Last month we spent a few days in Pai, a town about a 3 hours’ drive north of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It was an unforgettable experience. I’m already wanting to plan another trip up there, that’s how much I love Pai! Click below to watch a short highlight video of our time there!
If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Pai, here are a few tips and tricks:
1. Getting There
If you want to book your seat well in advance rather than risking getting stuck in the back of the bus, head over to 12go.Asia and for a little extra (about ฿50 more) you can buy your tickets online in advance. Otherwise you can easily just show up at the Arcade bus station in Chiang Mai and buy your PremPracha bus ticket there. The trip to Pai costs about ฿150 – ฿200 per person or about $4.50 to $6.00 depending on if you reserve your seat online in advance or not. For our return to Chiang Mai we just walked over to the station in Pai the day prior (we went during the low season, this could potentially be more difficult during the high season though).
We’ve read that the best seats for avoiding car sickness are the front row seats just behind the driver so we booked these and had no issues whatsoever. The drive there wasn’t bad at all, considering the horror stories (or… vomit stories more like) that I’ve heard. Coming back was less enjoyable though but again not that bad as long as you don’t get carsick easily. The roads are steep and wind through the hillside, I would never recommend attempting it on a scooter unless you have years of experience and a very good helmet. The bus stops halfway at a coffee shop with toilets – pack your own toilet paper and some change to pay to use them though!
2. Where To Stay
We stayed at two different hotels while in Pai and loved them both. My favorite was the Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm and Carlos’ favorite was the B2 Pai Premier Resort.
Our first night we stayed at the Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm. This resort was beautiful and cozy, each room is its own cabin and the morning breakfast (included) was unbelievable! I was very impressed! You can take the shuttle bus/cart over to their farm (it was about a 5 minutes’ drive away) and see beautiful scenery and lots of animals. Wear bug spray at the farm! The location of this hotel is perfect, it is only steps away from the walking street market and many bars and restaurants.
Our second and third nights were spent at the B2 Pai Premier Resort. I enjoyed this spot as well, the beautiful pools were definitely the main draw though! It has a much more western feel than the Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm. When staying here, it is necessary to have a scooter in my opinion. This hotel is a little bit further out from the main street. Its about a 15-minute walk to the walking street market area but only 3-5 minutes by scooter.
Although both hotels were very nice, my favorite was definitely the Pai Village Resort & Farm. It was more than double B2 though at around $50USD whereas the B2 was around $20USD per night. We stayed during low season in mid-late September.
3. Scooter Rental
Renting a scooter to explore Pai is essential and a lot of fun. We rented a scooter from Vespai Rental. ฿5,000 deposit (medium scooter) or passport and ฿200/per day. These are about the same as the prices you’ll see in Chiang Mai. If you’ve never driven a scooter before Pai is NOT the place to learn… learn before coming to Pai or hire a tour guide/join a group tour for the day instead.
I don’t remember any names specifically other than the PM Spirit Bar but every bar we went to was cheap and good! Cocktails for ฿60-฿100 usually and beer was priced about the same as in Chiang Mai at about ฿70- ฿90 for a large bottle of Leo, Singha, or Chang. There was one across from the Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm hotel that was really cheap – we had a few rounds of shots and each one was only ฿60. Really good Gin & Tonics and Rum & Cokes were also ฿60 there. The best spot in town: Coffee in Love! The view is amazing here and the coffee is good! I had a Hazelnut Frappuccino that could rival any drink from Starbucks. The Rabbit Cafe – this is a cafe with cuddly rabbits across from the Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm. It’s super fun and they have delicious smoothies (The banana smoothie was excellent PLUS add soft serve ice cream to the top for only an extra ฿10!). Looking for some tasty curry? Check out the Curry Shack. The “special” coconut curry served inside of a coconut was to die for! CoffeeStains Coffee Shop was also a great spot for coffee. Order the Iced Thai coffee! Its not on the menu but it is the best coffee I’ve ever had. I think it was ฿120. Also very fun: Strawberry Love Pai. Here you will find strawberry smoothies and a nice photo op. We had a really nice lunch at a local spot, ครัวคุณศรี, you’ll have to google it to find it on a map. Each entree was ฿30 (that’s not even a dollar!) and every bite was amazingly good!
5. Fun Things To Do
Besides the Walking Street Market of course, there are plenty of fun sights around Pai. We definitely didn’t get a chance to experience everything so this list is far from complete. A few of the things we did and enjoyed were:
The Land Split – this is a weird place but it was really fun. They bring you tons of snacks to enjoy, everything is grown on the farm. They don’t charge you but expect you to give a donation in return (and you absolutely should!). It was a lot of food! Then we took the “jungle trail” back to the split itself. Be aware that the road getting to the land split is a bit rocky and dangerous for an inexperienced scooter driver. We were fine but Carlos was driving and is much more experienced than I am, I would have crashed on that road for sure!
The Chinese Village (Santichon Village) – this was such a fun experience! I did a lot of research before coming to Pai but didn’t see much about the Chinese Village. It was definitely worth a visit! It is on the way up to the Yun Lai Viewpoint.
Yun Lai Viewpoint – This was a beautiful spot to take photos and see all of Pai from high up in the mountain. It was ฿20 per person to enter.
Wat Phra That Mae Yen (White Buddha) – the White Buddha is huge and can be seen from all over Pai. It was under construction/undergoing repairs when we visited but was still worth seeing. The climb up is a long one! I really wish I had brought my drone for this spot. Again, beautiful views of Pai.
Pai Canyon – this was pretty cool as well but I didn’t walk out in the canyon, it looks very dangerous but so many others were out there enjoying it!
Memorial Bridge – nothing special really but it was pretty and the history behind it is very interesting.
Waterfalls – the waterfalls around Pai don’t seem worth driving out to. They’re very small from what I saw and unimpressive compared to others closer to Chiang Mai. The road out to the Pam Bok Waterfall was really terrible and full of pot holes. We regretted driving out there because there was barely anything to see. I think there may have been more if we had hiked up further but there were signs saying the bridge was closed for repairs, maybe next time we’d try again but probably not.
If you get the chance to go to Pai, DO IT! You won’t regret it! This barely scratched the surface and I can’t wait to go back and experience so much more. If you’ve been to Pai and have more spots to see or places to eat and drink that you’d recommend, then please comment below!