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, but the journey is unforgettable.
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).
Most people spend 3-5 days here, but be prepared to not want to leave no matter how long your visit. To make the most of the time you do get to spend in Pai, here are some of our favourite activities:
New to Pai? We’ve written this compact Pai guide to show you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Pai!
#1 Test your fear of heights at Pai Canyon
Who needs to go to Las Vegas to see the Grand Canyon when you’ve got the stunningly dramatic Pai Canyon. Ok, we admit it’s not quite on the same level as the Grand Canyon, but the views are still pretty spectacular.
Only a 10 minute bike ride south of Pai, it’s one of the best places to find a spot on the mountain and watch the sun disappear for the day.
The first viewpoint, a 5 minute walk up the stairs, is where most tourists tend to flock, making it a pretty crowded affair, especially at sunset.
If you’re up for the challenge, you can hike further along the skinny ridges to less crowded viewpoints. Just make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear as the sides are unprotected and it’s a long way down (about 30m to be precise).
Making the whole thing even better, entrance is free!
#2 Rent a motorbike and take on the winding roads
Pai is one of the best places to ride a motorbike in Thailand and go out on adventures. It’s got unforgettable views running along the winding roads, there’s less traffic and it’s super cheap to hire a bike.
In a way, Pai forces you to hop on a motorbike as there aren’t many alternative options in the form of public transport or taxis. So if you want to easily explore the surrounding sights, it’s really your best option.
There’s something magical about riding a bike along the curving roads of Pai, feeling every turn as you let your bike lean into each corner. It’s a really fun activity to do with a group of friends whilst visiting the nearby sites.
We can’t ignore our inner mum here and continue without telling you to; wear a helmet, don’t drink and drive, and don’t get too cocky.
How to rent a motorbike in Pai
As we mentioned before, Pai is the mecca for motorbikes. This means that you’ll be inundated with options when it comes to where to rent your bike. Your hotel or hostel should be able to organise it for you. Alternatively there are plenty of rental shops around the town.
You can hire a motorbike for around 100-250 baht per day.
#3 Walk through the rice paddies at Boon Ko Ku So Bridge
The 800m long bamboo bridge, also known as Boon Ko Ku So Bridge, is set amongst a sea of lush green rice paddies and provides a walkway for monks from remote temples to visit the villages.
Just walking along the bridge feels like a form of meditation as you trace the daily steps on sacred monks all whilst surrounded by the calm of nature.
As well as the bridge, there is also a small temple and flower swing that add to the beauty of the location. If you get there before 8am you’ll also be able to see the daily alms giving from the locals to the Monks.
The best time to visit the bridge is during the rainy season, between June and November, when the rice paddies are flourishing.
The bridge is a 25 minute drive southwest from the city centre and can be paired with a visit to Pam Bok waterfall.
#4 Hike to the White Buddha statue
You’ll be able to spot Wat Phra That Mae Yen, also known as the White Buddha, from most places in town as the Buddha watches over Pai.
So why climb the 353 steps to get up there?
The Buddha up close is strikingly impressive, but the view is what will take your breath away – if the climb hasn’t already!
You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Pai and a carpet of green trees dotted with houses.
Watch the sunset from the White Buddha
Although everyone else will have the same idea as you, visiting at sunset is an unforgettable experience. A sense of calm seems to wash over the summit, as the sun sets behind the mountains that lace the horizon.
The Buddha is only 2km out of town and the entrance is free.
#5 Take the plunge at Mor Paeng waterfall
Mor Paeng waterfall is essentially nature’s answer to a waterslide and the local kids love it! Although the waterfall can often get quite busy as it’s the perfect place to escape the city and refresh, this just adds to the fun of it all!
You’ll go back to feeling like a kid as you splash around in the pool or take a ride on the rock slide yourself.
Mor Paeng is located 9km from the centre of Pai and is relatively easy to get there, if you have a motorbike. It’s only a 200m walk from the parking area and entrance is free.
#6 Try tubing on the Pai River
Vang Vieng in Cambodia isn’t the only place to embark on a legendary river tubing adventure.
It takes around an hour to float down the Pai River in a rubber ring. All you have to do is sit back, relax and let the current take you down the river as you take in the stunning Thai scenery that passes by.
The activity is also relatively cheap, costing around 300 baht, which usually includes transportation to and from the river. You won’t struggle to find somewhere to book the activity as every man and his dog in Pai will be trying to sell it to you.
Top tip: Bring a change of clothes in a dry bag for the ride back!
#7 Go whitewater rafting through Pai’s jungle
Another water-based activity (who said you need a beach) whilst in Pai is to go whitewater rafting along the Pai River.
The best time to go is during July-November when the water velocity will be at its highest and you can experience the full force of the water. It’s a real white-knuckle ride!
However, if you find yourself in Pai outside of these months it’s still an experience worth doing as there’s still gentle rapids and beautiful jungle views.
Most companies offer 1-3 day rafting trips, some of them starting in Pai and taking you all the way to Mae Hong Song. Thai Adventure Rafting is a highly reputable company offering lots of options which vary in price depending on the size of your group.
#8 Head to the Walking Street for the Night market
Even if you’ve been travelling in Asia for a while now, we don’t think you can ever actually get bored of visiting a good old night market.
Every night, between 6-10pm, the Walking Street in Pai comes alive with multi-coloured stalls, locals and tourists alike wandering around and delicious aromas.
Thai culture is strongly tied to food, so if you really want to understand life in Thailand, open up your tastebuds to all it has to offer. And what better place to do that than a night market!
There’s a whole selection of food to try from barbequed meat, Japanese sushi, noodle dishes galore to fresh fruits and smoothies! If you’ve already eaten, just take a stroll and admire the souvenirs, clothes and gadgets on sale in the market.
#9 Visit Sai Ngam hot springs
With quite a lot of hiking activities in Pai, Sai Ngam hot springs are the perfect place to rejuvenate and refresh your muscles.
Upon arrival at the hot springs, you will find a few small bamboo changing rooms and a large hot spring with steam gently rolling off the warm, inviting water.
The experience to enjoy the natural minerals of the water all whilst surrounded by lush green jungle costs only 20 baht. It’s a bargain!
Sai Ngam hot springs are also easily reached by a 30-minute motorbike ride from Pai.
#10 Take a tour inside Tham Lod Caves
You’ll have to travel slightly outside of Pai to get to Tham Lod Caves, but the 45-minute journey is definitely worth it.
The cave is unspeakably impressive, with a network of caves running 1,666m long and 20m formations hanging from the ceiling.
The stalagmites and stalactites create an ominous atmosphere straight from prehistoric times, coupled with the sounds of bats darting above your heads and the unknown darkness. Let’s just say it can get slightly creepy at some points!
But once you’re on board the bamboo raft and gliding along the Nam Lang River, any fears of the dark quickly vanish as your confidence in your guide grows.
How to visit Tham Lod Caves
To enter Tham Lod Caves, it is essential that you have a guide, and trust us you’ll want one. The cost of this is 450 baht, which can be split between groups of three.
The caves are open from 9am – 6pm, and you may prefer to join a day trip rather than embarking on the adventure yourself. It’s easy to find a tour just by walking down the streets in Pai city centre.
#11 Join a yoga class
Part of the reason why Pai has gained its reputation as a hippie town is due to a number of yoga studios and schools that can help you to find your inner zen.
They’re a great place to help cure your hangover of last night before heading to the cafe probably next door for some holistic health food.
There are a number of highly rated and relaxing yoga studios, but two of our favourites are Pai Yoga Shala set amongst the rice fields, or morning yoga at Bom Bowls Pai before devouring a delicious smoothie bowl. Both places offer drop-in sessions for just 200 baht.
#12 Head to Yun Lai viewpoint for the sunrise over Pai
Yun Lai viewpoint offers an unbelievable chance to admire Pai’s rolling green landscape.
This is the place to go to catch the sunrise as the sun groggily makes an appearance from behind the mountains. Some days, the clouds create a white blanket covering the city, but this just adds to the magical sense of it all.
Yun Lai viewpoint is only 15 minutes from the centre of Pai, but be warned the road can get a bit bumpy. Once you arrive, you will have to pay 20 baht entrance fee, a small price for the view you’re about the witness.
#13 Visit Santichon Village for a taste of Chinese culture
Santichon Village was formed by a group of Chinese citizens fleeing the Chinese revolution of Mao Tse Tung. A village with a population of around 2,000 people, they have managed to preserve many aspects of their culture, especially their food.
The village is a nice place to walk around, admiring the clay houses and stalls, albeit it has got a bit touristy now, but the main reason why most people visit is to sample the delicious cuisine.
A trip to Santichon Village gives you a taste of China without having to actually go there. Some of the best dishes to try include fried shiitake mushrooms, buns and black chicken, all washed down with a refreshing Chinese tea.
The village is free to enter and is only 5km out of Pai, so can be easily accessed with a motorbike.
#14 Cool down at Fluid Swimming Pool
Most hostels and even hotels in Pai tend to not have swimming pools, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without. Sometimes there’s nothing better than relaxing with your travel mates around the pool with an ice-cold drink in your hand.
The 25-meter pool has both a bar and restaurant where you can indulge on western food, sip fruit shakes or knock back a few beers.
It’s a popular spot amongst backpackers, offering free wifi and a place to lounge. You can spend the day there from 9am-6pm for just 80 baht.
#15 Make the most of Pai’s nightlife and bars
We know we said Pai had a laid-back vibe, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also transform into a great place to party when the sun goes down!
Start your night off in Yellow Sun Pai, a bar to get your night started and meet tons of other travellers. The place is always packed!
After enjoying some reggae tunes there, you can wander down the street to Boom Bar. The bar offers beer pong, reasonably priced cocktails and techno music to amp the party up a little.
When all of the other bars start to close, most travellers tend to head to Don’t Cry bar. Open till 2am and sometimes later, this bar turns the heat up, usually having bonfires to sit or dance around.
Sometimes finding the right bar to go to can be a bit daunting and you end up wandering around not really knowing where to go. If this sounds like you, why not join a bar crawl in Pai and meet new people?