Is Pai worth visiting?
Pai boasts a laid-back hippie vibe where you can start the morning off with yoga, before exploring the rest of the town 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 128 km motorbike ride. You’ll have to tackle over 750 twists and turns though before you actually get to Pai, but the journey is unforgettable. You’ll get to 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).
A little heads up. 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.
Also read: Top 15 Things to Do in Pai
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 book. 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 a place.
The Walking Street is where you’ll find the places to eat, drink and where you can shop until you drop. It’s also probably going to be the busiest place, and with that probably the nosiest!
When we talk about the Walking Street area, we mean the area that’s within 10 minutes walking distance of Chai Songkram road. This is where you’ll find the night market.
Here you’ll find plenty of accommodation options, ranging from hotels to some of the best hostels for making 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 the simplicity of nature
North Pai is another option if you want to be close to the action, but not too close.
Here, 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, 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. 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).
How to get to Pai
Pai Country Hut - Budget Friendly
It’s hard to believe the price of this place. Having your own cottage with a private balcony and hammock, yet it’s still a budget option! The cosy cottages boast thatched roofs and traditional wooden furnishings.
Set amongst a tropical landscape, you’d never know that you’re only 100 metres from the lively Pai Walking Street. You’re also only a short walk from Pai River. And as if it couldn’t get better, a delicious breakfast is included in the price.
- Great location
- Cosy cottage
- Private balcony and hammock
- Free delicious breakfast
Cottages start at $23 per night.
The Nest House - Budget Friendly
If you want to be at the centre of the action, you can’t get a much better location than here. The Nest House is only 300m from Pai Night Market.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, you won’t even realise you’re this close. Every morning you can sit on your private terrace, enjoying your delicious breakfast, and take in the quietness.
- Ideal location
- Surrounded by nature
- Delicious breakfast included
- Wonderful staff
Private room starts at $21 per night
Pai Princess Resort - Mid Range
Peace, tranquillity and serenity are what Pai Princess Resort is all about. Every room has its own private balcony with a hammock.
Sit back and admire the mountain views as the sun rises. A tasty breakfast is also included in your stay, made by the incredibly friendly owners.
- Perfect location
- Stunning natural surroundings
- Private patio
- Peace and quiet
Private rooms start at $36 per night
Pai Village Boutique Resort - Treating Yourself
Pai Village Boutique Resort is one of the most popular places to stay in Pai. It’s pretty easy to see why! There’s a beautiful swimming pool, flourishing gardens, an incredible onsite restaurant and even a Koi pond for you to sit and relax around.
The rooms vary from luxury wooden bungalows with private balconies to huge rooms designed with every little detail in mind. This is the kind of place that you don’t want to leave.
- Swimming pool
- Beautiful rooms
- Amazing onsite restaurant
- Exceptional free breakfast
Private rooms start from $82 per night.
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Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.