Life in Pai: The Backpacker Hub You Won’t Want to Leave
A relaxing backpacker retreat with a laid back hippie vibe, the town of Pai is nestled into Northern Thailand’s beautiful mountainous landscape. It’s a place that wasn’t originally on our itinerary but one that must make it onto yours. The stunning views from various viewpoints throughout the town will leave you with enough Instagram content for weeks, the beautiful waterfalls will allow you a fun way to cool down from the scorching Thai rays and the night markets offering a wide selection of delicious cuisines will keep you well and truly satisfied. Pai has the ability to lure you in and make you say ‘just one more night’ way more than once.
Located just a 3 hour minibus ride north of Chiang Mai, a journey not for those motion sickness sufferers amongst us due to a whopping 762 turns in the road making a slightly uncomfortable ride but one that’s totally worth it, Pai felt very different to the Thailand we’d got used to. Describing a place as tranquil when it’s full of tourists feels a little odd but there was something so calming and relaxing about Pai that de-stresses you and gives you a break from that chaotic backpacking life. The hippie vibe in Pai becomes apparent as soon as you step off the bus and not long after you’ve been there, the sight of people rocking dreadlocks and quirky outfits becomes common and seems to add to that laid back energy Pai releases.
I can see why Pai has become a backpacker hotspot with cheap accommodation, fun activities by day and good nightlife to while away your evenings and meet fellow travellers. Oh and not forgetting it’s Western influence. Coming from Chiang Mai where we struggled to find a decent Western style meal, Pai was a saviour. Sometimes when you’re travelling you just need some familiar food! Noir Cafe was amazing for breakfast – their smoked salmon poached eggs were delicious and Om Garden Cafe is a great option for lunch or dinner.
So, you’ve been lured into the life of Pai…so what is there to do?
Pai Walking Street
During the day, the main street in the centre of Pai is lined with little shops, bars and cafes but at night, it really comes to life as dozens of market stalls cover the street offering a variety of different foods from traditional Thai cuisine to Sushi to Italian – there’s literally something for everyone and it’s cheap too! Spend an evening or two strolling up and down the street trying the range of different foods and stopping off for a beer or two in the cool bars midway.
Rent a moped
A moped is the easiest and most fun way to explore Pai. However, be careful. The amount of travellers we saw hobbling around Pai on crutches or wearing big bandages was crazy. The whole renting a moped process is extremely laid back and they don’t check you can drive it so make sure you’re able to and always get a helmet. The majority of Pai’s attractions aren’t directly in the town and at just 150 baht for 24 hours, renting a moped is definitely your best bet.
Yun Lai Viewpoint
This was one of my favourite spots in Pai and one that’s well worth the steep and bumpy journey up to it. From Yun Lai Viewpoint you can sit back and relax whilst taking in the most beautiful views of Pai. Don’t forget your camera! There’s a very small entrance fee but they do give you a pot of tea when you enter which is a nice touch.
Mo Paeng waterfall
Mo Paeng is the closest waterfall to the centre of Pai and one that’s well worth a visit. It has a natural waterslide from the top to the bottom making it a fun place to spend a few hours. If the waterslide looks a little too scarily steep for you though (it was for me!) then there’s plenty of little pools surrounding the waterfall for you to sit in and cool off from the heat. There’s also beautiful views from Mo Paeng waterfall so again, your camera is a must.
So as you’d expect, it’s not quite the Grand Canyon but if you’re after a beautiful sunset view or a view at any time of the day then head to Pai Canyon for some picture taking.
Pai Hot Springs
On the majority of the ‘must do in Pai’ lists I found on the internet, the hot springs were mentioned. However, from personal experience, the Pai Hot Springs are not worthy of their 300 baht per person price tag. You walk through a jungle like trail and find about 3 or 4 hot springs, a few of them being way too hot to even dip your toes in, the others feeling slightly dirty and not quite enjoyable enough to spend a considerable amount of time in. Luckily, we tried really hard to haggle the price down before we entered and ended up paying 300 baht for 2 people which was still too much in my opinion but oh well. Apparently there are more hot springs further out from Pai centre that are nicer so it might be worth going that extra mile to find those instead. Saying that, they might be nicer in colder weather. It was very hot whilst we were in Pai so entering a super hot bath wasn’t exactly appealing to us…
Fluid Swimming Pool
If it is hot in Pai and your accommodation doesn’t offer a pool, there is one right by the centre of Pai that is well worth a visit. It’s called Fluid Swimming Pool and it’s about a 10 minute walk from Pai Walking Street. The pool is clean and well maintained, the food they offer is good and the drinks are also very nice and not too expensive! If you have a spare few hours and want to relax in the sunshine, Fluid Swimming Pool is perfect.
As well as a place to watch the sunset, many travellers head to the sunset bar for their mushroom shakes. It’s a very cool but also a slightly weird bar with mats to lie on and hammocks to relax in with a very cool laid back vibe. The people serving behind the bar are actually lady boys and it’s well worth visiting even if you don’t fancy a trip…
If you’re in Thailand and considering the journey up to Pai then I’d say it’s well worth a visit. We booked for 2 nights and ended up staying 5. Have you been to Pai before? Come and follow all of my travels on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook x