Pai boasts a laid-back hippie vibe where you can start the morning off with yoga before exploring the rest of Pai at the relaxed pace most small villages seem to have.
Most people’s Pai adventure actually starts in Chiang Mai where they set off on the 128km motorbike ride. You’ll have to tackle over 750 twists and turns though before you actually get to Pai. The journey is unforgettable, as you pass rolling green hills, surging waterfalls and quaint villages in the distance.
Once you arrive in Pai, you can simply soak up the chilled atmosphere of the place or let the exploring commence.
This could be hiking Thailand’s answer to the Grand (Pai) Canyon, taking on the Pai river – whether it be whitewater rafting or simply floating along in a rubber ring – or experiencing a taste of Chinese culture at Santichon Village (the food is incredible).
Note that Pai is already included in most backpackers itineraries to Thailand, but is also becoming a popular destination for a much wider audience now too.
This is clearly visible through the increase in tourists over the past few years, but luckily it’s still managed to protect the chilled backpacker vibe it’s known for.
Most people spend 3-5 days here, but be prepared to not want to leave no matter how long your visit.
Where to stay in Pai
Being a relatively small town, the population is only around 3,000 people, wherever you choose to stay, you won’t be far from the places you want to go.
We always like to know a bit about the different areas of a town before we decide which hostel or hotel to stay in. So we hope this breakdown of Pai’s main areas is useful for you too!
Location #1: Walking Street – night market and nightlife
Like with most places in Thailand, if you choose to stay near the Walking Street, you’re choosing to be in the heart and soul of the place.
The Walking Street is where you’ll find the places to eat, the places to drink and the places to shop until you drop. It’s also most likely going to be the busiest place and with that probably the nosiet!
When we talk about the Walking Street, we mean the area that’s within 10 minutes walking distance of Chai Songkram road, which is where you’ll find Pai’s night market.
Here you’ll find plenty of accommodation options, ranging from hotels to some of the best hostels to make new friends in.
Location #2: South Pai – the area to relax and find your inner zen
Pai is known for having a hippy, laid-back vibe and South Pai is the epitome of this. It’s not too far from the city centre, but far enough that you can escape the hustle and bustle of Walking Street.
The peaceful atmosphere is amplified by the large choice of yoga studios, health conscious cafes and the famous White Buddha overlooking the area from it’s hilltop.
Another bonus to the area is that Earth Tone, a vegan restaurant, will be on your doorstep. Expect to get hooked after your first try and then want to go back every day for dinner (at least you won’t have to travel far).
Location #3: North Pai – get back to nature
Another option if you want to be close to the action but not too close.
In North Pai, the density of buildings starts to decrease and nature becomes a focal point to the resorts and hotels situated there.
If you head further north away from the city centre, you’ll also be closer to some of Pai’s best activities such as Mor Paeng waterfall and Sai Ngam hot springs. If your hotel doesn’t have a pool you can always pop there for a swim!
If you’re looking for a place to relax, you’ll find some of the highest rated resorts to the north/north west of the city, and of course it’s Thailand so a lot of them are still very reasonably priced.
How to get around in Pai
Pai is a relatively small town and is conveniently centrally located, with most amenities clustered within the same area.
This means most of your exploring can be done by foot. This is great, as it’s free, you get to burn off all of the food you’ve been eating and it’s better for the environment.
Continuing on a theme of cardio, you can also rent a bicycle to explore the city. These are pretty cheap too, a bike for the day should cost you around 50 baht.
If you’re looking to venture a bit further out of town, be warned it does get hilly, so you may want to opt for an electric bike instead. It’s the perfect compromise between a bicycle and a motorbike, but they also tend to be more expensive than an actual motorbike. They’re worth a try at least once though!
Now, even if you’ve only Googled Pai once you’ll know that it’s like the mecca for motorbikes. The beautiful scenery, winding roads and less traffic make it the perfect place to zip around on a motorbike or try one for the first time.
A motorbike is a convenient and cheap choice to explore both the city centre and the surrounding area. If you’ve travelled from Chiang Mai by motorbike, you may already have one, but if not, you can hire a motorbike for 100-250 baht per day.
Taxi and Tuk Tuk
Taxis and tuk tuks aren’t readily available in Pai. Unlike other Thai cities you won’t see them roaming the streets. Grab also isn’t available here, so to reach further afield places your best option is to hire a van, jump on a motorcycle taxi or hop on a shared public songthaew (a pickup-truck style bus).
Rustic, surrounded by nature and a private bungalow... it doesn’t get any better than this! The Pai Yard Guesthouse is surrounded by lush greenery, gardens, and stunning views. The spacious bungalows offer privacy and your own deck for relaxing on. There are a barbeque and terrace here for guests to enjoy and the excellent mountain views are the perfect way to end your afternoon.
Fantastic location, just 300m from the Pai Night Market, The Nest house is the perfect choice for travelers. Breakfast is included with your stay and there is a shared kitchen for guests to use as well as a beautiful garden for relaxing. Take in the stunning scenery from your accommodations or take a short walk across the beautiful Bamboo bridge into the center of Pai.
Peace, quiet, serenity and the most beautiful, relaxing surroundings you can find, the Pai Princess Resort is one of the most amazing places to stay when visiting the area. Just a short 500m walk to the Night Market, restaurants, shopping and bars, it’s also a perfect location. Breakfast is included with your stay and each room is equipped with a private patio.