Introducing Pai, Once A Hippie Town, Now One of Thailand’s Attractions
Pai is a small town in Mae Hong Son Province; one of the provinces on the northern part of Thailand. Despite the popular winding 1095 route that one has to pass to get to this small town, the number of visitors keeps on increasing every year. Apart from taking the flight to Pai, another (and much more preferred) way to go to Pai is to take the 150 THB minivan or bus from Chiang Mai to Pai.
In fact, there is not much to see in Pai. Of course, there is this great Pai Canyon, which is perfect to see sunrises and sunsets. There are also waterfalls and hot springs around Pai where you can enjoy and have great time with your friends. Not to mention, the exciting experience you can get from exploring the Tham Lod Cave.
There is really nothing much to see in Pai.
Nevertheless, stories about backpackers staying in Pai longer than what they planned are not rare. Read more to find out what Pai has to offer.
How to Get to Pai from Chiang Mai?
People usually go to Pai from Chiang Mai. Depends on the season, the routes that connects Chiang Mai to Pai can be quite congested with vehicles. Below are the options available if you are planning to travel from Chiang Mai to Pai:
There are flights from Bangkok or Chiang Mai to Pai, but many said the service is not so reliable. Moreover, flight tickets to Pai is expensive so many travelers would go for the other alternatives. On top of that, Pai Airport is located quite far from the town so it is not very convenient because of the additional cost for the transportation to get to the town.
Minivan or Bus
Prempracha Transport is the main supplier for the minivan and bus service to get to Pai from Chiang Mai, also for the return trip to Chiang Mai from Pai. The pick-up point for minivan or bus service from Chiang Mai to Pai is in Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Terminal 2. The drop-off point in Pai is in the small Pai Bus Station at the Walking Street of Pai.
Yes, despite the winding route, many visitors are up for the challenge. They would rent a motorbike for few days and ride the road, taking every turns and curves to get to Pai from Chiang Mai. Is it dangerous? Yes, it is! In fact, this is not recommended if you are not an experienced rider.
If you decided to drive from Chiang Mai to Pai yourself, there are car rental services in Chiang Mai. However, keep in mind that the route is winding and the drivers on the route might drive dangerously. Also, the cost of the rent is high and you also need to be careful with the insurance and other necessary details when you rent a car.
Pai’s Weather and The Best Time to Visit Pai
Pai’s weather can be divided into three seasons; Cold Season (November-January), Hot Season (February-April) and Raining Season (July-October).
November to January is when the weather is not so hot and more comfortable to travel around. This makes these months perfect for most visitors. Pai receives more visitors especially during this season as they get to enjoy exploring the attractions in a nice weather.
On the other hand, February to April is common with forest burning activity in the Northern part of Thailand. The smoke caused by the big fire might result in health issues for the visitors during this hot season. Therefore, going to Pai in these months is not recommended.
Meanwhile, raining season can also be a good time to visit Pai. It is not as comfortable as the cold season. It will rain, yes, but it is not so bad. The rain only last for 3-4 hours. And the best part is, there will be less visitors during these months. Hence, you can explore the attractions more at peace.
Things To Do in Pai
There are a number of remarkable things to do in Pai. Here is the list of some of the things to do in Pai:
One of the top things to do in Pai is to go to the Pai Canyon. Pai Canyon is located around 8km to the south from the city center. If you are coming from Chiang Mai using Route 1905, you might pass by the entrance to the Pai Canyon. Pai Canyon offers you a unique experience of trekking. Of course, if you compare the Great Canyon in Arizona, Pai Canyon is so much smaller. Nonetheless, Pai Canyon still offers a unique experience for the visitors.
Go and visit Pai Canyon to see the sunrise or the sunset from this place!
Hot Springs and Waterfall
There are several hot springs and waterfalls around Pai, since the town is in the valley surrounded by tall mountainous region. Below is the list of hot springs and the waterfalls you can find in Pai:
Tha Pai Hot Springs
Location: 8km to the south of Pai
Entrance Fee: 300 THB for foreigners
Opening Hours: Daily 8am-6pm
The locals call this hot spring Pong Nam Ron Tha Pai, located 8km to the south of Pai. Tha Pai Hot Springs is part of the Huai Nam Dong National Park, hence the entrance fee is the same as the entrance fee to the national park itself. Nonetheless, many visitors still come to have a nice relaxing hot spring bath here because it is easily accessible compared to the other hot springs in Pai.
There are several levels of pools and the temperature increases when you go to the higher levels of pools. Lower pools have temperature on average around 36℃ and the temperature in the higher pools can go up to 80℃! Popular activities include boiling eggs in the top-level pool, which have an average temperature of 80℃.
Facilities include toilet, changing room, shower and restaurant. For tips, go early in the morning when there are less people in the Tha Pai Hot Springs. The place can get overcrowded especially in high season.
Sai Ngam Hot Springs
Location: 15km to the north of Pai
Entrance Fee: 20 THB ( +20 THB for national park entrance, +20 THB for scooter)
Opening Hours: Daily 8am-6pm
Sai Ngam Hot Springs was also known as the Secret Hot Springs of Pai. This is because going there is not as easy as going to the Tha Pai Hot Springs and the location is quite far from the city center. The road going up to the Sai Ngam Hot Springs is steep and tough for the beginner motorcyclists. Rent a better scooter with higher CC especially if you have two persons on the scooter.
Along the 1905 route going to the north from Pai, you will see a sign to turn right to go to the Sai Ngam Hot Springs. You will have to pay 20 THB per person for national park entrance here and 20 THB for scooter. Drive for another 4km to reach the hot spring and pay another 20 THB here.
The average temperature here is not so hot around 35-40℃. Some days, it can get crowded but most of the time there are less people in the hot spring. Facilities available include changing room, toilet, food and drink stalls.
Mo Paeng Waterfall
Location: 9km to the northwest of Pai
Entrance Fee: Free
Mo Paeng Waterfall is probably the most popular waterfall in Pai. Located around 9km to the northwest from the city center, Mo Paeng Waterfall is easily accessible by scooter.
This waterfall is popular for its natural rockslide because the rocks are slippery. While it can be fun, it can be dangerous as well so practice safety and precaution while you were there. Some of the pools are deep and suitable for swimming. There are shallower pools for kids as well. The depth varies depending on season.
Pam Bok Waterfall
Location: 9km to the southwest of Pai
Entrance Fee: Free
Pam Bok Waterfall is located to the southwest of Pai and you will most likely pass by the Pai Land Split on the way there. There are no drink or food stalls at the waterfall so be sure to stop by the Pai Land Split before you go to the Pam Bok Waterfall.
There will be a parking area when you reach there, and you need to trek and hike a bit, for about 5 minutes to go to the waterfall. The waterfall is surrounded by high cliffs and you can swim in the pool. Depending on the time, Pam Bok Waterfall can get crowded as well so plan your trip before you go.
Mae Yen Waterfall
Location: 3km to the east from the city center
Entrance Fee: Free
Many said that the real gem of Mae Yen Waterfall is not the waterfall itself, but the trekking and hiking on the way to the waterfall. It takes 2.5-3 hours of trekking from the starting point to the waterfall and another 2.5-3 hours back.
If you love hiking, this is probably the best trekking trail you can find in Pai. You can even start the journey from the town, which takes another 30-40 minutes to get to the starting point. Wear suitable footwear that you don’t mind it getting wet because you will cross small rivers on the way there. Also, be sure to start early to avoid rushing back because it gets darker earlier in the jungle.
The trail is not so hard and mostly flat but towards the end, the hiking gets steeper before you reach the waterfall. Bring water and snacks with you because there is no drink or food stall here. The pool on the lower level of the Mae Yen Waterfall is shallow, but you can take a dip. Top level have better depth for swimming but the climb can be tough. Many claimed that the nature that it has to offer is amazing!
Tham Lod Cave
Location: 50km to the northwest of Pai
Entrance Fee: 450 THB for a group of maximum 3 people
Opening Hours: Daily 9am-6pm
Tham Lod Cave is located quite far from Pai city center. The entrance fee includes a bamboo raft, a gas lantern and a tour guide. Yes, you will enter the cave with a bamboo raft. There are three main caverns inside the cave in which you get to explore by getting off the raft and climb by foot. The light from the lantern might not help much to be shared by the group, so prepare your own flashlight to see better in the cave.
Tips I: Bring wet tissues, as you might have to hold handler covered with bat guano to climb.
Tips II: Arrange your visit from 5-6 PM to see a magnificent sights of thousands of bats and swifts flying out of the cave and the birds flying into the cave, exchanging shifts.
Pai Land Split
Location: 6.3km to the south of Pai city centre
Entrance Fee: Free
Pai Land Split is the result of an earthquake splitting the land of a farmer in one night, taking away his source of income. Turning this unfortunate event to something positive, the landowner opens a small stall where people can stop by to enjoy some drinks and snacks before visiting the Land Split. Consequently, the Pai Land Split becomes a popular tourist spot in Pai.
Many were charmed by the hospitality. The landowner greets all visitors with a smile and welcomes them with delicious hibiscus juice, fruits and snacks. You also can chill and relax on the hammocks under the shed after savoring the snacks. The landowner do not charge the visitors with a fix price for his hospitality that he offers, but instead he makes it as a donation box and you can donate however you feel it’s worth.
Book Bus/Minivan Tickets from Chiang Mai to Pai Online
So, let’s go to Pai! Book your bus or minivan tickets from Chiang Mai to Pai online. Booking online is easy with BusOnlineTicket.co.th. You can book from anywhere and any when with our mobile-friendly website. Various payment options are available for your convenience such as credit card, internet banking, Alipay and cash over the counter. Booking confirmation will be sent to your email once the payment is successful.