Pai is a tiny town in Northern Thailand, about three hours’ drive from Chiang Mai. It’s a heavenly hippy community hidden between the mountains, and it’s impossible to visit without getting drawn into the free-spirited Pai lifestyle. We initially thought somewhere that seemed so quiet may be boring, but we could have stayed in Pai forever! It’s firmly become one of my favourite places in Asia.
My favourite thing about Pai was the mega laid-back atmosphere and generally slow way of life. Walking to the bus station one morning at 9am the place was a ghost town; the early bird definitely doesn’t catch the worm in Pai.
The roads are a lot calmer than anywhere else we’ve been in Asia, mainly dominated by mopeds which you can rent for about £2.50 a day. We hired a Barbie pink beast (chosen by me) for the duration of our stay, and we loved being able to roll out of bed and go cruising around town on our moped at any time of day. The town centre is tiny, but a lot of the main attractions are on the outskirts of Pai, so having a moped really comes in handy.
Much of the tourist accommodation is outside of the centre too. We stayed about 1.5 kilometres away, and got our own lovely little hut with a balcony for £9 a night. Our accommodation was called Misty View but there are lots of similar places!
Where to eat in Pai
The food in Pai is incredible, and there’s a huge range of healthy options that cost pennies. Being a town full of hippies there are vegan and vegetarian restaurants everywhere. Right by our accommodation was an organic cafe called Fat Cat that we ate in pretty much every day. They serve the most amazing banana coconut breakfast bowls that are sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan… basically everything I’m not but they’re delicious and made me feel like a good person!
In the middle of town is Na’s Kitchen, an authentic and homely Thai restaurant. I had a gorgeous fresh red curry from here that was the best curry I’ve eaten in Thailand so far.
When you want to reward yourself for eating like a saint then go and get cake and coffee from Coffeestains cafe. You’ll be spoilt for choice but you can’t go wrong. I had the mega chocolatey Oreo cake whilst Jordan had the carrot cake which he swears is the greatest cake ever made.
Despite its size the nightlife in Pai is so much fun, and Walking Street (the main street) comes alive at night with cocktail bars, music and street food. Some of the best and busiest bars though are just off of Walking Street.
Boombar is a good place to start a night, they have a really cheap happy hour (just over £1 for spirits) and put on live music. Just a few doors down is Yellow Sun, one of the busiest bars in Pai where you’ll no doubt get chatting to lots of other travellers. The place to go after hours is Don’t Cry, a massive reggae bar that gets absolutely rammed when everywhere else closes. It’s open air and serves until very late, plus you get a free Don’t Cry vest if you buy a bucket which I’ve been trying to convince Jordan to take off ever since…
Things to do in Pai
If I haven’t already sold you on Pai then don’t worry, there are plenty more things to do here. One of the most famous sights in Pai is the Temple on the Hill, or the White Buddah as it’s also known. The walk up to it is hard work – the concrete steps just seem to go on forever – but it’s worth it to see the buddah up close and the stunning views of Pai from so high up.
Pai also has two different sets of hot springs, little pools of naturally heated water that you can bathe in for 300 baht (about £7). Some of them get so hot that apparently the locals cook eggs in them, so it’s maybe not the best thing to do when it’s 30 degrees outside.
If like Jordan you’re big on fishing then you should definitely get out to the piranha fishing lake. It costs 200 baht for a full day’s fishing (about £4.50), plus gin and tonics are just over £1 all day! I’m no angler but I still thought this was the most fun thing to do in Pai! Jordan was very happy with his catches though – two pacus, which are bigger badder relatives of the piranha – scary!
Some crazy people also like the Pai Canyon, where you can stand at the cliff’s edge and gaze over the jungle surrounding Pai. People walk along the most narrow parts of the canyon to get the perfect photo, despite the sheer drops either side that spell certain death if you put a foot wrong. It makes me feel sick just thinking about it… we went nowhere near the edge and my legs were shaking! My worst nightmare but I thought I’d mention it as people seem to like it for some reason. (Psychos)…
If you visit Thailand you should definitely make space in your itinerary for a few days in Pai, or maybe even more, as once you get there you really won’t want to leave. It’s easily reached from Chiang Mai for as little as 150 baht (£3.50), as well as having its own little domestic airport, and it may be just what you need to wind down after a few crazy days in Bangkok! Just hop on your moped and embrace the hippy life of Pai for a little while, you won’t regret it!