The city of Chiang Mai is a popular destination in Northern Thailand and the stepping stone to tranquil rural landscapes and spectacular mountain scenery. For anyone visiting Chiang Mai with a few days to spare a trip from Chiang Mai to Pai should be on the list of places to visit in Thailand.
The village of Pai is located in a picturesque valley in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province. Pai is one of the best places in Northern Thailand, it is long famous as a hippy hangout and continues to attract backpackers, the free spirited and young at heart.
- Getting from Chiang Mai to Pai
- Where to stay in Pai Thailand.
- Day trips from Pai
- Chiang Mai Travel Planning Facebook Group
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Getting from Chiang Mai to Pai
Pai is around 3 hours’ drive northwest of Chiang Mai. The road from Chiang Mai to Pai winds it’s way around 762 twists and turns as it makes it’s way through mountain terrain and hillside villages. Getting to Pai from Chiang Mai is easy, here are the best options.
Chiang Mai to Pai by Motorbike
Many like to experience the freedom of the Chiang Mai to Pai motorbike ride. Before hiring your Chiang Mai to Pai scooter or motorbike take time to consider the following.
The road to Pai from Chiang Mai can get tedious as you twist your way around the 762 curves. Travel from Chiang Mai to Pai needs a great deal of concentration and you can quickly become fatigued. One rider I know found himself hanging on for dear life as he took one blind corner after another on his motorbike from Chiang Mai to Pai. Another thing to consider is whether the bike you are hiring is powerful enough to take on the mountainous terrain.
Whatever your decision, I can think of nothing better than the satisfaction and adventure of completing the motorbike Chiang Mai to Pai challenge.
Chiang Mai to Pai by car
A Chiang Mai to Pai road trip by hire car is another option. The distance from Chiang Mai to Pai is 135km not a great distance but one made longer by the 762 curves.
The journey takes around 3 hours and if you intend going by car from Chiang Mai to Pai the ride needs a lot of concentration as you wind your way through the mountains. With traffic overtaking on blind corners the drive is not for the fainthearted.
On the upside, hiring a car will give you the chance to really get out and explore the Pai landscape.
Catching the bus to Pai from Chiang Mai
Catching the bus from Chiang Mai to Pai is a popular choice and the preferred transport method for most. The journey takes around 3 hours and the Chiang Mai to Pai minibus operators leave daily from Chiang Mai.
The Chiang Mai to Pai online booking can be booked here. The return bus from Pai to Chiang Mai can also be pre booked online.
Chiang Mai to Pai Day Trip
After researching transport options we chose the decided to take a minivan bus to Pai. You can also book a Chiang Mai bus to Pai directly at the bus station however, this is very confusing so our advice would be to pre book online. Hiring a car or motorbike is another option but keep in mind the road from Chiang Mai to Pai is very windy with the road taking 762 turns and can get a little hairy at times.
On the Road to Pai from Chiang Mai
After leaving Chiang Mai city limits, we were excited to be getting out into the countryside. We drove through lush vegetation, passing small villages and roadside stalls as we made our way up through the mountains, briefly stopping for a refreshment break halfway through the trip.
The second half of our journey became more arduous as we wound our way through the tight twists and turns. I have never suffered from car or motion sickness before but I began to feel quite nauseated and woozy with every turn.
The roads for the most part were good and a road upgrade was in progress to widen the road but care does need to be taken as we passed a car crash along the way. We tried not to watch as our Kamikaze bus driver overtook two cars at a time on the bends.
Where to stay in Pai Thailand.
Arriving safe and sound we walked through town to our hostel for the next two nights. We took a twin room with fan and private facilities at the Baan Ing Na Hostel. This quiet, clean and comfortable no frills Hostel about a 10 minute walk across the river from town. Our room overlooked a very peaceful rural setting with a few cows and extremely cute calves grazing in the rice paddies.
The Baan Ing Na Hostel is popular amongst backpackers looking for cheap no frills accommodation in Pai and represents good value for money for those on a budget. The staff are friendly and they have a range of light meal options. Wifi is free and the rooms although basic are clean and comfortable. The only minor downside is that it is located about 10 minutes walk into the main nightlife area of Pai and the road is very dark so walking late at nigh, although very safe does take caution.
We would definitely stay again.
Pai also has many other accommodation options from budget to luxury and during our second visit to Pai we decided to stay at the Pai Do See Resort. Which is located on the outskirts of the main centre. Again about 10 minutes walk into town.
This 3 star resort is very comfortable and has on onsite pool, restaurant, cable TV channels and comprises of cabin style accommodation, which was clean and comfortable. We enjoyed our stay at the Do See Resort and can recommend it as a comfortable resort with friendly staff. It also has 24hr reception for those arriving into the night.
You will find many places to stay in Pai. Hotels, Resorts and Hostels cater to all budgets. Most are located within easy distance to the centre of town and the Pai walking street markets or have transport options for easy access.
To search for the best hotels in Pai Click here
Things to do in Pai
The town of Pai is best explored by walking the streets. There are many bars, restaurants and shops selling curios, clothes and various Thai trinkets etc. No visit to Thailand would be complete without a massage and Pai is no exception. There are many to choose from and during our stay we just had to indulge with a relaxing leg massage. Although we have had many massages in the past this time I choose to have a Thai leg massage.
I didn’t know what to expect and was quite surprised that some of the pressure hurt but I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact it was one of the best massages I have had and so relaxing after a day exploring the shops of Pai. If you are looking for the best massage in Pai do try a leg massage. You won’t be disappointed. Mine was so good it felt like I was floating all the way back to the Hotel.
In the evening you can go bar hopping, sampling a few of the many bars in Pai before stopping in at one of the many Thai eateries and restaurants. if you are looking for some western style food you can’t go past the Burger Queen which as the name suggests has burgers. We have tried the Spicy Chicken Burger which was one of the most delicious burgers I have ever eaten.
You can then unwind by visiting one of the many bars that have live entertainment late into the night. On both occasions we have visited Pai we have visited a few of the local bars playing live music and can see why Pai has a reputation of a relaxed chilled out atmosphere. There is no shortage of places to visit in Pai at night.
What to see in Pai
If you an early riser there is a no better start to the day then by soaking up the peace of the rural environment before taking a leisurely stroll into the town of Pai. We suggest making your way to the Bamboo Bridge.
This rickety bridge rocks as you cross it and makes you wonder how it can hold your weight but it has a lovely view of the river with glimpses of the Pai white Buddha looking down from the mountain. Some mornings you may also be rewarded with the sight of a big balloon floating silently over the town.
Day trips from Pai
There are many attractions to visit from the town of Pai. For anyone looking for where to go in Pai a popular option is to hire one of the local songthaew’s for a Pai one day tour, to visit the sights out of town.
A songthaew is a passenger vehicle with two bench seats in the back. During our stay in Pai we hired a songthew for the day to see the local attractions around Pai. The cost is negotiated with the driver. If you are unsure what to pay our suggestion would be to ask reception at your hotel and they should be able to advise a fair price to pay.
First location during our day trip from Pai was the Morpong Waterfalls. Climbing down to this pretty waterfall, we felt the temperature lower as we were engulfed lush tropical forest with palm trees and flowers.
Placing our fingers in the water we were surprised to find that it was freezing. The falls were low when we were there but when the falls are high many people use rocks of the falls as a water slide, which would be a lot of fun and a great way to cool off soaking in the Pai Thailand waterfalls.
If you hire a driver we can recommend stopping at Coffee in Love cafe where you can take in the vast view of the mountains and valley while sipping a coffee or enjoying a freshly squeezed fruit shake. Drivers should be aware of this location as it’s a popular cafe frequented by tourists and locals alike.
During a tour from Pai you will drive through small Thai villages, watch women sow their fields and take in the natural beauty. You will see cattle, goats, chickens and water buffalo, while being waved at by the friendly locals. Some roads are unformed dirt tracks and you will get a taste of traditional Thai life viewing many different types of homes.
Some made of woven bamboo, with the roof made of large overlapping leaves, alongside brightly painted brick houses. All surrounded by beautiful vistas of mountains and valleys. It truly is a beautiful part of Thailand.
Pam Bok Waterfall
Next stop for us was Pam Bok Waterfall. Upon arrival we walked up a narrow dirt track which climbs upwards following a small water fed canyon covered with a canopy of lush forest that shaded the path. We walked on further until we came to a wobbly bridge which crossed over the canyon and we worked our way upward on a path until we came to the waterfall which cascaded down to a natural rock basin. Though it was too cold to swim, it was lovely to just sit there and take in the peace and beauty of the scenery.
A short distance from Pam Bok Waterfall is Pai Canyon. Walking up the hill, I will never forget my first glimpse of Pai Canyon. Surrounded by mountains and stunning views, this landscape of narrow red ridges rise 30 metres above the canyon floor. This Martian like landscape was created by decades of erosion, but take care as these sheer drops not for the feint hearted.
Wat Phrathat Mae Yen – White Buddha Pai
At the time of our visit, parts of the white Buddha statue were still under construction, but it didn’t take away from the impressive statue of Buddha at Wat Phrathat Mea Yen that overlooks the town of Pai. Walking up the 350 steps you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the valley below and get a chance to buy souvenirs from the little stalls at the bottom of the steps.
We totally enjoyed our day trip from Pai and quickly discovered that to fully get the most out a visit to Pai you need to allocate a few days. Some of the other activities on offer include River Rafting and Tubing, Elephant Camps, Pai Hot Springs and Pai Memorial Bridge. These are just some of the reasons for a visit from Chiang Mai to Pai.
We wished we could have spent more time exploring the town of Pai and hope to visit again. Have you been to Pai? What was your favourite place in Pai? Feel free to leave a comment.
Chiang Mai Travel Planning Facebook Group
Also be sure to check out our Chiang Mai Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it’s a great resource to enable you to ask any questions about visiting Chiang Mai Thailand. Many experts are on hand to help.
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