope you have a good trip


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